After coming close the previous stages with fourth and fifth places, Canadian Martin Gilbert of Planet Energy, timed his sprint perfectly and took home the victory in the Stage 7, presented by Cerner. of the 2009 Tour of Missouri. OUCH-Maxxis’ Andrew Pinfold, another Canadian, took second and Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) finished third, his sixth trip to the podium in seven days.
Second overall win in two years for the Garmin-Slipstream squad, with David Zabriskie taking the overall win this edition. He grabbed the lead after the time trial in stage 5, and successfully defended in the two final stages, finally filled with aggressive racing.
“I can’t express my feelings right now.” said an emotional Zabriskie right after crossing the finish line to win his first ever stage race.
“As far as my team, those guys, they’re going to get some big hugs from me tonight, and I really really appreciate what they did for me and the last days is why they call it a team sport.” said Zabriskie a bit later. “That’s how you win races with a strong team like that.”
In the 2009 general classification, Denmark’s Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank) finished second overall, 30 seconds behind Zabriskie. The third overall spot was taken in the final stage by Marco Pinotti (Columbia-HTC), finishing 41 seconds back.
Another sprint finish. Six of the seven stages, all but the time trial, ended in a bunch kick with at least one Planet Energy rider finishing in the top 10 in five of those finishes. Gilbert and his teammates paid attention, learned form their mistakes and when they saw that the stage would finish in a bunch sprint with less than two laps to go, orders went out.
“I took the lead a bit on the radio and explained to each teammate the work that they needed to do to help the team win. I thought what was really important were the two last turns before the last straightaway. All the guys on the team in turn helped to keep Keven and I out of the wind. ” said Gilbert who was protected along with his teammate and last leadout Keven Lacombe.
Positioning on the final turns was key, but surprisingly Gilbert did not want to be in the first ten coming out of the turns.
“We were successful in taking the last turn between twentieth and thirtieth, I didn’t want to be before that. After that, Keven took care of me. All week we made the mistake of starting our sprint too early, we waited, we were patient. Keven was one hundred percent working for me, he made sure that I didn’t have too much wind. He went at 300 meters.” said Gilbert. “I jumped from his wheel with 200 meters and I was able to use his momentum for my sprint to take the win.”
We put it together,” said Gilbert who won the 2007 US Pro Crit Championship while riding for Kelly Benefit. His Planet Energy Canadian team accepted the 15th and final spot into this year’s Tour of Missouri just one month ago. “It’s really nice of the team to be invited to as big a race as here, a first year team. For sure, I think the team got in this race by the back door, kind of. We weren’t supposed to be here at the beginning. We are really happy with the sprint today.”
Targets. Three riders had targets on their backs, GC leader Zabriskie from Larsson and BISSELL’s Tom Zirbel who sat in third place on GC with a slim one second lead on Pinotti. The other target was Team Type 1′s Moises Aldape, leader of the KOM classification, under attack from another Saxo Bank rider, Chris Anker Sorensen.
With two Edward Jones Sprint with their associated time bonuses available on the stage, Pinotti and his team launched their move on the first lap and Pinotti, who received a perfect lead out from his team including George Hincapie, took the magic three second bonus to leapfrog to third place. Zirbel’s team valiantly tried to defend but were no much to the might of the Columbia-HTC team.
The first KOM battle came on the third lap with a 3-man short-lived break of Lars Bak (Saxo Bank), Frank Mathias (BMC) and Darren Lill (Team Type 1) crossing the line first. Aldape grabbed points for fourth followed by his teammate Matt Wilson. On the second KOM, Aldape attacked out of the field that had just caught the trio and took the top points in the KOM followed by his teammate Lill. Sorensen was third.
And then Saxo Bank hit hard, stacking the break. Three riders, Nicki Sorensen (Saxo Bank), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), and Gregory Rast (Astana) made the first successful break of the day, 24 km (15 miles), into the race, . On the fourth lap, Saxo Bank duo of Jason McCartney and Chris Anker Sorensen bridged the gap from the peloton to help their teammate.
“The strategy was to put the pressure on Garmin to see if we could make them fail, isolate Dave for the last part here and make them really tired. I think we did pretty good on making them tired but it wasn’t enough obviously.” said Larsson.
Zabriskie and his team were ready for it. “We pretty much knew that’s how it was going to go. Steve Cozza, before the race yesterday, was ‘okay guys just in your heads get ready for 175 k of hell’, and then after the race, he was ‘that’s what it was like’. That’s pretty much how it went and that’s what we were prepared for. ”
A sixth rider joined the break on Lap 5, Michael Barry (Columbia-HTC). And that point an outnumbered Jones could have been in trouble to try and defend his teammate’s KOM jersey but it was a moot point, as Aldape had already won it mathematically – all he had to do was finish the stage. But that didn’t stop Jones from going to the top points in the third KOM. Barry took the fourth.
“Since the first day of the race, our team was aggressive, and we attacked to get the mountain jersey and all the days, I tried to maintain the jersey.” said Aldape.
Just before the final lap, the break imploded as Barry went on a solo flyer. He was soon caught by the two Sorensen, Jones and McCartney with Rast dropping back to the field. The gap was now down to 25 seconds as Barry and McCartney made another move but were caught by the field. Garmin-Slipstream and Cervelo Test Team had to reel in, the final move, a solo break by Mick Rogers (Columbia-HTC) before the finale of another bunch sprint.
In the final award jersey presentations for the week, Hushovd won the Edward Jones Sprint jersey, Dario Cataldo (QuickStep) won the 180 Energy/ Icelandic Glacial Water Best Young Rider jersey, and Moises Aldape (Team Type I) of Mexico won the Michelob Ultra KOM jersey. Team Saxo Bank won the Best Team Classification.
“I raced a few races in the US, Tour of Georgia twice, Tour of California four times now, and first you think yeah yeah, going to the US for racing, it’s going to be some sort of exotic adventure but no, it’s not,the boys worked really hard here.” said Saxo Bank’s Jens Voigt. “I can almost promise you to come back next year.”
Gallery (Click for larger images)
[smugmug url="http://www.lynelamoureux.com/hack/feed.mg?Type=gallery&Data=9623429_8iNPu&format=rss200" imagecount="100" start="1" num="100" thumbsize="Th" link="lightbox" captions="false" sort="false" window="false" smugmug="false" size="X1"]