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Biggest challenge of cycling's Colorado Classic remains altitude

August 12, 2017 Updated: August 12, 2017 at 9:43 pm
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Andrei Krasilnikau, racing for Holowesko/Citadel Racing, races toward the Peak to Peak Highway after the first King of the Mountain as a storm brews in the distance Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, during Stage 3 of the the Colorado Classic . The 79.4-mile Stage 3 started and finished in Denver. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

DENVER – Altitude. It’s a topic that clings to the Colorado Classic.

Cyclists from around the world know it’s a factor the moment they start to pedal. Then it comes down to figuring out a way to deal with it. And there’s no easy solution.

“At this altitude, a lot of guys are going to be touching their limits pretty fast,” Utah resident T.J. Eisenhart said. “They’re going into the red pretty fast not knowing how to kind of stay controlled.”

One formula doesn’t fit all, Colorado Springs rider Katie Compton maintains. It’s simply a matter of trial and error, and even that isn’t always reliable.

“You just have to know your body really well, know kind of what your red line is and how many times you can go above it and recover,” she said. “You got to be careful not to go red line too many times. But when you’re racing, you do it as much as you can until you crack and then you just get to the finish. At least that’s what I do.”

Happy to be home

The USA Pro Challenge brought professional stage racing back to Colorado, running for seven days each August from 2011 to 2015.

But when the event folded, cyclists who call the state home lost a favorite date on the sport’s calendar. Now, that void is being filled again.

“Since the Colorado Classic was on the UCI calendar, it went directly on my calendar,” Denver native Alex Howes said. “This is like Christmas for me. I’ve been counting down the days.”

Colorado Springs resident Kaitlin Antonneau never raced in the Pro Challenge, but she’s appreciative of the chance to ride on familiar turf now.

“It was really cool Thursday in Colorado Springs and Friday in Breckenridge to race in my home state,” she said. “It was special.”

Peter Stetina, a Boulder resident, thinks it’s special too. But he has one request.

“Colorado riding is iconic big mountain passes and so it would be cool if they could start introducing some,” he said. “The circuits appeal, but maybe one or two road races. And if they decide to expand it, then we should get up high.”

Moving on up?

Eisenhart opened some eyes Friday with his runner-up finish in Breckenridge. The Stage 2 effort vaulted the young rider into the overall lead of the Colorado Classic and left some wondering if he belongs in the sport’s top echelon.

When asked if he had World Tour ambitions, Eisenhart downplayed the possibility.

“If there’s a team that I feel comfortable on or I want to go to, then yeah that’d be nice,” he said, adding that it’s “silly to look at it as like a steppingstone when you need to just look at where you are and learn from it.

“And then at the end of the year, if it’s time to move on, it’s time to move on.”

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