It all comes down to the final criterium and time bonuses at the Joe Martin Stage Race. After 204.5 miles (329 km) of racing and 9900 feet climbed in 3 days, the top two men on general classification – OUCH’s Rory Sutherland and BISSELL’s Ben Jacques-Maynes – are separated by only 9 seconds.
And it’s even tighter for the women with only 9 seconds between first and third place. Time bonuses are 10, 7 and 5 seconds for the top 3 on the final stage, so it is still possible to upset the current leaderboard.
“It all came back together but man we made them work for it today and I hope there are some tired legs on that team because chances are we’re going to do the same thing tomorrow.” said Jacques-Maynes.
“Tomorrow’s crit is going to be a throwdown.” said Webcor’s Katheryn Curi-Mattis who sits in second place at 4 seconds from the leader Alison Powers of Team Type 1. Overall winner in 2007, Kat Carroll (TIBCO) sits in third spot at 9 seconds from the lead.
Serious hard racing. The men’s 92 miles (148 km) race was full-on from the gun as the BISSELL squad threw everything they had to dislodge the leader’s jersey from Sutherland’s shoulders.
“It was a nice big throwdown, the team rode spectacular, a real coordinated effort and with the goal of putting OUCH under extreme pressure and we succeeded.” said Jacques-Maynes.
But in the end, with help from other teams, OUCH brought back the dangerous break and the stage came down to a bunch sprint won by Argentinean Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home) for his second stage win. Rounding off the podium were Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) and Nic Sanderson (Rock Racing).
In the first 10 miles (16 km) of the race, a group of 25 riders went off the front and OUCH had to rally to pull in that move.
“We had three guys in that move and just putting the pressure on, we came up to the feedzone hill which is a nice steep kicker the first time and Rory [Sutherland] was already having to follow moves himself and I knew it was going to be one of those days to keep the pressure on” continued Jacques-Maynes.
A group of six riders which included Team Type 1 pair Darren Lill and Matt Wilson and BISSELL’s Morgan Schmitt went off at the top of the climb in the first of the three 23-mile (37 km) lap of rolling terrain. By the end of the first loop the gap has grown to one minute, and then the second time around, BISSELL hit big.
“We did a full team attack on the second lap and really isolated Rory and then it was just a matter of myself, Jeremy [Vennell] and Tom [Zirbel] taking turns attacking until one of us was away and Jeremy made it away with three others.” said Jacques-Maynes.
Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing), Shawn Milne (Team Type 1) and Luis Amaran (Colavita-Sutter Home) joined Vennell to bridge up to the break to make it 10 men out front with some serious horsepower.
“OUCH was chasing full gas but the time gaps were still going out, they must have been absolutely flying up there.” commented Jacques-Maynes.
More attacks were launched in the third and final time up the hill and at that point the OUCH squad was down to two riders to power the chase. But teams that had missed the break came to the front and helped in the chase to force a field sprint. Men from the Fly V Australia, Planet Energy, Land Rover-ORBEA squads joined in the 20-rider rotation at the front and finally brought the move back with 3.1 miles (5 km) to go.
“If it had been up to OUCH, I don’t think they would have had the horsepower to do it because they were burning matches left, right and center just trying to contain the gap, let along bring it down.” said Jacques-Maynes.
The battle didn’t change the general classification. Sutherland leads, Jacques-Maynes is 9 seconds back and his teammate Vennell is a further 11 seconds in third spot. The BISSELL team also leads the team classification with 22 seconds on OUCH.
One more stage, the 90-minute Sunday criterium in downtown Fayetteville, held on a technical 1.3-mile, 8-corner course with a tough climb to the finish that burns legs as the race progresses. The battle between BISSELL and OUCH will continue which Fly V Australia will try to take advantage of to move their top guy Phil Zajicek onto the podium. Zajicek sits in fourth spot at 23 seconds down but only 1 second from Vennell.
