What a difference a day makes for Ken Hanson at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Yesterday, the sprinter from Team Type 1 was disappointed from his second place behind repeat winner Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis). Today, Hanson waited patiently until the finale of the 95-mile Menomonie Road Race to launch his sprint and take the win.
“Hilton was unbeatable yesterday. I knew the speed was there in my legs, I felt good after the race, it was a little bit of a confidence boost and I think it left me hungry to come today that if it was going to be a sprint to know that I know I have good legs and the fitness is there and I just need to get a clean shot at the line and I felt confident with that.” said Hanson.
Making even sweeter for Team Type 1 was Alexey Shmidt finishing second in a photo finish ahead of Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis).
With his 6-second time bonus, Sutherland now sits at only 3 seconds down from leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) with one stage to go, the very tough Stillwater Criterium. Last year, Sutherland made his move on the leg-busting Chilkoot Hill to grab those extra seconds to come from second place and win the overall for his second time. Can he three-peat tomorrow?
“I think whatever happens tomorrow happens, if we can pick an extra few seconds that’s great, if not and Scott wins, he’s a fantastic guy and he’s worked super hard. I definitely applaud their effort, it was fantastic and they definitely deserve it but it’s still a bike race. What would Stillwater be without a small gap and exciting for everybody?” said Sutherland.
“I’m nervous. I always get nervous. Nervous but confident in my team, I’ve got great teammates that are going to lay it all on the line for me and I’m going to lay it all on the line to try to hold on to the jersey.” said Zwizanski.
It will all come down to gaps at the finish line on the final stage. “No time bonus tomorrow, it’s just a clean old race which is good.” commented Zwizanski.
But before the final sprint to the line, attacks flew at the start in Menomonie, Wisconsin, the first time ever that the race left Minnesota. Riders from BISSELL, Fly V Australia, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda and more took flyers off the front of the field, either solo or in groups. Everybody wanted to be in the break so for the next 40 miles it was non-stop attacking at the front with Kelly Benefit Strategies controlling and making sure nothing threatening went up the road.
During this non-stop activity period Brad Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), took the first two KOH putting him in the lead for that competition.
Finally, seven riders were off. In the move were Dan Holt (Team Type 1), Bernie Sulzberger (Fly V Australia), Soren Peterson (Hagens Berman), Dan Bowman (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Nick Frey (Jamis/Sutter Home), Travis Burandt (Hotel San Jose) and Huff.
Content with the combination, the peloton sat up and the gap grew. While many tried, only one rider, Phil Gaimon (Kenda p/b Geargrinder), managed to bridge up while Bowman dropped back to the field to help out the chase. With almost every rider in the break rotating through, the gap went up to 2:25 with 40 miles to go making Frey the virtual leader on the road.
Meanwhile, Zwizanski’s team led the chase and started to bring down the gap, with 30 miles to go, it was down to two minutes. Entering the first of four finishing circuits, with 12 miles to go, only 15 seconds separated the two groups. And then it was a free for all.
“Some guys started attacking before we actually caught the break, We got swarmed before we caught the break.” explained Zwizanski. “Vennell attacked, Amaran attacked, that guy attacks harder than anybody I’ve ever known its so hard. I was all over Amaran, Rory was all over me, Rory was all over Veilleux and Zach. Coming in it was crazy, this shuffling and attacking.”
Attacks continued and with three laps to go, the UnitedHealthcare train came to the front, using all their riders to try and get those seconds for Sutherland.
With 2 laps to go, a counter-attack went with Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Nathan Brown (Trek-Livestrong), Gabe Verala (Nature Valley Pro Ride) and Gaimon. With the field closing down on them, Bell gave a last gasp but it was all back together on the final lap.
Team Type 1 was biding its time. Shawn Milne and Davide Frattini took over the pace making on the backstretch and upped the pace. Karl Menzies with Sutherland on his wheel swarmed the trio and made their way to the front.
“We just stayed really close, right behind them and waited until the right moment, they had to make their move before the last corner to try to lead out Rory. They did a great job but luckily myself and my teammate were in the right position to come around for the finish.” explained Hanson who came around the UnitedHealthcare duo to take the win.
“I can only do so much against the sprinters but at the end of 150K with a lot of guys that have been doing crits, I can sprint much better that I could yesterday. Again we saw Kelly did a great job riding at the front all day. And again us, our guys got on the front with three laps to go, they kept going, that’s fantastic. Hilton gave up all his chance to win today, and so did Jake and so did Karl for me and that shows the team spirit and definitely shows what we have together.” said Sutherland.
The Kelly Benefit squad worked hard all day and could not keep Sutherland out of the top three.
“It was hard for our guys today. We didn’t get the crosswinds that could have really broken up the race, but there was enough wind to make it hard the whole way. Our guys used everything they had and they did a great job.” said Zwizanski who crossed the line in thirteenth place with the same time and gets to defend the jersey for one more day.
Huff, known as a sprinter, took points in all the King of the Hill (KOH) and put himself in the polka dot jersey.
“We tried to make sure that we were in the 1-2 each time, luckily it worked out that way.” said Huff about competing with Sulzberger for points. “Early on, it was just cat and mouse earlier in the race, I got lucky that I followed the right moves and was able to go for the sprint on the hill, it was a long day.” He added, “Tomorrow is a sufferfest, I’m just hoping that I can ride well.”
The race concludes tomorrow with the Stillwater Criterium, 20 laps of suffering where the course features the trek up Chilkoot Hill, with an average grade of 18%, every lap. It’s going to be war out there between Kelly Benefit Strategies and UnitedHealthcare, between Zwizanski and Sutherland.
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