Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) notched another NRC stage race with the overall at the SRAM Tour of the Gila. After bridging up to the break, Mancebo upped the pace to drop his breakmate on the second to last climb and soloed to victory. The pace was so high in today’s Queen Stage, that he crossed the line 20 minutes before the expected time surprising the announcers.
It was everyman for himself behind in the 7-rider chase group, with a full on battle between the U23 teams Trek-Livestrong and Chipotle Development Team. Lachlan Morton (Chipotle Development Team) took second and Joe Dombrowski (Trek-Livestrong) was third.
Mancebo grabbed the red leader’s jersey on the first and successfully defended to claim his second NRC stage race this year, after Redlands Bicycle Classic. He also won the KOM classification. Trek-Livestrong had a great Gila race, claiming two stage wins, the team classification and two jerseys: Joe Lewis took the green sprint jersey, Dale Parker, the white U25 jersey.
A nice cool sunny day, that looks benign right? It was anything but on Sunday. The signs were there that it was going to be a hard race, riders were jumped on the sidewalk to make it back to the front during neutral and it was on. Really it was non-stop attacking from the get-go, everyone wanted to be in the break and no one was willing to let one go. BISSELL launched multiple riders trying to stack the break, Chipotle Development Team fired one youngster after another, Kenda/5-Hour Energy was quite active, Pure Black Racing was in there and so was Team Exergy and a few other teams tried to get something started.. Heck, even Mancebo was seen covering a move himself. It was so active that it was impossible for race radio to identify all the riders attacking.
The pace was so high that the field splintered, and that was within the first 9 miles. A group of 7 riders was off the front after the first sprint at mile 11: two BISSELLs, Ben Jacques-Maynes and Jay Thomson, two Kenda/5-Hour Energy, James Stemper and Phil Gaimon, two Chipotle Development, Alex Howes and Danny Summerhill, two RealCyclist.com Cole House and Thomas Rabou and Tom Zirbel (Hotel San Jose), Roman Van Uden (Pure Black Racing) and Andres Diaz (Exergy). The move stayed together as they crested the first climb, a cat3 but it broke apart as the riders attacked each other and the field was all back together on the descent. Then, they hit the valley with crosswinds and echelons were formed. BISSELL was pushing the first echelon hard, the field broke apart once again and the second big group would not be seen again.
By the time they hit the second sprint, at only 38 miles in, another group of 7 was off the front. This time it was Darren Rolfe (V Australia), Tim Gudsell (Pure Black Racing), Jacob Rathe (Chipotle Development), Stemper and his teammate Shawn Milne and Jacques-Maynes and Thomson. By the time the break made the right-hand turn to the bottom of the cat2 climb towards the Cliff Dwellings, the gap was 45 seconds. Behind, RealCyclist.com was chasing hard.
Glen Chadwick (Pure Black Racing) counter-attacked as the break was caught before the field crested, tucked in and got a gap on the tricky descent, replete with cattleguards, with the riders zooming down to the Cliff Dwellings. By the time he made the turn-around to go back up on the same road, Chadwick had over one minute to the field. The road went up for the toughest climb of the day, a Cat1 climb. Frank Pipp (BISSELL) and Michael Freidberg (V Australia) bridged up to the Kiwi and stayed with him for a short time. How tricky are the Gila stages? The same road is used for the descent and the climb back up and dropped riders were still descending while the break was climbing. If Pipp had not yelled to Chadwick to look out when he was looking down to grab his bottle, there could have been a collision with a rider zooming down.
Pipp and Freidberg were dropped but others were bridging up. Chris Baldwin (BISSELL) and George Bennett (Trek-Livestrong) made it across to Chadwick with Mancebo and Matt Cooke (Exergy) chasing behind. Two miles from the top of the climb, Cooke had faded back while the other four were together. Behind, the Chipotle Developement riders put in a punishing pace to close the gap, whittling the group down to 10 riders.
The gap was up to 40 seconds by the time the four riders off the front started their descent and the lead chase group swelled up to around 20 riders. Another right-hand turn and two quick cat2 climbs with no respite. With the gap coming down on the first climb, Mancebo attacked and only Bennett was able to keep up. Then Mancebo attacked again, Bennett cracked and that was the stage.
The main chase group was down to 8 riders by the time they started the final and fifth climb of the day to the finish line. Cooke attacked with 2km to go but Howes shut it down and did the lead out for Morton.
Francisco Mancebo (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team). “On the category 1 climb, Baldwin attacked and I only had Grajales with me so I attacked to get into the break. I stayed with Baldwin, the Trek rider and Chadwick. We started the cat2 climb, I attacked, it was hard I am tired and I stayed solo at the front until the finish.”
About Gila. “It’s a pretty race but hard, very hard because it has two mountain finished and one very important climb.”
Lachlan Morton (Chipotle Development Team). “Baldwin, Bennett and Mancebo went on the climb and I thought it was pretty early. So I was waiting, waiting and all of a sudden the gap was too much, there was a headwind and it was too hard to make the group any smaller so basically we had to start riding to minimize the gap before the last climb. Freddy Cruz rode the front incredibly, and then Alex and I, basically from the last climb all the way to the end, we went to the front and rode as hard as we could. Bennett blew up at the front, we picked him up and then Alex led me out for the sprint and I managed to take second. It wasn’t too bad.”
Plan? “We wanted to race for the win today. Mancebo is super strong so there’s only so much you can do about that but we could have sat around a bit and tried to hit them and lose a lot of time but we wanted to race for the win. It seemed that we were the only guys that really wanted to but that was the tactics we played. In the end, I think it worked out pretty well for us. I think Alex ended up fourth in the overall and myself third, so yeah we’re pretty happy with that.”
