What started off as a story on a Continental team’s approach to the expected field sprint in stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California turned into something completely different.
Hours after the end of the stage, Mike Friedman (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) expressed his frustration with some of the tactics seen during the stage. His team, like many others, were aggressive at the start of the shortened stage with a goal of getting into an early breakaway. Four riders managed to escape but KBS-OptumHealth missed the move.
And that’s when the tactics that Friedman repeatedly called “lame” started.
“The problem in racing some of these race with ProTour teams is that, when they feel they have a breakaway and they’re done following attacks and want to sit up, HTC is really good at it and so are some of the ProTour teams, they’ll go to the front and set up a wall, and it’s really lame because what they do is sit across the road, bar to bar.” he explained. “They sit at the front so nobody can get by and then if you try to push through it, they yell at you, if you try to go around, they yell.”
Friedman, who said that he wasn’t bitter that the team didn’t make the break, continued, “Basically what they’re trying to do is slow the field down, and then as soon as the breakaway has a decent gap and no one is going to try to go across, one of those guys will call a pee break. So basically what happens is that it totally shuts down anything and it’s totally freaking lame, it’s lame because they basically have control and try to control the race.”
Friedman rode for ProTour team Garmin-Slipstream in 2009 but said that his team did not engage in such tactics at that time although he does remember riders on Continental teams complaining about it.
“I understand why they do it because they want to stop the wave of attacks and stop the chaos but that’s racing, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Then they call you amateur for moving up in the crosswind, and you cut some guy off and they call you ‘amateur, amateur’.”
The break was caught before the field made its way onto the first of the three 2-mile finishing circuits in Sacramento and for a moment the KBS-OptumHealth squad was setting the pace. All part of the goal to set up teammates Friedman and Alex Candelario for the final sprint.
“You had to be up there for position, we know that going into that circuit, when the field gets so strung out you can barely move up. You have to be at the front into the circuits.” Friedman said. “That’s the whole point of the game, with the rain it was even more important to be up there, to be at the front where you can take the safest line, and not take risks going into the corner fast to play catch up.”
It worked for the team with Friedman and Candelario making the front group when the field splintered in the final lap.
“It was a real benefit for us to be up there, also it was a confidence thing because we all know these guys are human.” Friedman said. “The Euro guys don’t know who we are, they don’t show that much respect and they don’t know that some of us have actually raced at their level that we actually belong there but that’s okay it’s part of racing.”
Ultimately, Candelario finished 12th and Friedman 53rd.
Tuesday’s stage is another one for the sprinters, a flat 121-mile (192km) affair from Auburn to Modesto. Friedman is ready.
“Tomorrow could see rain, crosswinds and it could be the same thing except we’re going to race, I’m not going to let that happen.” concluded Friedman. “Today was a good day to get the legs back, we’ve been off for four days. The racing will be better tomorrow, the legs are open. It will be different racing tomorrow and the weather will play a role, it will be fun racing adverse conditions for once instead of having perfect conditions.”