The stage was set for an explosion with hot temperatures and tight GC for the fourth stage, the tough Northstar at Tahoe Road Race, of the Tour de Nez. On the second lap of the 10 laps around a 6.5-mile course, the 65-man field exploded on the 15% grade climb. For the rest of the race, riders littered the course in small groups or alone just trying to make it to the finish within the 15% time cut. The leader’s red jersey wearer Ian McKissick (BMC) was one of the victims as he cracked in the second lap.
A strong group of contenders formed at the front, and small breaks launched, and re-launched. Eight-time Canadian Champion Eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics), riding without any teammates, won the stage on his patented solo attack from one of the breaks. Andy Bajadali (Kelly Benefit/Medifast) and Scott Nydam (BMC) chased from the front group to take second and third respectively. With a scant lead of 4 seconds, Bajadali is the new leader with Nydam in second place and Wohlberg in third, at 5 seconds back.
Eric Wohlberg (Symmetrics), stage winner, third spot in GC
About the stage. A couple of moves that went up the road and I tried to mark what I could, and then Tom Zirbel hit it really hard, Dan Bowman bridged across to him just before the feed zone and they had a minute and a half on us and no one was really too concerned about them. I was not really in the GC running at this point in time, so I thought I might as well a little gap and not have to deal with all the accelerations up the climb so that’s the best thing for me just ride steady state all day long, and I went and Aaron Olson came with me, you know he sat of course, I took him across to Zirbel, and they rode a little bit together and then we heard that Bajadali was coming across so Bowman started sitting in of course and Aaron and I had to ride the last lap sort of thing.
About dropping Olson. Just up to the feed zone, I didn’t really accelerate, I just kind of kept a good hard tempo because I knew that guys were starting to come across and I didn’t want to have to deal with that.
About the course. I knew it was going to be a battle out there, it’s just a course when you just have to make that one hard 12 or 15 minute effort all the way up the hill then you have a little bit of recovery in the downhill and then you’ve just got to hit it again.
About the last lap. On the last time up the climb, Wohlberg attacked off of Olson, Bajadali went up to Olson and Olson sat on him, and then Wohlberg stayed off the front for the win, but it came together on the descent with Olson, Swindlhurst, Brad White, Matt Cooke, myself and Bajadali. There were a few accelerations on the flat before the rise and then I just countered off of one of those and had a gap, and didn’t look behind me and tried to stay with it because of altitude you can’t go too deep but wanted to keep the pressure going and then Baj came up to me and sat on me until the last 220 meters and got me at the line. I felt good in that I had it at the end, it was a matter of timing, it was a hard man’s race, it was not easy.
About the plan for the last stage. It’s going to be tough, hats off to Tour de Nez for putting a good race, it’s going to come down to the wire tomorrow and the strongest man will win because it’s going to be hard again tomorrow.
About his disappointment for not making the team for Tour de Suisse. It’s a mix bag, you want to be one hundred percent for Tour de Suisse and at the time they made the roster, I wasn’t. They took a good team, guys who have proven themselves in the past, gave Jonathan Garcia a chance to ride a big race and Jon got in a break and almost made it to the line. I’m happy to be part of BMC one way or another. There’s been more opportunities that I could have hoped for with this team, I’m definitely not in deficit.
About the stage. Things split up a lot on the second time up the climb, things just exploded, there were a lot of attacks at the front of the race and I knew that I wouldn’t going to be able to go with all the attacks. I knew I was being a bit conservative, I was keeping a close eye on the U23 jersey, that’s what we came here to win, just making sure I was with the guys and following their moves. When they got tired, it was just a matter of survival, 80k or 70k is a long way to go on your own but we have a great team behind us and that made it a lot easier.
About his competitors. He [Adam Switters] seemed pretty strong early on and he was the biggest threat. I heard this morning that Steve Howard [Bissell] is sick which is unfortunate, he didn’t start and I believe that’s the reason. Adam Switters was really strong early on, when he cracked, I was a little surprised but I tried to capitalize on that, start getting into his head a bit. It was a long day of pushing myself.
About riding mostly by himself. It seems like it was most of the day, there were some guys, I came through, Jackson Stewart [Bissell] was great, he let me in on one of the laps, he was really nice, I was asking for help and he said ‘what can I possibly do for you’, and I said that I was in the U23 race, and he was great. There were some other guys here and there, Mike Sayers I was with him early on. It was a long day by myself, it was easier to push myself knowing that I was racing towards the front end of the U23 race if not the jserey.
About the plan for the last stage. Everything to keep the jsersey.
Roman Van Uden (Rubicon-Orbea), second place in U23 classification
About the stage. I got into a good group of about 8 to 10 riders, and I just cruised with them for about 6 laps. And then we caught Adam, and there’s the guy who is one second behind me who tried to attack me, not realizing that Carson was up the road, I don’t think, I just got into a tuck and caught him in the downhill. I could see the van right behind Carson, I pulled up to him on the last lap.
It will all come down to the last stage. Saturday June 21st brings stage 5, the 44-mile (70 km) Northstar-at-Tahoe Village Circuit Race. The race course is a hilly, difficult 2-mile loop that includes a passage over the pavers in the Northstar Village, and the adjacent roads at the village.
Also new for 2008 is the chance to catch some of cycling’s top female pro riders who will compete in the first Northstar Resort Tour de Nez Women’s Pro Race, on Saturday, June 21. The women will race 24 miles (39 km).