The BMC team came in under radar at Mt Hood Cycling Classic, as the race was not an official scheduled race for the team. Six riders decided to go to Oregon on their own to refine their form, and have some fun. Jonathan Garcia, Jackson Stewart, Darren Lill, Mike Sayers, Ian McKissick and Nathan Miller counted only on each other and girlfriends and wives for support.
No stranger to this race, Lill (then riding for Navigators) won the Wy’East stage and finished tenth overall in 2007, and McKissick (riding for Recycled Cycles/Raleigh) claimed fourth overall in 2006.
“We don’t have full team support, the guys that are here we came on our own. It’s not a team race, just getting some good fitness in, a few guys are here for training, a few of us are definitely here to race. I’m here to race. It’s kind of put us in a good position for the week, for my strengths and for the other guys.” said Garcia.
And the team came out swinging. In the short, pancake-flat prologue Jonathan Garcia placed 2nd, Darren Lill, 6th and Ian McKissick finished 10th.
“I would like to think we were flying under the radar, but I’m not sure that we are. Not now. Jonathan did a really good ride in opening prologue but you can’t really fly under the radar after that.” said Lill when asked if the team was underestimated.
In the first stage, Lill finished 8th, putting three BMC riders in the top 11 in general classification at less than 10 seconds from the leader before the first climbing stage. Lill attacked in the final climb of the Cooper Spur Circuit race to win stahge 2, and announce to everyone that the team was here to race and win. After three stages, Lill was in the lead with Garcia in ninth place at 17 seconds back.
“Mike Sayers and myself, Mike is the most senior member on the team, he’s got a lot of experience and even though I’m quite young, I do have quite a bit of racing experience. ” answered Lill when asked about who was in charge. “Between him and myself, we don’t have race radios, it’s a little bit difficult and I’m trying to find out time gaps from the motorbikes and things like that, it just makes us ride closer together so we can communicate between the riders, it’s actually a good thing sometimes, makes us ride more closely knit as a team.”
The time trial shuffled the GC as winner Rory Sutherland laid claim to the yellow jersey and Lill found himself in third place, 31 seconds off the lead. McKissick, with a fourth place finish on the TT, moved up to fifth place, at 1:41 from the top, and Garcia dropped down to eleventh.
In the tough 101-mile Wy’East stage with 11,200 feet of climbing, the BMC riders sacrificed themselves to keep Lill in contention. With a dangerous break up the road, they had to help out with the chase, and Lill paid them back by moving up to second place on GC by outsprinting his closest competitors to the finish at Mt Hood ski resort.
As expected, the last stage, a criterium, didn’t change the GC and Lill finished in second place overall. Garcia placed thirteenth, and McKissick was twenty-eighth.
“We’re having a good time here, I think we’re making a good showing.” said Lill about racing at Mt Hood Cycling Classic.