It was quite a show in Sunday’s Gullo International Criterium, the final stage at the Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove. The crux of the 72 miles (115 km) race was a battle between a dangerous 6-rider break and the field. With the addition of high heat and humidity, riders were being shelled out of the back lap after lap as the pack hunted down the riders at the front with the outcome up in the air. The fans around the 1.2-mile (2 km) course enjoyed every second of it.
In the end, Australian Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) showed that he was the fastest man at the Alexian Tour of Elk Grove. He took the bunch sprint from the decimated field, making it his second consecutive victory at this stage race – and his sixth in road races and criteriums. Canadian National Crit Champion David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit) was 2nd and Carlos Ospina (Colombian National Team) 3rd.
With the 20-second time bonus for the win, Cantwell won the overall, making it a very nice payday for the team. Veilleux finished 2nd overall with Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare) 3rd, Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 4th and Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL) 5th. The podium ceremony had Chris Horner (Radioshack) in 5th by mistake.
“Not only just me but the whole team.” replied Cantwell when asked if the overall win proves anything. It is the first NRC stage race win for Cantwell who also just came off from the winning the overall at Superweek, again. “We’re here to do our job, the guys are such professionals, we’re a very well drilled team. It just gave me a huge confidence boost, I just have to work on my time trial and I won’t have to come back from so far. Going into the next couple of races and next season, it’s a huge confidence boost for myself and for the team.”
Slow start. With a tight GC race, and primes being awarded early on in the 60-lap race, it didn’t take long for the first attack to go and then the next one, and the next one. Nothing was sticking with a lot of activity at the front. Riders that tried their luck included David Tanner (Fly V Australia), Luis Amaran and Jamey Driscoll (Jamis/Sutter Home), Andy Jacques-Maynes, Jeremy Vennell and Daniel Holloway (BISSELL), Luca Damiani (Kenda p/b GearGrinder), Pat Lemieux (Texas Roadhouse), and Ospina and his Colombian National teammates who were going for every money prime.
A few more attacks until the one.
The pressure is on. With 35 laps to go, Jake Rytewski (Kenda p/b GearGrinder) attacked and was quickly joined by 5 other riders, Vennell and Holloway, Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Heath Blackgrove (Hotel San Jose) and Hayden Brooks (Fly V Australia). They took off like a rocket and quickly grew a gap of over a minute to the field.
UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis put their whole team at the front to protect yellow jersey Karl Menzies, but the gap was still growing, up to 1:30 with 26 laps to go.
According to plan for BISSELL. “All my teammates did an awesome job, we just came out here today to really attack them from the start and hopefully make them really tired and make it really hard for them to get it together at the finish and that’s what happened in the end, everyone was so tired so it worked. I just couldn’t quite finish it off out there.” said a physically shattered Vennell after the race.
And for Kelly Benefit Strategies. “Overall I think that we raced a good race, without panicking, putting a guy in the right move and putting pressure on Fly V and United.” said Veilleux. “It was a good race, a lot of pressure, it was fast and I had time to rest at the back.”
With 25 laps to go with the gap at 1:40 and with the break was at 40 seconds from the back of the field, the Fly V Australia squad put in riders in the chase rotation.
“Definitely a little concerned with about 25 laps to go.” said Cantwell. “United’s job was to take control of the race, and they did it to the best of their abilities and they clearly needed our help. As soon as we got to the front, it started coming down about 5 to 10 seconds a lap.”
With 19 laps to go, Brooks dropped back to the field to also take up the chase and it was all Fly V Australia at the front of the pack with riders were being shelled off the back. With 15 laps to go, the gap was down to 1:11, and then Holloway popped, suffering from a asthma attack. But he wasn’t the only one, as both chase teams were also burning their riders.
“I had Dan Holloway up there, he was just like ten men, I think when he ran out of steam, that was the end of it. Everyone was rolling through really well, we made it hard for them.” said Vennell.
Everyone was transfixed by the battle, would Fly V Australia and UnitedHealthcare be able to catch the break? Would they burn all their riders doing it?
“You could see the guys up front that were working, it was one pull and then it would be carnage, guys flying backwards, they were losing guys pretty quick.” said Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) on the chase in the field. “They were hurting for guys, unfortunately Horner decided to pitch in. If it had been United and Fly V guys, who knows? I don’t know if I could have stuck it out, I was certainly hurting.”
With 12 laps to go, Chris Horner (Radioshack) decided to pitch in the chase, and the gap started to go down. With 10 laps to go, the gap was down to 32 seconds and the decimated field hung on the Horner locomotive for multiple laps. With 9 laps to go, Horner had managed to catch the 4 riders. A few laps later, B Jacques-Maynes took a solo flyer and Horner was back at the front to reel him in. With 5 laps to go, Scottie Weiss (Kenda p/b GearGrinder) gave it a shot but was also brought back three laps later, once again by Horner.
Final sprint. With less than two laps to go, leadout trains were trying to be formed with Jelly Belly p/b Kenda, BISSELL and Fly V Australia battling for control. Behind them, an isolated Menzies.
“There were no teams left to chase and to keep the pace high, it was a bit difficult. In the last lap, Candelario once again dropped me in a perfect spot, I did what I could, I did a good sprint, I don’t think that I lost too much speed but Cantwell was just faster. ” said Veilleux who came around his leadout man Alex Candelario with 300 meters to go.
“It was always going to be tactical, very fast and furious. BISSELL threw everything they could at us, and then Kelly threw a lot of things at us towards the end of the race. If it came down to a bunch sprint, as I said yesterday, if you give me a clear run to the line and I go for as hard as I can. I had a good leadout with Benny Kersten, and Dave Tanner, as you saw with 30 laps to go, Fly V Australia took control and did it for a second year in a row.” said Cantwell who had plenty of time to post his victory salute.
In the final dash to the line, Eric Schlidge (Mt Khakis f/b Jittery Joe’s) avoided another rider that was pulling out to blow a tire and crash hard with 100 meters to go. He was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a broken nose and finger and a concussion.
Vennell took top points in the three intermediate sprints and got a 6-second time bonus. BISSELL won the overall team classification.
Top 10 Stage 3 Results (Complete Results)
1. Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) 2:33:21
2. David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) st
3. Carlos Ospina (Colombian National Team) st
4. Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL) st
5. Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare) st
6. Anibal Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home) st
7. Pat Bevin (BISSELL) st
8. Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly Cycling Team p/b Kenda) st
9. Chad Hartley (Kenda p/b GearGrinder) st
10. Mark Hekman (Team Mountain Khakis) st
Top 10 Final GC (Complete Results)
1. Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) 6:11:50
2. David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) +0:08
3. Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare) +0:12
4. Michael Friedman (Jelly Belly Cycling Team p/b Kenda) +0:17
5. Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL) st
6. Chris Horner (Radioshack) +0:21
7. Peter Latham (BISSELL) +0:22
8. Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home) +0:25
9. Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) +0:26
10. Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) +0:26
Top 3 Final Team GC (Complete Results)
1. BISSELL 18:36:31
2. Kelly Benefit Strategies +0:28
3. Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita +0:46