Dani Martinez and Taylor Phinney headline a strong EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale squad for the Colorado Classic. The pair are joined by Nate Brown, Hugh Carthy and Joe Dombrowski, part of the team classification victory at Tour of Utah, and stagiaire Jose Neves.
“Obviously we consider Colorado a home race,” said EF Pro Cycling CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Slipstream was born here. This is the race, you know beyond Paris-Roubaix and the Tour and some of the key Classics, we want to win to support our fans, to support the people that support the team. We’re here to put on a good show for the crowds.”
Colombian Dani Martinez, fresh off the Tour and some time at home in Colombia, will make his first start at the Colorado race.
“I’m anticipating a competitive race,” said Martinez. “The legs are feeling good, and I think the team can ride well this week.”
Colorado’s Phinney is looking forward to lining up in Vail.
“I have a solid two days of training in the legs heading into this race, on top of three weeks of the Tour de France, so I’m not sure what to expect – but my face is fine. My nose has a bit of chicane in it but it’s hardly noticeable,” added Phinney, referencing his Tour injuries. “I get a little nervous thinking about racing in Colorado, which is a good thing, I think. I’m excited. I’m happy to see the race branch out of Denver with two stages in Vail.”
The second of those two stages is expected to be the most decisive of the four-day tour. Used in the Coors Classic and USA Pro Challenge, the Vail time trial course makes its first Colorado Classic appearance. The challenging course climbs 480 metres over 15.88 kilometres.
“The Vail Pass time trial is iconic and beautiful,” said Phinney. “It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but I’ll enjoy it nonetheless.”
“We’re aiming for the best possible result in the individual time trial,” said sport director Ken Vanmarcke. “Stage two will automatically decide the general classification. Last year we had Breckenridge as our queen stages. We can say the queen stage this year is the time trial.”
Beyond the time trial, the Colorado Classic features two comparatively flat circuits to open and close out the race. Both measure around 100 kilometres, and the relatively short distance could force disruptive racing.
The third stage of the Colorado Classic is the longest and hilliest of the race. Beginning in Denver’s RiNo district, the 162-kilometre day races by Coors Field, climbs Lookout Mountain and passes through Red Rocks Park. A reduced bunch will likely contest the stage at the Velorama music festival on Saturday afternoon.
“We don’t have a pure sprinter,” said Vanmarcke. “This will make it more difficult to score a result on the flat stages.”
“As a team, we want to win a stage however we can do that,” said Phinney. “I’ll go for some of the sprints and race offensively. I’ll try to make things exciting for the fans. The boys in pink are excited and ready to roll.”
Neves makes his debut for the team at the Colorado Classic. The 22-year-old has largely raced at home in Portugal with a few stints in nearby France and Spain.
“Jose Neves is probably the most talented rider to come out of Portugal in the last 10 years, realistically since Rui Costa,” said Vaughters. “He’s a guy that’s proven himself again and again in the U23 and the larger races in Portugal. We’re giving him a shot in Colorado and Britain.”
“I’m very happy to be able to train with a WorldTour team” said Neves. “It’s a dream of any cyclist. I was nervous at first about if I would have a ride this year, and it all came about in a spectacular way. I have to thank the team in advance for everything. I am so grateful and happy for this opportunity.”
EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Colorado Classic:
Nate Brown (USA)
Hugh Carthy (GBR)
Joe Dombrowski (USA)
Dani Martinez (COL)
Jose Neves (POR)
Taylor Phinney (USA)