“It’s been amazing.” said Fly V Australia DS Henk Vogels about his team’s results at the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah. “I’d be lying if I told you that we were coming here for all the classifications, we come here to win the Tour but when you have two Top 10 Tour de France places, they’re world-class riders, I think we’re definitely the best of the race. Those two guys have climbed the biggest in the world with the best riders in the world.”
Coming into the stage race with a goal of winning the overall, the top finishers for the Australian squad were Jai Crawford and Darren Lill in 4th and 5th respectively behind overall winner Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) and Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles). But, the team came away with two stage wins from David Tanner and Jai Crawford, the Sprint jersey for Tanner, the Best Utah Rider for Lill, the KOM jersey for Crawford and the team classification.
Joining Crawford, Lill and Tanner in Utah were Phil Zajicek, Jay Thomson, Darren Rolfe and Greg Krause.
“I’m proud of my guys, we came here to win stages and the overall, we got beaten, we chucked everything we could at him today, but classy guy.” continued Vogels after the final podium ceremony at Utah. The team launched attack and after attack to try and dislodge Leipheimer but no go.
This race was top priority for the team. “The second half of the season has petty much been based on Utah, that’s how important we think Utah is.” added Vogels.
Chasing NRC points. It wasn’t only about the win however but the NRC points. The squad retook the lead in the NRC Team Classification in early June and made the competition a priority.
“The team didn’t put extra pressure on us at all. “ said stage 5 winner Crawford. “We’re really looking to win Team NRC and I think that by keeping Darren and Phil up there on GC we were able to secure it. That was a big priority for us. I think it looks good when we’re the best team in the US when people are going around that we’re going to go ProTour. This is a high quality race, BMC is here, Leipheimer is here, the best guys are here. We did it, we came through in the end.”
See, the NRC Team competition is not just a straight sum of all points for each rider in the team. USA Cycling takes the top five riders in the individual classification from each team and totals their points. Whichever team has the highest point total is leading the competition. Which means that the top 5 riders of a team must finish high on the GC to keep the lead, and for Fly V Australia, that is Jonathan Cantwell, Ben Day, Bernie Sulzberger, Ben Kersten and Lill. From the 5 listed, only Lill was racing at Utah so it was doubly important to keep him high on GC.
For Vogels, the results of the past week are just a confirmation of the last two years. “Over 150 races we’ve been ultra-competitive and it put us as the number one team in America, this week and through the whole year, so yeah it is a confirmation.
With one race to go in the NRC. Fly V Austalia now leads the team classification with 63-points on second Jamis/Sutter Home. The final race is the 50-mile Chris Thater Memorial criterium. And Fly V Australia is not taking any chances, sending 7 riders including Cantwell, Kersten and Sulzberger to get those points (and the win).