Kiel Reijnen Sprints to Victory and Overall Lead in USA Pro Challenge Opener, Team Secures Four Jerseys
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team began the 7-stage USA Pro Challenge today with phenomenal success in the mountain town of Aspen, Colorado. In an opening stage nearly identical to stage 1 of the 2013 race, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team rider and Colorado resident Kiel Reijnen sprinted to victory before screaming crowds after almost 2 hours and 30 minutes of intense racing. The riders rolled out of Aspen at 2:40 pm and began the first of three 32.7-kilometer laps around the scenic and mountainous Aspen and Snowmass area, totaling 97.6 kilometers with 6 KOM competitions and 3 sprint competitions.
Colorado native Danny Summerhill’s enthusiasm for the race was apparent when he attacked the field and went clear just a few kilometers into the race. Danny was joined by six others shortly after and the group began to build their advantage, carving out a lead of one minute by the time they raced through Aspen to complete their first lap. Danny surged through the arch first, claiming the race’s first intermediate sprint competition. By the second lap through Aspen, the breakaway’s advantage had been reduced by only 5 seconds, with Summerhill sprinting again to take the second intermediate sprint competition. The sprint teams began an organized chase and reduced the gap to just 25 seconds with 24 kilometers remaining, causing the breakaway to splinter. “When the peloton started closing in, I knew that the second part of my job was about to start, and that was to help position Kiel for the finish,” said Summerhill, who was later awarded the most aggressive rider jersey for his tenacious and selfless riding from start to finish.
Chris Jones and Jonny Clarke took massive pulls at the front of the group, keeping the race fast and narrowing the field for Reijnen. The breakaway was also reduced to just one rider, who would be overtaken by multiple counterattacks in the final lap. Two hours of hard racing began to take its toll on the riders as the group was thinned to just a few dozen. Once the group split, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling teammate Lucas Euser fought to keep Reijnen safely at the front of the group and in favorable position for the final corners. Kiel followed an attack led by competitor, friend, and fellow Colorado local Alex Howes. Rounding the final turns, the two riders fought for position before launching tremendously long sprints for the line. Kiel timed his jump perfectly, accelerating through the finishing arch with his arms raised in victory.
Having raced onto the podium on this course in 2013, Kiel Reijnen had the full support of this UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, pacing him through the climbs, sheltering him from the wind, and keeping his food and fluid supplies replenished. Sporting director and general manager Mike Tamayo commented, “The plan today was simple. 100% Kiel. We wanted a rider in the breakaway to save bullets for the finale. We knew we had to get Kiel into the final KOM in great position to save his legs. After that, it was about gambling a bit to see how it played out, knowing we had the bullets to use in the end.” Kiel’s victory earned not only the stage win, but also the yellow jersey for the overall race leader, the green jersey for the sprint leader, and the blue jersey for the best Colorado rider. After stage 1 of the USA Pro Challenge, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team is in possession of 4 of the available 6 category jerseys, making this an incredible day for the team.
Reflecting on the day, Kiel concluded, “The whole team should be up here with me today. Having a teammate drop out of the break to help position me for the finish, what more can you ask for? The team was incredible, all of them. We race a lot of important races, but for me, this is the most important race on my calendar. Being a Colorado local, it’s hard to describe what it means to take this stage win and the leader’s jersey on Colorado soil in front of all these Colorado fans.”