Rock Racing takes control in Utah

Posted on 19. Aug, 2009 by in photos, race

The Rock Racing duo of Francisco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla finished 1-2 on the 137 km (85 mi) Stage 1 of the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah, putting the yellow leader’s jersey on Mancebo’s shoulders.   The pair attacked on the   climb to the second and last KOM, caught and passed the break on the final uncategorized climb and kept on going to cross the finish line together, 25 seconds ahead of the lead select group.

Rock Racing duo of Francisco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla go 1-2 at Stage 1 of the Tour of Utah - photo courtesy of gary weitzeil/studio one images

Rock Racing duo of Francisco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla go 1-2 at Stage 1 of the Tour of Utah - photo courtesy of gary weitzeil/studio one images

The pair decided that Mancebo should cross the line first because “Oscar won in Cascade.” said a smiling Mancebo  as translated by assistant DS Chepe Garcia.

“We’re brothers.” added Sevilla. “It’s very important for the team, I’m very happy to see Paco win, he’s very happy to see me win. It’s important for Rock Racing.”

The jerseys after stage 1: Best Young Rider David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit), Leader Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing), KOM Brad White (OUCH), and Oscar Sevilla who will ear the Sprints jersey tomorrow

The jerseys after stage 1: Best Young Rider David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit), Leader Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing), KOM Brad White (OUCH), and Oscar Sevilla who will ear the Sprints jersey tomorrow

Mancebo now leads the general classification with 9 seconds on Sevilla and 30 seconds on previous leader Brent  Bookwalter (BMC). All the other GC contenders slot in behind at one or two seconds increment starting with David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) at 32 seconds back, Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) at 33 seconds down followed by last year’s winner BMC’s Jeff Louder at 34 seconds down.

Canadian David Veilleux of the Kelly Benefit Strategies squad won the field sprint for third and with those important bonus seconds, grabbed the blue Best Young Rider jersey.

“We didn’t really do a leadout because the guys that were in there, ninety percent didn’t really want to sprint. The two Livestrong guys, I realized that they wanted to leadout each other and I just followed and I came back pretty easily around those guys and it was a good sprint. ” said Veilleux about the sprint to the line for third place.

“I knew that there would be a selection in the last climb so I kept my strength and waited for that one and tried to go on top of the climb with the main group and that was exactly what I was able to do, and I was pretty happy. I knew that from that group I could win the sprint but those two guys were way too fast. ” said Veilleux who was a bit disappointed that the duo wasn’t caught as “he would have won the stage, grabbed ten seconds but that’s racing.”

Frustration for BMC. The BMC team  had the race under control until the final climb when the expected Rock Racing attack happened, Glen Chadwick went first to soften up the field, and once caught Sevilla then Mancebo launched their counter-attack almost at the top of the climb but that was enough to stay away.

“We came into the base of the climb, it was pretty mellow, it was pretty controlled, our guys did a great job of keeping the pace decent but not ballistic. As expected, Rock Racing was the first to attack with Chadwick and that sort of provided the first selection of the climb. That put a few of our guys into difficulty that had been riding, Ian McKissick and even  Louder did a good job of bringing him back. And Sevilla wasn’t that far from the top but when he went, as he tends to do, he really kicked hard. It’s not super high at the top of Big Mountain but you could feel the altitude, those sort of sharp efforts, you kind of pay double for them.” said Bookwalter.

In an amazing show of force, the Rock Racing duo established a gap of about 30 seconds on the chasing group on the descent and kept the gap all the way to the finish.  When the duo initially went, only the BMC team was rotating through on the chase, a frustrating situation for Bookwalter. “I  could go on and on and on. The bottom line is that everyone has their own agenda, everyone has to race their race and at the end of the day, that’s what happens, the cards fall how they do. But at the same time, it’s a little bit frustrating, the same attitude as in Cascade as to where guys are almost content to let Rock Racing ride away with it. I don’t know if they think that they are unbeatable or are intimidated by them or what, there wasn’t a whole lot of cooperation by other teams in the chase, especially considering that a lot of the teams had good numbers, 3 or 4 guys.”

By the end of the descent, a few of the other teams put in one rider to help out in the rotation but not enough horsepower was available to reel the pair in. “It’s a little hard to understand, I think today was probably one of the best opportunities for many teams to get a stage win if those guys came back, a lot of those teams had good sprinters to play if it had all come together. don’t know why any team would be comfortable in giving Mancebo and Sevilla, 30 seconds at the end. It’s frustrating, but you go on plugging and fighting.” continued Bookwalter.

Frustrated but still fighting. “Not having the leader’s jersey tomorrow is not a bad thing at all, we talked about it before, that today if we lost the jersey it was by no means a bad thing. Ideally we wouldn’t have given that gap to both of those guys.” finished Bookwalter.

