Going into the final stage of the MERCO Credit Union Cycling Classic, the BISSELL team had a solid lock on the GC, holding the top 4 spots with Ben Jacques-Maynes holding the yellow jersey. The only question really going into the tough 120-mile Almond Blossom Road Race was who was going to win the stage. The weather conditions turned to rain and cool temperatures just in time for the stage known for its rollers and sometimes killer winds.
The men started off slow with a few riders trying their luck on the first of 5 laps. Evan Huffman (CalGiant) and Frank Spiteri (Marc Pro – Strava) were off and had around a 2-minute lead when a huge crash took down a third of the field on the rollers. While the field sat up to wait for everyone to catch back on, the duo kept on pressing. Then a surprise on the next lap, the gap had gone up to 11 minutes as the slow-paced field was neutralized to let the Masters roll through.
That made Huffman virtual GC on the road. Next lap, the same thing with a few chasers in no-man’s land between the break and the field.
Huffman and Spiteri were thinking of the stage win but Jacques-Maynes knows this course quite well, having raced here many times and won the stage and the overall last year. Confident in his team, he sat safely behind his 8 teammates lined up at the front who started to chase in earnest. By the start of the final 25-mile lap, the gap was down to 6 minutes. Huffman was caught on the backside and Spiteri on the final rollers with the field prepping for a bunch sprint.
Jacques-Maynes saw an opening on the left and jumped to win the stage. Young sprinter Logan Loader (RideClean p/b PatentIt.com) took second in photo-finish decision ahead of Jay Thomson (BISSELL). Note that final results have Kyle Wamsley finishing third and not Thomson but the photo does show Thomson. The rain and raingear made it difficult to ID riders and Wamsley was wearing bib #3 and Thomson #8.
Jacques-Maynes clinched the overall, leading a BISSELL sweep on the GC. Rob Britton was second and Thomson third. Thomson also won the point/KOM combination classification. CalGiant’s John Bennett had another great ride, staying safe to finish 5th overall and win the U25 classification.
Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL). “For BISSELL, we wanted to have a good hard day, really try to keep the team together. We were unsure about the conditions and the wind was kicking up as the day went along. When we started it was quite still and then the headwind section got pretty strong headwind and the crosswind never was really enough to chuck it in the gutter and split it but I’m sure it made it annoying for the guys in the back. Also I’ve done this race a lot and I was impressing upon the guys, you can’t waste any energy with this race, the guys who were attacking on the first lap certainly won’t be there so we kept the team together.”
About the big gap. “Got good numbers up the road and we were setting a nice tempo and unfortunately the masters caught us, they were racing pretty hard with only three laps, we had an extra 80k on top of what they had to do so we were pacing ourselves accordingly and they stopped us for about 4 minutes. So the next time through the finish, it was almost 11 minutes and then 11 minutes and ‘okay we’re going to have our work cut out for us’. I had faith in my guys, we had to start really pulling in that last lap, keep on ramping up the speed every lap through and the guys really came through for me.”
About the finish. “The plan wasn’t at all for me to try to win, I was going to be leading Jay out, having experienced this finish many times I knew just the point to kick, just to point to let it through, I’ve had the read of the wind here. Jay was a little caught up and stalling at the head of the race at about 250 meters to go and I had this nice wide open patch on the left, the leeward side, no one is going to come around me going into the wind, so came by the front with a little speed, I guess I got a little gap and held it to the line.”
About his repeat stage win. “Honestly this ride was easier than last year, I had to ride the breakaway all day to make it to the line and this year I had a free ride, it was spectacular.”
Evan Huffman (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized). “ was looking for the early break because I felt good and I was a little bit further down on GC so I thought I’d take a shot at it and I figured BISSELL was going to be willing to let something small get away. So I was pretty aggressive early on and I got off the front with one other guy, and we rode pretty well together almost right away, we were taking turns and got a pretty good gap. There was a small group chasing for awhile but we decided to just let them come to us and not wait, it turns out they never really made it. So pretty much off the front for three and a half hours, just two guys. I did what I could, it was definitely worth a shot and definitely gained some fitness (chuckles).”
About being virtual leader on the road. “[DS] Anthony [Gallino] was telling me the splits, I never really had any aspirations to keep the jersey but I thought we have a real shot to make it to the end. Maybe I could have paced it a little bit better, we went pretty hard in the middle, we might have backed off a little bit but still I just don’t think we had much of a shot. The gap just came down so fast at the end. I’m so tired.”
Top 10 Stage Results (see Complete Results)
1 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 4.44’38″
2 Logan Loader (RideClean p/b PatentIt.com)
3 Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL Pro Cycling)
4 Chris Stastny (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)
5 Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth)
6 Collin Samaan (Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling Team )
7 Peter Taylor (California Giant Berry)
8 Alastair Loutit (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
9 K Pipp (Frank BISSELL Pro)
10 Tyler Brandt (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)
Top 10 Final GC (Complete Results)
1 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 9.57’26″
2 Robert Britton (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 28″
3 Paul Mach (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 50″
4 John Bennett (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) 1’00″
5 Julian Kyer (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) 2’33″
6 Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 6’22″
7 Frank K Pipp (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 6’32″
8 Nathaniel English (Yahoo! Cycling Team) 8’12″
9 Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) 8’15″
10 Justin Rossi (Marc Pro – Strava) 8’24″