The Kelly Benefit Strategies team has been nibbling away at Tom Zirbel (BISSELL)’s lead from the beginning from 22 seconds after stage 1 down to 6 seconds after stage 3 and earlier today Zach Bell took a big chunk to claim the overall victory at the 50th Fitchburg Longsjo Classic.
After an early 12-rider break in the 50-mile Worker’s Credit Union Criterium was brought back with 5 laps to go in the 55 lap race, a dangerous – for Zirbel – 8-rider break went off the front. The break included stage 3 winner Charles Dionne (Fly V Australia), 2nd-place on GC Bell, Luis Amaran (Colavita/Sutter Home), Tom Soladay (Mt Khakis), Team Type 1 duo of Matt Wilson and Mike Creed and Mike Friedman (Garmin-Slipstream).
The group worked well together with Bell intent on gaining time in GC and the other riders looking for a stage win. Dionne won the sprint taking his second stage win in Fitchburg, crossing the line ahead of Amaran and Soladay.
“I couldn’t have done better.” said Dionne. “I feel very good. We’re only talking of four seconds berween me and the overall winner. I think that people have forgotten that I had surgery on my leg in 2006 and that I had my elbow injury, but now I feel really good.”
Yellow-jersey Zirbel came in with the lead group, with no teammates, at 15 seconds back dropping him to third spot on GC. Dionne grabbed a 10 time bonus and moved up to second on GC. One wonders how much the travel debacle, including being a man short, impacted the BISSELL squad in their defense of the jersey.
Twenty year-old Willam Duggan, of the amateur team CCB Racing, solidified his lead in the Points Classification by winning 5 of the 9 points during the day and took home the green points jersey.
With point sprints being held every 5 laps of the 28-lap women’s Worker’s Credit Union Criterium and with a very tight race for the second and third spot on GC, the pace was fast throughout the 25-mile race.
“We wanted to try to move Kristin up to 3rd on GC today,” commented ValueAct Team Director Lisa Hunt about her rider Kristin McGrath who sat in fifth spot on GC at the start of the day. “With only 2 seconds between 3rd through 5th, anything was possible.”
For leader Evelyn Stevens, guest riding for the Lip Smacker team, the goal was to stay close to her competitors and with the help of her teammates use her 20-second cushion to stay safe.
There were numerous breakaway attempts, but it was with two laps to go that Robin Farina (ValueAct) counter-attacked after a prime lap and got away solo. It looked good for a while but the rider was reeled by the final lap and the field readied itself for the bunch sprint. Five-time US National Criterium Champion Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) came around everyone to take the win, her second victory in so many days. Jen McRae (Team Type 1) was second and Erica Allar (BMW-Bianchi) finished third on the stage.
“Robin had a great attack and we thought she might be able to hold it to the finish,” said ValueAct’s Martina Patella who finished fourth on the stage. “I was in a great position for the final two turns, but it was long and windy for the sprint!”
After winning the Valley of the Sun road race and the Tour of the Battenkill earlier this year, Stevens claimed her first NRC stage on Sunday. Stage 1 winner Alison Powers (Team Type 1) finished second overall at 20 seconds and the unstoppable Jeannie Longo (Vital Plus) jumped up to third spot at 23 seconds. McGrath finished in fourth place only one second from the podium.
Good article on Stevens in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette – Always an athlete, competed in tennis while in school, the 26-year old took up cycling 6 months ago, joining the CRCA team after graduation and starting her full time job in finance.
Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Verducci-Breakaway) launched her attacks to gain points, winning four of the seven sprints and claimed the green jersey of the overall points classification.
Complete results here