Everyone was treated to beautiful scenery in stage one

Everyone was treated to beautiful scenery in stage one

Fast start. Right off the gun from the start in Ogden, the pace was high as many riders tried to launch an early break. As long as the combination was right, the BMC team was content in letting a break go but nothing stuck.

“I think that combined with it being the first day and everyone having fresh legs and also then you had the climb coming at the end you had the guys that didn’t think they could make it with the front group, they wanted to get out in a break like last so that made it a really fast and really aggressive race and nothing went.” said Bookwalter.

The first rider to get a gap to the field was ZTeam’s Stefano Barbieri who got a 20 seconds gap to the field before being swallowed by bridging riders and finally the field with one kilometer to the first HotSpot Sprint of the day which was won by Sean Mazich (Waste Management) followed by LandRover-ORBEA’s Mike Northey and OUCH’s John Murphy. The next rider to try is luck was Aaron Olsen riding for the KFAN composite team who escaped on the climb to the first KOM, a Cat 1 climb. Olsen won the KOM before being swallowed up by the field on the descent.

Deja-vu. Then Brad White (OUCH) and Sam Bewley (Trek-Livestrong) went off on a little adventure. The same Brad White that as part of the break on the (almost) same stage last year, grabbed the sprinter’s jersey and defended it to the end. But this time, White ended up with the KOM jersey.

Sam Bewley (trek Livestrong) and Brad White (OUCH) got almost 4 minutes to the field before being reeled back in edit

Sam Bewley (trek Livestrong) and Brad White (OUCH) got almost 4 minutes to the field before being reeled back in

“Things were trying to get away and things were coming back quite a bit so the field was definitely starting to get tired. Coming up to those rollers before the second KOM, there was a group of 20 or maybe 15 and Tim Johnson and I were in it. It slowed a little bit and me and the Livestrong guy hit it. I think it was a good combo for BMC, two riders up the road, no big stress, I had my hopes that they would miscalculate a little bit on the descent but there was quite a headwind coming down the canyon so it was even more impressive for Sevilla and Mancebo to stay out there. They’re just riding strong obviously.” said White.

The White and Bewley pair was off the front with a gap hovering between the three and four minute mark from the BMC-controlled field which was happy to let them take the wind at the front.

“A couple of teams sort of mentioned to us ‘why are you controlling, why don’t you make Rock Racing do it?’ yeah, I think Rock would have stepped up if we didn’t but that was the right thing to do, we set the results pretty good yesterday, we had the leader’s jersey, we did the right thing in defending and keeping the gaps close. It’s unfortunate that one of us couldn’t tag on to the back of the Spanish Crazies.” said Bookwalter.

Having a knowledge of the terrain and roads was an advantage for White who dropped Bewley on the climb and won the second KOM before being caught by the Rock Racing duo on Emigration climb.

“Knowing that climb, steep at the bottom and then gets more gradual and [OUCH DS] Mike [Tamayo] was giving me good information in the back. The team was sitting nice in front of the peloton, it was definitely nice knowing the road but I forgot about that little Emigration climb there, ” laughed White, “you always need something to bring you back down.”

White tried to hold on the Rock Racing duo when they came by with Team Type 1′s Moises Aldape on their wheel. “We held on, the Type 1 rider and I hung on to them halfway up the climb and he lost their wheel. I couldn’t come around him and so then I just waited for the field and got in with the rest of the guys, with Floyd and Chris.”

What’s next? Stage 2 from Thanksgiving Point to Mount Nebo, a 124 km (77 mi) affair that is flat until the final hard – very hard is what many riders call it – 30km climb to the mountain-top finish.

“I climbed last week and it’s really brutal and there’s not many precedence of a climb like that in the domestic calendar, I don’t think any races this year have gone up a climb that big and especially finished on one and then you have the altitude coming into play.” said Bookwalter about the climb.

Mancebo is “confident that we can defend the jersey.” Will anyone attack Rock Racing or are the teams going to hold their wheels and focus on the timetrial? We’ll know tomorrow afternoon.

Safety concerns and other matters. Some security concerns were raised by riders and teams as cars were pulling out in front of the riders on course (and yes I saw that happen) and seemingly driving straight at them as only one side of the road was closed.

“I know that it’s no small order to secure and close these roads, I don’t mean to discredit the race organization or the officials but for everyone’s sake, it’s something that needs to be emphasized and hopefully focused on for the rest of the week and everyone will stay safe.” said Bookwalter.

Also, the Land Rover-ORBEA team confirmed that two of their riders, Logan Hunn and Mike Northey were led of course by motor marshalls along with other riders and that these riders were later time cut.

Complete results here

Photos (click for larger images)

Please note that unfortunately, the media car was kept very far away from the field and break which limited the closeups.

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