Riding solo, Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) rode away from select group of riders on the tough climb up Mt Nebo to win stage 2 of the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah. He also rode away with the yellow jersey with three stages to go. Can he defend without a team, especially on the tough final stage? Behind him, a duel was on for the next spot on the podium between defending champion Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles) and Ian Boswell (BISSELL). It came down to the line where Mancebo came around to take second, Boswell third.
“I had thoughts that maybe I could follow the whole week and save it for the last stage but I noticed that the group I was in, I was the best guy, I was going to take the jersey no matter what so I thought well I have the legs to win the stage, I might as well and get as much time as I can, and we’ll see tomorrow.” said Leipheimer.
Break time. Immediately after the 7-mile neutral section, Danny Summerhill (Holowesko Partners) opened up the hostilities with a solo attack. And then it was game on at the front of the 133-rider field. Attacks and more attacks flew with riders hoping to make it into a break that would last until THE climb, the final trek up Mt Nebo to the finish line.
A small group finally went, more bridged up to finally make it 17. Initially, the break included Bradley Gehrig (Canyon Bicycles), Ben Jacques-Maynes, Frank Pipp and Pete Latham of BISSELL, Larry Warbasse (BMC), Ivan Dominguez and Luis Amaran of Jamis/Sutter Home, Mike Friedman (KFAN Composite Team), Ben King, Joe Dombrowski and Taylor Phinney (Trek-LIVESTRONG), Jay Thomson, Phil Zajicek and Darren Rolfe of Fly V Australia, Ken Hanson (Team Type 1), Chris Baldwin (UnitedHealthcare) and Taylor Kneuven (Rio Grande).
But cooperation amongst the riders was not good. “It was happening yesterday too, a lot of people suddenly trying to sit on thinking it’s not the best for them or their team. It’s a lot of sitting on, it actually makes it harder to try to ride a good pace, as soon as one guy starts sitting on, everyone else starts thinking about sitting down and then gaps are opened up and you have to close them down. I find it easier to keep on rolling through and you gauge your willingness to take the breakaway by hard you work, either on and off or by driving it.” said Jacques-Maynes.
The main drivers were Fly V Australia, with “Jay Thomson taking some pretty man-sized pulls to try and open up gap.” said Jacques-Maynes. The gap went up to 1:30 making Zajicek the virtual leader on the road. Behind them, first it was Team Type 1 chasing, then Holowesko Partners added fire power to finally bring it all back by the first sprint 37 miles into the 77-mile stage. Phinney took the points ahead of Hanson and orange jersey David Tanner (Fly V Australia).
Then the winds started to act up. “We were going so fast, the wind was crazy, I’m not sure which direction it was coming at that point but we were doing 53 k/hr and just cruising, that break was doomed.” said Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit).
Echelon time! “We were cross-headwind up that point and maybe cross-tailwind maybe 500 meters after they caught us and that’s when things got a little bit more difficult but luckily I hadn’t been working too incredibly hard up that point.” said Jaques-Maynes.
“The wind started to get more severe crosswinds, the field was split in half there, pretty big. The front group was only 35 guys.” said Mumford who made the front group with his teammate Dan Bowman. Riders were not able to stay on wheels and “it blew to bits”. “Unfortunately we turned left at that point so it was able to come back together but I think a lot of guys were hurting there.”
Leipheimer’s strategy for dealing with the winds is disappear. “I get really small and right on people’s wheel, they call me Mr Invisible, that’s my speciality, tuck in behind and just wait for the moment.”
Just before the halfway point, George Hincapie (BMC) crashed hard and had to abandon the race. The field was all-together as they headed into the town of Goshen for the second sprint won by Tanner ahead of Summerhill and Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home).
A counter-attack and another big break was off. “A little canyon, not very steep, windy through there, that’s where the break ended up going, at the top of a little riser there. Brad White attacked and initiated it.” explained Mumford.
Riders in the break were David Harward (Canyon Bicycles), Dominguez, Amaran and Andy Guptill (Jamis/Sutter Home), Phil Gaimon (Kenda p/b GearGrinders), Pat McCarty (Rio Grande), Chris Jones (Team Type 1), Marc de Maar, Adrian Hegyvary, Brad White and Morgan Schmitt (UnitedHealthcare), Kai Applequist (Exergy), Tanner, Latham and Mumford.
In a familiar refrain, cooperation was not good. “It was a pretty big group and not a lot of guys were working. That was really confusing, there were a couple of good climbers there, and I thought those guys really would have wanted to get more of a buffer going into the climb.” said Mumford. “UHC had 4 guys in the break so I think that kind of put a damper on it, they were the only ones riding.” White and Hegyvary did monster pulls with Mumford, Summerhill, Gaimon and a few others rolling through “but it wasn’t very cohesive at all.”
