ASPEN (AP) – The USA Pro Challenge will see a new champion in 2015.
Tejay van Garderen of Aspen, the two-time reigning champion in the Colorado stage race, will instead ride this summer in the Vuelta a Espana, the Grand Tour in Spain. Van Garderen, riding for BMC, was in third place overall in the recent Tour de France when he was forced to abandon the race in the final week because of respiratory illness.
He and his BMC teammates were well positioned for a strong finish in Paris.
Jim Ochowiez, BMC Racing Team general manager, announced Wednesday that van Garderen and Samuel Sanchez will headline the BMC team at the season’s finale Grand Tour in Spain beginning Aug. 22.
The USA Pro Challenge in Colorado will start Aug. 17.
This year will mark the first time van Garderen has started the Spanish Vuelta since 2010.
Van Garderen and his BMC team dominated the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado in 2014 and 2013, with van Garderen taking the overall title both years in what has become a seven-stage race.
Tom Danielson of now Cannondale-Garmin, the Colorado-based pro team, finished second in the overall last year in the USA Pro Challenge. He is a Fort Lewis College alum.
He was 1 minute, 32 seconds back of van Garderen after the seventh and final stage of the 2014 race, which finished in downtown Denver.
Third overall last year went to Serghei Tvetcov, a Romanian cyclist riding for Jelly Belly.
Fourth overall last year was climbing sensation Rafal Majka of Tinkoff-Saxo, who won a stage of the Tour de France this year and claimed two Tour de France stage wins in 2014. He was the primary mountain helper for Alberto Contador at the recent Tour de France.
In 2013, van Garderen won the USA Pro Challenge by 1:30 over Mathias Frank, his Swiss BMC teammate.
Danielson finished third overall in 2013, 2:42 back of van Garderen.
The 2013 USA Pro Challenge also was marked by four stage wins for Slovakia’s Peter Sagan.
In 2012, Christian Vande Velde won the overall.
Van Garderen finished second to Vande Velde in 2012 by a mere 21 seconds. Leipheimer was third, 24 seconds back.
Danielson finished seventh in 2012.
In 2011, the first year of the Colorado stage race, Leipheimer won by 11 seconds over Vande Velde.
Van Garderen was third, 17 seconds back, in what was a six-stage race for the first year before moving to the seven-stage format. Danielson was fourth, 21 seconds back.
George Hincapie finished fifth overall in the inaugural USA Pro Challenge. He was just :53 back of the winner.
Hincapie also won the stage that finished in downtown Aspen in 2011.
The 2015 USA Pro Challenge will start Aug. 17 with the Steamboat Springs Circuit Race. The previous two years, the opening circuit race was held in the Aspen/Snowmass area.