Riding in only his second 2.HC-rated cycling race, 20-year-old Gage Hecht (Aevolo) landed a huge victory in Stage 1 of the 2018 Colorado Classic here Thursday.
The Parker, Colo., native and Junior National Time Trial/Criterium champion set the pace early, attacking on the first climb, moving out in front and charging through the entire 64.1-mile circuit course ahead of the pack. Hecht’s inspired performance earned him the blue Gates General Classification leader’s jersey, the Frontier Airlines Sprint jersey, the Colorado Tourism King of the Mountain jersey and the Ikon Pass Best Young Rider jersey.
“I didn’t really expect at all to be able to make that move,” Hecht said of the final push to the finish, when he entered the homestretch barriers, cast a final glance over his shoulder and found he was alone. “I thought I’d give it one final attack, get some last TV coverage, get my name out there, hang on as best I could. It’s really big to win a race this big in my home state. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet.”
The first stage was comprised of a circuit race that took riders on an 8.8-mile loop beginning and finishing in Vail Village. In total, the men rode 64.1 miles, including 4,390 feet of climbing.
From the start line, racers launched immediately up Mill Creek Rd. – a dirt road taking them up Vail Mountain on a grueling climb that determined the Colorado Tourism Office King of the Mountain classification, an effort Hecht commanded from the first lap of the race.
The peloton then zipped down residential streets in Vail Village and along the Frontage Road toward West Vail before looping back to Vail Village, toward East Vail and around the Vail Golf Course. Here, the field picked up to a sprint on Vail Valley Drive. Hecht dominated from the start, winning the race in a total time of 2 hours, 32 minutes, 56 seconds.
Part of the pack of four that broke off early with Hecht and maintained a significant gap on the peleton for the majority of the race, Niklas EG (Trek-Segafredo) earned the First Bank Most Aggressive Rider jersey.
Coming into the Colorado Classic after another sizzling performance at the Tour of Utah, Travis McCabe (United Healthcare) was the second rider to cross the finish line Thursday, 6 seconds behind Hecht with Joe Lewis (Holowesko/Citadel presented by Arapahoe Resources) on his wheel in third.
“The last two laps started to get hectic,” McCabe said. “Guys were attacking on the hill; that forced breaks and a lot of disorganization. Once everyone got back together they were pretty much on the limit with the altitude and the climb. You didn’t have many cards to play with. Gage was incredibly strong today. He rode a beautiful race.”
Fifteen of the world’s top men’s teams – a total of 81 racers from more than 20 countries – are competing in this year’s Colorado Classic, which continues Friday morning with a time trial from Vail Village up Vail Pass before moving to Denver for Stage 3 presented by UnitedHealthcare and Stage 4 presented by Gates Industrial Corporation.
The Colorado Classic men’s race is sanctioned by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and is designated as a 2.HC race, which is the highest category outside of World Tour races. Both the men’s and women’s races are part of USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour, which showcases the premier domestic road events in the United States.
For more information, visit coloradoclassic.com.