Alex Hagman went home wet, muddy and tired.
But he was happy, and he was home.
Hagman, the former Fort Lewis College national mountain bike champion, rode right back into his hometown of Aspen on Wednesday afternoon after pedaling all day with many of the best cyclists in the world in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
The rider for the Jelly Belly team made the final steep descent from the summit of Independence Pass (12,095 feet) into Aspen, where he sprinted around a downtown circuit before finishing in front of a huge hometown crowd.
The Aspen High School graduate was 42nd Wednesday, in the second group to finish the grueling 130-mile route from Gunnison to Aspen. He was 2 minutes, 51 seconds back of the winner.
Hagman is 34th overall.
Cycling veteran George Hincapie, 38, won Wednesdays stage that featured the historic climbs over Cottonwood Pass (12,126) and Independence Pass. The stage marked the first time top pro cyclists have raced over 12,000 feet.
Tejay Van Garderen of HTC-Highroad was second in the sprint finish, with Garmin-Cervelos Tom Danielson, another Fort Lewis College mountain bike champion, third.
A soaked and chilled Hagman hustled into the Jelly Belly team van to warm up and clean up after Wednesdays stage that included rain by Taylor Reservoir, mud on Cottonwood Pass and heavier rain on the tricky descent of Independence Pass.
I was really hoping it would be dry on Independence (Pass), Hagman said after Wednesdays Stage 2 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Descending this pass for so many years, I knew I could cook it.
But the rain, however, changed the final approach into his hometown.
You had to be delicate coming down. It was slippery, Hagman said. I was really happy to make it down to the bottom safe.
Thats when he saw the resort town where he grew up skiing, hiking, running and biking.
When I saw Aspen, I said, This is great. Im riding home.
And his mother, Kay, wont have to wash his muddy race kit this time.
Hagmans family and his extended Aspen family turned out in force to cheer their native son Wednesday.
My dad (Tim) and my brother (Jonathan) camped out up there on Independence (Tuesday) night to watch the race, Hagman said. They wanted a good view.
The current runners on the Aspen High School cross country team watched the race finish with coach Chris Keleher.
Alex ran for us (at Aspen High School), Keleher said. How can you not bring these kids out to watch this.
It was really exciting, Hagman said of the reception as well as the lively crowds that lined both sides of Independence Pass on Wednesday.
The crowds were insane, Hagman said. You could feel it.
He said riding on Independence was like watching stages of the Tour de France on TV.
You just stayed on the yellow line and hoped you made it through, said Hagman, who had to avoid a huge crash early in Wednesdays stage.
Were riding along and breaks are trying to go and go and go, he said. Then, we came to a cattle guard ... that had two grates side by side.
But there was a space between the two grates on that paved section of Cottonwood Pass.
I think somebody stuck their front wheel in the gap, and that was a massive pileup, Hagman said.
I just squeezed to the right of it. Somebody hit my back tire a little bit, but I made it, he said.
One of his teammates, however, was involved in the crash.
My teammate Sergio (Hernandez) went down hard. I didnt see him the rest of the day, Hagman said.
Hernandez was treated for a broken collarbone.
It was in the front of the peleton, which is generally safe. It just caught people off guard. But thats cycling, you know, it happens, said Hagman, who has a runner-up result in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic road race as well as a No. 2 in the IHBC criterium.
Hagman said he had one flat tire on the 13-mile section of dirt going up Cottonwood Pass.
Nic Hamilton switched wheels with me really fast, so I could keep going, Hagman said of his teammate.
Alex is a great guy and a great teammate, said Dave Hagen of the storied FLC cycling program in a pretour phone interview from Durango.
Ive known Shaggy since he was 16 years old, and he came to a Fort Lewis mountain biking camp, said Hagen, referring to his former pupil by his college nickname.
He was a good mountain biker for us.
But its part of the cycling lifestlye at Fort Lewis. ... Were going to encourage you to do the roads, too, Hagen said of the progression to road racing.
Tommy D (Danielson) was the same way, he said.
Some kids ... watch and learn from the time they arrive (at Fort Lewis), Hagen said. Alex learned. He learned how to do it right.
Hagen pointed to the 24/7 job of a professional cyclist nutrition, rest, training, racing, etc.
That takes a lot of dedication ... and thats another one of his talents.
Alex showed talent on the road, and he was able to get a job on the road, Hagen said of Hagmans path into the pro ranks.
He rode with entry-level domestic teams early.
Last year, he had a contract with Bahati Racing.
This year, Jelly Belly hired Hagman, who also won a national collegiate short track title. Jelly Belly is one of the longtime sponsors of pro cycling in the United States.
Its really cool Alex is in this race, Hagen said. I know Im going to be cheering my lungs out for him.
For Hagman, the education he started at FLC is continuing.
Every day, watching these guys ride, they are so smooth. Its fun to watch and learn, Hagman said.
When they ride, like Cadel Evans and BMC, its really seamless. They know how to ride together. They are like brothers out there, said Hagman, who doesnt exactly match his nickname these days.
From a curly-haired blond youngster, Hagman evolved to Shaggy with his dreadlocks while racing collegiately.
Now, his hair is close-cropped.
Just in time to see the parents.