Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) did it again at the Stillwater Criterium, the nail-biting finish to the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Not only did the Australian overcome a 3-second deficit to leader Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) but he also pulled out the stage win to claim his third consecutive overall victory at the race.
“It’s definitely special because there is more pressure to be able to do it.” said Sutherland about his three-peat. “As fun as it was last year to bring it down to the last day, I’d much rather have it a few days earlier, but this is the finish here.”
Everyone knew that strategy today, the tried and true plan that the UnitedHealthcare team followed last year. Stick close to the yellow jersey, mass at the front and launch an attack in the final laps of the 20-lap race.
“I got the confidence and I have the team to do a finish like that. The Kelly guys did a phenomenal job the whole race, but” said Sutherland, “it’s you can follow or you can’t follow that’s the way it works.”
And that’s exactly what happened when with two laps to go, Sutherland attacked on the leg-busting Chilkoot Hill. Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home) was the only rider to bridge up but was dropped on the final time up Chilkoot and took second on the stage.
Zwizanski was just not able to cover the move. “My team did a great work, they did everything they could, we did everything we could and I didn’t have the legs in the end to go with those two boys and that’s the way it went. It’s a bummer.” said a disappointed Zwizanski who finished second in the overall general classification at six seconds down.
Zwizanski’s right hand man in the final laps and last year’s stage winner David Veilleux hesitated.
One the final corner before the climb on the final lap, “One United and one Jamis guy sat up opened a gap in front of me.” explained Veilleux. “I had to bridge up that gap, when I tried to bridge it up and then Scott wasn’t on my wheel and I hesitated. Personally I don’t think its a fair move to do that, if you want to win a bike race with your legs it’s fine you have to attack but to create a gap like this on the last lap, I don’t think it’s a good way to do it.”
Veilleux finished third on the stage and in the general classification.
An hour or so before the showdown, the riders lined up for the final stage with an noisy crowd ready to cheer them on Chilkoot. A crash took down about twenty riders a few meters from the start line when the gun was off but most returned to the race after a free lap. At the front, three riders immediately attacked, Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL), Scott Stewart (Team Type 1) and Anthony Colby (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) were off with the whole Kelly Benefit squad once again stringing out the field with a fast pace. A familiar sight from the start when Zwizanski took the lead after winning the opening time trial.
The gap grew to seventeen seconds following the first KOH competition won by Stewart. Riders, including Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia), Benjamin King (Trek Livestrong) in his white Best Young Rider jersey tried to bridge up but the boys in green shut it down.
Stewart wasn’t ready to re-integrate the field and kept on going solo. He was soon joined by Mike Northey (Rubicon-ORBEA), Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia) and Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda). The 4-men worked together until the second KOH once again taken by Scott Stewart, and then sat up, well almost all sat up.
“I was out there, so I might as well keep going and hopefully someone will come across, no one really did and I think Jamis ended pulling me back in. Kelly Benefit were happy to let me get away, I was in no contention but oh well I had a go.” said Northey who continued solo for the next three laps. He was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider jersey following the stage.
The dwindling field was back together with seven laps to go, when Amaran attacked on the hill covered by Sutherland and Veilleux. The Kelly Benefit squad shut this dangerous move down before the next time up the climb. The next two times up, the UnitedHealthcare team was massed at the front shoulder to shoulder with the Kelly Benefit riders. With two laps to go, Sutherland’s team, still six strong, took over the pacemaking with Zwizanski, Veilleux and Amaran sitting right behind. Everyone was waiting for Sutherland’s attack.
King finished seventh overall and held on to win the Best Young Rider classification which he had been leading from the start.
“Everyone is going for it every day, you really just have to take it a day as a time, treat each race as a one day. Go for as many results as possible and the consistency is what guarantees a high overall finish.” said King about the fight for the jersey, “As an under 23 team it’s definitely was a priority to snag it.”
Sprinter Brad Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) took home the climber’s jersey. Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) won the sprint competition, Chris Winn (Rio Grande) the Nature Valley Top Amateur classification and Kelly Benefit Strategies took home the best team classification.
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Top 10 Stage Results (Complete Results)
1. Rory Sutherland (United Healhtcare p/b MAXXIS) 1.11’15”
2. Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) 3″
3. David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 6″
4. #Chris Winn (Team Rio Grande) 7″
5. Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) 7″
6. * Benjamin King (Trek-Livestrong) 9″
7. Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1) 9″
8. Tyler Wren (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) 9″
9. Bernard van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 9″
10. * Robert Bush (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder) 9″
Top 10 Final GC (Complete Results)
1. Rory Sutherland (United Healhtcare p/b MAXXIS) 7.28’54”
2. Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 6″
3. David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 20″
4. Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) 28″
5. Bernard van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 38″
6. Robert Sweeting (Team Globalbike p/b Catoma Adventure Shelters) 43″
7. * Benjamin King (Trek-Livestrong) 47″
8. Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 51″
9. Kenneth Hanson (Team Type 1) 52″
10. Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) 57″