The onslaught of attacks continued in stage 4, the Downtown Fayetteville crit, of the Joe Martin Stage Race. After dominating the early NRC races, a chink in RealCyclist.com and yellow jersey Francisco Mancebo was seen in yesterday’s stage and everyone wanted it on it. With multiple riders in shouting distance of the top of the GC, BISSELL launched rider after rider, forcing Mancebo to chase down the moves himself when his team was decimated early on under the pressure.
In the end, Mancebo couldn’t reel back a 7-rider break and not only was the stage win at play but the overall. With one lap to go, Frank Pipp (Bissell) and Cameron Peterson (V Australia) escaped from the break with Peterson taking the win ahead of Pipp. Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) took third.
Time bonuses and gaps at the finish hoisted Pipp into the overall win, with 4 seconds on his teammate Vennell. Bissell also claimed the team classification and the sprint jersey for Jay Thomson. Louis Crosby (Pure Black Racing) held on to the best young rider title.
Kaboom. There’s no other way to describe Sunday’s 85-min crit. The field detonated early on and down two riders who crashed out on Saturday, RealCyclist.com was put under pressure. Jason Donald (Kelly Benefit-OptumHealth) put in an early attack with Ben Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL) bridging a couple of laps later taking Tommy Nankervis (RealCyclist.com) with him. With a gap getting close to 15 seconds, Nankervis dropped back to the field to help chase the duo down but it wasn’t working, and Mancebo had to jump solo to close it down. And that was the story of race until the final 10 laps.
Breaks would go up the road with BISSELL, Pure Black, V Australia and Chipotle Development riders and Mancebo would often be forced to chase solo. After hard days of defending, his team just couldn’t do it and the yellow jersey was often left with only his teammate Cesar Grajales to reel things in. Hagens-Berman did put in riders in the chase for a couple of laps to protect their top 10 on GC but it wasn’t enough.
The whittled down was back together with 8 laps to go when Jacques-Maynes put in another attack. Mancebo jumped to reel him, the field followed and the next counter-attack was the one that stuck. 9 riders were off and there was no one left to chase, everyone was just too gassed. The stage win and the overall win was to be decided between the seven.
Off the front were teammates Pipp and Vennell, Peterson and his teammate Sean Sullivan, Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home), Rio Grande duo of Chad Haga and Ian Holt, Mike Northey (Pure Black) and Grajales. The gap grew making Vennell, down 9 seconds on GC, the virtual leader on the road. Grajales had to make a choice, which rider to cover; he chose Vennell. Seeing that, Pipp attacked with two laps to go and Peterson jumped across.
Haga continued to have a strong start of the season, finishing 6th overall and top amateur rider.
Cameron Peterson (V Australia). “The final break was about eight guys left with two BISSELL riders, one of them was controlling the break. I had Sean Sullivan with me. Frank hit us over the top with about two laps to go, and I followed his wheel and there was just two of us left. I managed to overcome him on the hill here at the finish. A lot harder than it sounds, really harder.”
About the team plan. “Obviously to be pretty aggressive, we wanted to win the stage. Any number of us here could have won the stage, it just happened that I came through. Conditions weren’t ideal for anyone out there in the last days, two 180-km days, it was a lot harder than what it could have been.”
What does the win mean for the team? “It means a lot to us, we haven’t had the best tour. We had a lot of pressure on our shoulders with what happened last year, our team was always going ahead. We’re back and we want to keep on winning as many races as we can.”
What does it mean for you? “It’s an amazing feeling.”
Frank Pipp (BISSELL Pro Cycling). “We just wanted to be aggressive today and we had one person sitting in for the sprint and so everyone else was throwing bombs straight from the start. Jay, as always, super aggressive constantly off the front. Jay was setting it up for some of the other guys closer on GC and he did a great job, Andy did a great job, all the guys were doing great. Ben was throwing in a lot of bombs in there, and Mancebo was having to chase that himself. His team would fall apart, he’d slow down at the front, a couple of guys would come back, they’d go for a lap and then we’d hit him again on the wall. Chipotle was hitting them on the wall.”
