ASPEN — On the eve of the USA Pro Challenge, Golden High School grad Alex Howes said his role for Garmin-Sharp this week would be to support team leader Tom Danielson but added that he had "earmarked" a couple stages he thought he could win. One, he said, was Monday's opening stage.

Howes nearly pulled it off, finishing second in a furious finishing duel in the Aspen-Snowmass circuit by two seconds behind Kiel Reijnen of UnitedHealthCare.

Howes came in fatigued, having ridden his first Tour de France in July, then competing in the Tour of Utah this month.

"I definitely did blow up at the finish," said Howes, 26, who lives in Boulder. "It wasn't pretty."

Howes and Reijnen are good friends and frequent training partners despite competing for different teams.

"I knew he'd be a good rider today," Howes said. "Honestly I had questions about where I was going to be. I've been going since June, pretty full gas. I really haven't had time to catch my breath. Mentally I'm losing it. Physically it's in there. It takes a bit of digging, but I got it out."

Howes and Reijnen have been close friends the past four years.

"He's a weird guy," Howes said. "I mean that in the best way. I'm a weird guy. We push each other on and off the bike, push each other to train and learn about life and wax philosophically and do wood projects and smoke meat. We took a boxing class this offseason and punched each other in the ring until our teams   said that was not a good idea. I guess we punched each other a little bit today."


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Reijnen, a Bainbridge Island, Wash., native, who lives and trains in Boulder, said because he and Howes are friends, he's aware of his strengths and weaknesses.

“He's fresh off the Tour (de France), and this course suits both of us, so I knew that when he went, that could have been the race, so I had to follow him,” Reijnen said. “I can think of no one else I'd rather lose to than Alex, and I think he'd say the same about me. It was a fair fight, and I'm really happy he was on the podium with me.”

Howes came in fatigued, having done his first Tour de France in July, followed by the Tour of Utah this month.

“I'm pretty tired,” Howes said in a quiet moment Sunday at the team hotel. “How do you push through that? I don't know, I'll let you know if I get through it. I'll say that racing on your home turf certainly helps.”

John Meyer: 303-954-1616, jmeyer@denverpost.com or twitter.com/johnmeyer


Team Garmin crosses CO-82 in front of Buttermilk Mountain with the pack during the USA Pro Challenge on Monday.
Team Garmin crosses CO-82 in front of Buttermilk Mountain with the pack during the USA Pro Challenge on Monday. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)