USA Pro Challenge: Top contenders
August 13, 2015
Steamboat Springs — Rohan Dennis — BMC Racing: The 25-year-old Australian native made a lot of noise in July when he won the first stage of the 2015 Tour de France, a time trial, and he did it with a record average speed of 34.4 miles per hour to become the first to wear the yellow jersey in the world's most iconic cycling event. He finished 101st in the general classification and 14th in the youth classification. He was sitting at 30th in the world's Union Cycliste Internationale rankings heading into last week's Prudential RideLondon and Surrey Classic. Dennis is a teammate of Tejay van Garderen, the two-time defending USA Pro Challenge champion who has opted to skip this year's race in favor of the Vuelta a Espana.
Matthew Busche — Trek Factory Racing: The 30-year-old North Carolina resident is a USA Pro Challenge veteran, having finished eighth in the general classification in 2012 and fifth in 2014. Busche is known for being a strong climber and has more recently been a support aide for Trek teammate Haimar Zubeldia. However, he isn't devoid of personal hardware, as he is a two-time U.S. National Road Race Champion, having won in 2011 and 2015. He completed his first Tour de France last year.
Haimar Zubeldia — Trek Factory Racing: At 38, the Spaniard will be among the oldest competitors on the course. Another strong climber like his teammate Matthew Busche, Zubeldia is a five-time top 10 finisher in the Tour de France, including eighth place in 2014. Among his career highlights is an overall title in the 2010 Tour de L'ain. He and Busche make a strong pair, although Busche might be able to supplant him for the lead role on the Trek team.
Kiel Reijnen — UnitedHealthcare: Reijnen is one of the hottest cyclists around and will be coming to the USA Pro Challenge fresh off an impressive showing at the Tour of Utah. The 29-year-old Boulder resident will be a local favorite to win in his home state. He is a strong sprinter, having won the first stage of the 2014 Pro Challenge in Aspen. He finished first in the points classification in last year's Pro Challenge and 45th in the general classification. Reijnen will be a threat to win another stage or two in 2015.
OTHER NAMES TO KNOW
Damiano Caruso, BMC Racing: The 27-year-old Italian will be more of a support system for teammate Rohan Dennis. Caruso is fresh off an appearance in the 2015 Tour de France, where he helped his team, including Dennis, win the Stage 9 team time trial.
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Roman Kreuziger, Tinkoff-Saxo: Kreuziger is representing what many people consider to be the world's strongest cycling team, which includes Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan, neither of whom are competing in the USA Pro Challenge this year. A 29-year-old out of the Czech Republic, Kreuziger finished 17th in the general classification of the 2015 Tour de France.
Taylor Phinney, BMC Racing: A two-time U.S. Olympian, Phinney is only just getting his legs back under him after missing 14 months recovering from a nasty crash. He performed well at the Tour of Utah, finishing third in the opening stage.
Mike Woods, Optum Pro Cycling: A timely late attack gave Woods the win in Stage 5 of the Tour of Utah. It also gave him the yellow jersey, a first for his team in an event of that quality. He ended up slipping behind Garmin rider Joe Dombrowski in the overall standings, still finished second.