Pro Challenge Stage 4 could be week's defining day

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— Jens Voigt’s almost-win Wednesday added spice to Stage 3, but Stage 4 shouldn’t need any surprise surge to keep fans dialed in from the start.

Stage 4, the Queen Stage, will be one of the toughest in this year’s USA Pro Challenge and how the top contenders handle the looming difficulties could have everything to say about how things look come the final stage in Denver.

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USA Pro Challenge Stage 3 crash

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USA Pro Challenge Stage 3 finish

Getting around

Daily road closure information during the event will be available by calling 511 or by visiting www.cotrip.org.

Thursday’s racing — which will begin at 11 a.m. from the base of Steamboat Ski Area, roll downtown, then head out on Twentymile Road — will include several tough hills between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek.

There will be challenging climbs as the route cuts south on Colorado Highway 131, then just before the race hits its end point in Beaver Creek, a steep thrust up above 9,100 feet at Bachelor Gulch.

“The race will sort itself out there,” said its current leader, Lachlan Morton, considering that gigantic hurdle waiting near the end of the 103-mile stage.

He said he’s ridden that road only once before.

“It’s a proper climb,” he said. “If you’re on a good day, it suits you. If you feel good, it’s great.”

If he doesn’t feel good, however, a major change could be in order in the race standings. Morton currently reigns atop them, but is just two seconds ahead of Mathias Frank and 11 in front of Peter Sagan.

Sagan, a sprinter who’s won two of the three stages to this point, likely will become a non-factor in the general classification race in Thursday’s mountainous stage, but Tejay van Garderen, champ in this year’s Tour of California, also lurks 11 seconds back. In all, 20 riders are within 48 seconds, meaning if things get crazy Thursday, the standings could be rearranged.

One final climb remains in the final kilometers up to Beaver Creek. Voigt, who’s shined there in the past, said that one should prove more manageable.

Getting there will be the hard part.

USA Pro Challenge 2013 route

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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