About the final break. “Team BISSELL set that up, everybody attacking, attacking, attacking. Ben had just gone really hard and held Mancebo at a few lengths for about a lap, Mancebo closed it on the stretch before the steep part of the hill. I attacked and a couple of guys came with me and then Jeremy jumped with a couple of other guys and all of a sudden we had a gap. Once I saw Jeremy coming across, I just put my head down, we started riding, riding and I didn’t really know what the gap was, I just knew that we had to get as much time as possible because the last few laps, if Mancebo had any legs, he can close down a lot of ground. Fortunately, he didn’t. Jeremy and I drove it, the Pure Black guy worked quite a bit and some of the other guys were trying to roll through. ”
About winning the overall. “I was just rolling through and Cesar, of course, was trying to disrupt it, sitting second and third wheel a lot. He was on Jeremy and Jeremy was taking a big pull and I just rolled by him to pull through, no one closed it and I rolled a stretch by myself and I just kept going. I think Jeremy yelled at me to go. Then the Fly V guy came across to me and once I saw the gap open on Jeremy I just drove it because I thought, ‘here’s my chance at glory.’ (laughs) And then when I crossed the line, I looked back and I saw Jeremy sprinting for all his worth (laughs).”
Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL Pro Cycling). “It was a team effort because we have five of us that were sitting pretty high overall, we just kept attacking until finally, we broke RealCyclist. It took us three days but finally, it’s been awesome to finally do it, to finally do it is really, really great.”
About the final break. “Basically, there were a couple of other guys riding but Frank and myself especially were riding that break as hard as we could. We had Grajales from RealCyclist sitting there. That’s when Frank rode away, he just rode off the front when they were watching me, that was great because Frank could just cruise into the finish (laughs)”
Cesar Grajales (Realcyclist.com). “I was working the front until I was done, then I had to go back to the group to recover a little bit, then Paco was on his own and responding to all of the attacks. Right when I was moving up to keep on helping Paco, they were attacking at that moment and I just had to jump on the wheel. I called Paco to jump on my wheel but he was already in the red, so the only thing I could do is just follow the move. Then, it was difficult because it was with Jeremy and with Frank and they both had the chance to win so we had to pick one rider, I picked Jeremy because he was the best in the GC between both.”
About the finale. “When Frank went, nobody else ride too, I was hoping Borrajo was going to go. I was sitting on his [Vennell]‘s wheel and waited for Borrajo to go, and Borrajo didn’t have anything left. Anyway, I think the strongest guy in the break was Frank. I just picked Jeremy. They did a good job. We tried to defend as much as we could yesterday. At some point, it was just Paco and me. We were responding to every single attack and we got it yesterday on a really tough course to control. There’s only so much you can do, and I think somehow it’s also fair to a team that is working hard too. We have won some races and I think it was time for them to get a win.”
Is the hard racing fun? “It’s fun hard (laughs). Especially in this race without many other big teams, it comes down to both of us. That makes the race harder and more interesting. Yesterday was one of the craziest race ever, as well as the Sunset Loop at Redlands. It came down to be a really hard, interesting race. ”
Top 10 Stage 4 Results
1. Cameron Peterson (V Australia) 1:24:55
2. Frank Pipp (BISSELL Pro Cycling)
3. Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 0:16
4. Cesar Grajales (Realcyclist.com)
5. Michael Northey (Pure Black Racing) 0:17
6. Sean Sullivan (V Australia) 0:25
7. Chad Haga (Team Rio Grande) 0:29
8. Alejandro Borrajo (James Sutter Home) 0:36
9. Ian Holt (Team Rio Grande) 0:42
10. Mark Langlands (Pure Black Racing) 0:57
Final Top 10 GC
1. Frank Pipp (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 9:47:03
2. Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 0:04
3. Cesar Grajales (Realcyclist.com) 0:20
4. Michael Northey (Pure Black Racing) 0:27
5. Cameron Peterson (V Australia) 0:44
6. Chad Haga (Team Rio Grande) 0:51
7. Francisco Mancebo (Realcyclist.com) 1:07
8. Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 1:11
9. Paul Mach (BISSELL Pro Cycling) 1:17
10. Roman Van Uden (Pure Black Racing) 1:19