The chase was on from Fly V Australia, Canyon Bicycles and BISSELL. “We had pretty high level of confidence in Ian and wanted to see how Paul and Rob would go. He’s turning into one of the best climbers in the country, evidently. ” said Jacques-Maynes.
One for the climbers. The gap was closing, down to 30 seconds at the bottom of Mt Nebo climb. With 11-miles to go (17-km), it was all back together with teams setting a strong tempo up the climb to launch their climbers. Riders were being shelled from the back as the roads went up.
“My teammates did a great job riding tempo to the base of the climb so that Phil, Jai and I could just sit on and get a free ride and then Darren Rolfe and David Tanner set a good tempo once it started climbing for the first few Ks.” said Darren Lill (Fly V Australia).
Boswell was staying close. “I was keeping myself at the front and from there, it just started slowly separating. Once we got over halfway up, it hit 8000 feet and I knew it kind of leveled of so I just had to get to there.”
Fly V Australia were the first to go. “The plan was for Jai Crawford to attack to see if he could get a gap because he’s a bit of a dark horse maybe guys don’t know him so that’s what he did but unfortunately he didn’t get that far.” explained Lill, who countered solo when his teammate was reeled in. Would Lill repeat his solo victory up Mt Nebo from last year?
But Mancebo started to chase bringing with him a select group which included Boswell, Leipheimer, Zajicek, Cesar Grajales (On the Rivet p/b Ion), Tim Roe (Trek-LIVESTRONG).
“Mancebo was chasing hard which really played into Levi’s hand because Levi could sit on for the first part of the climb and when they got across to me, it was just five of us.” said Lill. Grajales and Roe had fallen back during the chase.
The riders stayed together until the next steep pitch with 5 km to go. “I just sat on and rode with those guys, kept with them until we hit the next steeper section, Levi went and it’s separated again, it was Mancebo and myself.” said Boswell.
Lill tried to go with the attack. “I started to go off with him and then I started cramping, I was fighting cramps to the top of the climb, a lot of suffering.”
Leipheimer was off solo clicking down the kilometers. “I was feeling the altitude and made sure I never went too hard or too far over my limit because when you do that you can really crack so I just tried to keep it steady and smooth. I knew that last part was downhill so I just kept looking for that downhill, where is it? where is it? I thought it would never come but finally it was there and I knew that I had it.”
Behind him, Mancebo and Boswell battled for second. “With 2k to go, it was just Mancebo and I chasing Levi. I just hung with Mancebo knowing that he was an experienced rider and that he would ride steady. After we hit the top, I tried to pick up the pace because it slowed down a little but Mancebo came around me in the end but he deserved it.”
Lill finished 4th on the stage moving him up to 3rd on GC and becomes the Best Utah rider. Boswell now sits in 4th on GC and takes over the blue Best Young Rider jersey. Mancebo is the new KOM leader. Tanner remains the sprint leader.
Race of truth. Leipheimer leads with 56 seconds on Mancebo and 1:16 on Lill and Boswell. Can he successfully defen with no teammates? We’ll know soon but he doesn’t need teammates for the next stage, the 9.2-mile time trial at the Miller Motorsports Park. Last year, Tom Zirbel of the BISSELL team, clocked the fastest time of seventeen minutes even on the 14.5 km (9.2 mi) course with BMC’s Ian McKissick and Brent Bookwalter taking second and third.
First rider starts at 6:30pm MT. (See start list)
Top 10 Stage 2 Results (Complete Results)
1. Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) 3.11’43”
2. Francisco Mancebo Perez (Canyon Bicycles) +0:00:51
3. Ian Boswell (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team )
4. Darren Lill (V Australia) +0:01:00
5. Phillip Zajicek (V Australia) +0:01:18
6. Jonathan McCarty (Team Rio Grande) +0:02:00
7. Maxim Jenkins (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis)
8. Tyler Wren (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita)
9. Cesar Grajales (On the Rivet p/b Ion Sports Nutrition)
10. Tim Roe (Trek-LIVESTRONG)
Top 10 on GC After Stage 2 (Complete Results)
1. Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) 6.40’36”
2. Francisco Mancebo Perez (Canyon Bicycles) +0:00:56
3. Darren Lill (V Australia) +0:01:16
4. Ian Boswell (BISSELL Pro Cycling Team ) +0:01:16
5. Phillip Zajicek (V Australia) +0:01:34
6. Cesar Grajales (On The Rivet p/b Ion Sports Nutrition) +0:02:13
7. Jonathan Mccarty (Team Rio Grande) +0:02:17
8. Tim Roe (Trek-LIVESTRONG) +0:02:20
9. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) +0:02:24
10. Tyler Wren (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita) +0:02:26