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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (VN) — There haven’t been many instances during his 15-year career that Christian Vande Velde has ridden a downhill prologue — and even fewer times that he’s started off a time trial stage as one of the first 12 riders out of the start house.
Yet the 35-year-old Garmin-Cervélo rider used that set of circumstances to his advantage here Monday, finishing just two seconds off the winning time at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge prologue.
“I’m really happy with how this went,” Vande Velde said. “I didn’t expect this. I’d more hoped to be on the podium for the Vail time trial than today. I put some seconds into some people, which is good … The key was practicing the course as much as possible, particularly that fast left-hand turn. My goal was to not end my season there, especially because the handling on the time trial bike is much different than the road bike.”
Because the race opened with a time trial, teams were able to choose the start position of their riders. Garmin put Vande Velde and Ryder Hesjedal off early, and Tom Danielson and Dave Zabriskie off last.
HTC-Highroad followed a similar tactic, sending off Hayden Roulston and stage winner Patrick Gretsch early, and Danny Pate and Tejay van Garderen late.
“I’ve never started first in my career,” Vande Velde said. “It was weird warming up early like that. I guess it was a bit of gamble. You always want to compare yourself to the best riders. Many times in races I’ve been in, we’ve put GC riders at the beginning and end of an opening time trial. It’s a way to offset your odds, if the rain comes or wind changes around. Obviously HTC was thinking the same thing as we were.”
Vande Velde said he was on the massage table at the team hotel when he was told he’d need to return to the finish line for the podium ceremony.
Asked if he was happy to cede to Danielson the pressure that comes with being Garmin’s team leader for the event, Vande Velde said that regardless of external pressure, the greatest pressure to achieve always comes from within.
“I’ve put a little pressure on myself,” he said. “After the Tour of Utah I had a great week with my family in Boulder. We’ve been away from friends and family a long time, so it was nice to be back. I’ve been thinking of this race for a long while, and especially so considering the Tour de France didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. And if I haven’t had to deal with the media wanting my time, like Tom has, I’m OK with that.”