Champion System’s Craig Lewis triggered an early 14-man break that produced stage winner Jens Voigt on Stage 4 of the USA Pro Challenge.
Lewis started the 156.5 kilometer stage off with a bang by escaping immediately after the official start and was quickly joined by the other escapees. As they climbed Independence Pass, the group splintered and Voigt (Radioshack-Nissan) set off alone. Following a trip through Leadville, rain started falling, the escapees lost their resolve, and were soon swept back into the peloton.
"Craig really grabbed the ball and took the lead today,” Champion System General Manager Ed Beamon said. “When we hit the lower slopes of the climb he launched an attack like he was shot out of a cannon. That instigated the break that would ultimately animate the day."
Champion System’s Chris Butler finished in 26th place, 3:15 behind Voigt. Sitting in 21st place, one minute behind race leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), Butler has Champion System within reach of one of its goals (of placing a rider in the top 20 overall), Beamon said.
Two Champion System riders abandoned the stage: Will Clarke and Matthias Friedemann. Beamon said he feels the team's three Chinese riders are fighting hard in an incredibly difficult race against seasoned international competition.
"There is tremendous pressure on them," Beamon said. "But the one thing I can always count on is that they will not quit."
Friday’s 189.7 km stage should be one for the sprinters as it begins in Breckenridge and heads over Hoosier Pass before dropping down into Colorado Springs.