Men’s Stage 3 Top 5 Results
- Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Colavita-Sutter Home) 3:17:34
- Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) st
- Nic Sanderson (Rock Racing)
- Shawn Milne (Team Type 1)
- Sean Mazich (Team Waste Management)
Men’s Top 5 General Classification after Stage 3
- Rory Sutherland (OUCH-Maxxis) 8:45:52
- Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) +0:09
- Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL) +0:22
- Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) +0:23
- Corey Collier (Team Rio Grande) +0:26
Attacks and counter-attacks, constant action were the story of the day in the women’s 69-mile (111-km) road race that included 2 laps of the rolling 23-mile loop with 1,500 feet of climbing per lap. In the end, Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) won the field sprint ahead of Carroll and Canadian Gina Grain (Webcor).
“It is very satisfying to win a 70 mile race,” said Van Gilder. “It shows how racers can develop. I really enjoy this race because the course isn’t overly difficult. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s challenging even to the most experienced racers.”
The TIBCO team had their eye on the time bonuses and shut down all moves to push for a sprint finish and those magical bonus seconds.
“We were going into the finish knowing that we needed to get time bonuses. The finish is slightly downhill and it’s pretty wide so it’s pretty easy to get swarmed, we knew that we didn’t want to go too early. I was on Lauren Tamayo’s wheel and she got to about 250, 200 meters and I could feel the swarm coming behind so I had to jump which at first felt early but I’m glad I went when I did, I was able to hold on to second.” said Carroll who grabbed 10 seconds for her second place and moved up in GC.
Powers finished safely in the group and kept her leader’s jersey which she claimed on the first stage, the time trial.
“We’ve definitely had our work cut out for us which is cool because that means the other teams are racing,” Powers said. “My team was amazing, riding well together and everyone does a lot of work.”
The Webcor team launched the first salvo in the battle with Amy Dombroski attacking on the first hill in the first loop.
“We were definitely wanting to race aggressively, hopefully get a break off, it’s a demanding course, the first lap, once we hit the circuit it was game on.” said Curi Mattis.
The most significant move was the solo flyer by Chrissy Ruiter (Value Act) in the final 6 miles (10 km) of the first lap. She managed to get 40 seconds on the field before being chased down in the first steep climb on the second lap.
“Kudos to her and ValueAct. [Directeur Sportif] Lisa Hunt runs a spectacular program.” said Curi Mattis. “I really like their style of racing, they race aggressively, they knew they had to race aggressively to try and force a break and unfortunately when you have a strong team like TIBCO keeping things together, it’s challenging.”
Sunday is the final stage, the 60-minute criterium in downtown Fayetteville. It will be difficult to dislodge Powers but that won’t stop the teams from trying. Powers will be under attack by both the TIBCO and Webcor teams while the ValueAct squad continues their aggressive racing to try and win a stage. It will be difficult to dislodge Powers but that won’t stop the teams from trying.
Webcor leads the general team classification, 36 seconds ahead of ValueAct.
“I love the criterium here,” said Powers who placed third in 2006 and proved her strong technical ability. “It was technical and challenging and that is what I do best at. I have several teammates who like that stuff too. So we are really excited.”
“It’s not over til it’s over. Erinne Willock won this race in 2006 so she knows the course, we’re going to go out there, we’re not going to roll over and just let anyone have the race.” said Curi Mattis.
“Win the race.” answered Carroll when asked the team’s plan. “We knew after the prologue that if any of us were going to have a chance we’d have to go after the time bonuses. It’s a tough crit, it’s technical and the hill definitely takes a toll on people especially after four days of racing. In years past, it’s usually a race of attrition.”
On a side note, the Webcor team was involved in a fender bender, not rider nor staff was injured but one of the team car was damaged.
Women’s Stage 3 Top 5 Results
- Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) 2.59.30
- Katharine Carroll (TIBCO) st
- Gina Grain (Webcor Builders)
- Erica Allar (Unattached)
- Jennifer Mcrae (Team Type 1)
Women’s Top 5 General Classification after Stage 3
- Alison Powers (Team Type 1) 6.46.50
- Katheryn Curi Mattis (Webcor Builders) +0.04
- Katharine Carroll (TIBCO) +0.09
- Erinne Willock (Webcor) +0.18
- Kristen Lasasso (Mellow Mushroom) +0.19
Complete results here