About the battle with Trek-Livestrong for the white jersey. “Dale and I are really good friends. He lives in Boulder, we’ve raced each other since we were 10 years old back in Australia. We’ve been training a little bit together and I know he’s super talented and I knew he could do a good ride here. It’s so funny, we were just saying that it’s like being back in Australia, doing juniors, just attacking each other at the finish” (laughs)
Joe Dombrowski (Trek-LIVESTRONG). “After the turnaround, there was significantly less in the big bunch after the first big climb. On the way up the cat1, Mancebo went and we had George go with him and that created a selection on the climb. There was maybe a group of 10 that made it over the top at the front, and then some more guys caught back on by the time we reached the bottom of the cat3, and we hit that and the guys that had just caught back on were pretty much dropped as soon as we hit the climb. We lost a few guys here and there, we were in sort of a sticky position because Dale and I were in that front group, we’re defending because Dale is in the best young rider jersey but at the same time, Lachlan Morton and Alex Howes from Garmin were within striking distance, so we didn’t really have to do any work but it was one of those things where it was going to stay together until the finish and there are time bonuses for the top 3 and it was close enough that it was hard to get it to all pan out because I think Dale only had 10 seconds or so going into today. ”
About the finish. “Dale asked me to get on the front with about 1km to go and just ramp it out and try and discourage some attacks. It was basically from that leadout and Lachlan came around, from then on it was just every man for himself.”
Gord Fraser, DS (RealCyclist.com). “7 guys went, the best guy on GC was 3 minutes back, it was Ben Jacques-Maynes. Cole House was unbelievable today. We got a little help from Jamis which was great, but Cole controlled pretty much the whole race by himself until the right turn on the second category and he was just going to go as hard as he could because he knew he wasn’t going to go over that climb so he might as well keep it as close as possible. That was good, he did a great job. He was angry after yesterday, you can show people that you’re not a one-trick pony, we all know he would have been a favorite to win yesterday, he showed his versatility and his grit today, so he did great.”
“Some of the teams were a little upset that we didn’t get them more of a leash, three minutes and we only burned through two guys, I can see their point but at the same time we have a guy like Mancebo as well and we’re just racing our bikes, no offense to other teams out there. ”
“When Baldwin and Bennett attacked, Mancebo had a talk with Cesar and Cesar was a little bit in the red and Paco was like ‘well he might not get the work he needs, the tempo from Cesar so he decided to go’ and I told him that once he hit that first category he can basically control the race himself. It is that hard and the way he’s going and I think he remembered that and he did a great job to pick up Chadwick. He certainly was doing a job nursing the other three riders a little bit in the break, he kept them with him. I love seeing Chris Baldwin up there, I directed him last year, and to see him riding back to his old self I thought was kind of fun to watch. Unfortunately the time gap was coming down, I just said to Paco it’s down to 35 seconds, take that information and he decided that he needed to raise the tempo. Chris couldn’t handle it there and then a little bit, maybe 10 to 15 km later, the youngster couldn’t hold on anymore. A great day. Three for three on these stage races, Redlands, Sea Otter, Gila. ”
Can Mancebo be beaten? “Yeah, of course. We’d really like to have seen what he could have done at California.”
Axel Merckx, DS (Trek-LIVESTRONG). “First, we wanted to defend the green jersey and then we wanted to see what the climb was going to give. And then having George Bennett up there with the best guys, we were in good position but Mancebo was so strong, he rode everybody off his wheel. He [Bennett] was the last guy to stay with him, unfortunately he cracked and lost some time but then we had Dale Parker and Joe Dombrowski behind, they were covering and had good results at the end.”
Why is the team so good at Gila? “I don’t know. I think it’s just a race that suits us well, not only that, we always start the season a little bit slower and this is the time where we get a little bit more active in the racing schedule and we’re going to Europe next, it’s always a build up towards this and Europe next.”
What do the results show? “I think it shows that our development program is working, we are a U23 team so all the guys are U23 and then Dale is only 18, Joe is only 19 and George is 21 so we’re not even at the limit of the U23 so we have a few years to still grow with those guys. And I think the depth of our team is something that is really pleasing for me, it tells me that we have a strong solid team that could perform at every terrain also.”
Top 10 Stage 5 Results
1. Francisco Mancebo (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team) 4:23:24
2. Lachlan Morton (Chipotle Development Team) 0:01:12
3. Joseph Dombrowski (Trek-LIVESTRONG) 0:01:14
4. Dale Parker (Trek-LIVESTRONG) st
5. Alexander Howes (Chipotle Development Team)
6. Matt Cooke (Team Exergy )
7. Andres Diaz (Team Exergy ) 0:01:21
8. Glen Chadwick (Pure Black Racing) 0:01:24
9. Chris Baldwin (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 0:01:31
10. Robert Britton (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 0:02:35
Top 10 GC Results
1. Francisco Mancebo (Realcyclist.com Cycling Team) 13:42:58
2. Dale Parker (Trek-LIVESTRONG) 0:03:17
3. Lachlan Morton (Chipotle Development Team) 0:03:19
4. Alexander Howes (Chipotle Development Team) 0:03:43
5. Matt Cooke (Team Exergy ) 0:03:44
6. Joseph Dombrowski (Trek-LIVESTRONG) 0:03:53
7. Chris Baldwin (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 0:04:02
8. Glen Chadwick (Pure Black Racing) 0:04:24
9. Andres Diaz (Team Exergy ) 0:05:03
10. Ben Day (Kenda/5-Hour Energy Pro Cycling) 0:05:27