BRECKENRIDGE — In the final split second of Stage 2, TJ Eisenhart lost the stage and won the leader’s jersey. So it goes in pro cycling.
The win some, lose some shocker came on a mad-dash sprint between Eisenhart and challenger Alex Howes in the final 500 meters of the Breckenridge stage at the inaugural Colorado Classic, which covered a total of 64 miles and 7,320 vertical feet in 10 laps.
As the two barreled into the finish line on Main Street and Ski Hill Road, hundreds of fans lining the road yelled and screamed and rang cowbells to lead Eisenhart — a 23-year-old member of the UCI continental team Holowesko/Citadel Racing — on a redline dash as Howes closed in. The 29-year-old Tour de France veteran with Team Cannondale-Drapac had been chasing Eisenhart all afternoon, just like the rest of the field, but patience paid off on the final of 10 laps through the 6.4-mile circuit at 9,600 feet.
That’s when Howes, a Denver native who’s no stranger to altitude, made his moved on Eisenhart, a Utah native who’s also a beast in the “death zone” above 9,000 feet. Eisenhart held a 40-second lead at the start of the final lap, only to see it drop to 10 seconds as Howes and third-place finisher, Peter Stetina of Trek-Segafredo, started closing the gap. Eisenhart held strong until the leading trio zoomed through the tight, technical switchbacks of Illinois Gulch and merged onto lower Boreas Pass Road for the final mile, each one zooming along at 40 to 45 miles per hour. Howes inched closer as Stetina fell behind when the group made 90-degree turns onto French Street, then Jefferson Avenue, and then finally Main Street.
And that’s when it happened. On that final…
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