UnitedHealthcare really had a perfect race in stage 2 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. The controlled the Downtown St Paul Criterium from start to finish, and topped it off by not only a win but a sweep of the podium.
The earlier rain had stopped by the time the men lined up at the start line, chomping to get going for the 40-lap race on the flat, fast, five-corner course replete with brick corners. They were off fast and were stopped fast, with multiple crashes in the first few laps. But things settled down and two riders escaped on the third laps and were quickly joined by two more.
The four off the front were Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly), Carlos Alzate (Exergy), Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-Optumhealth) and Tyler Wren (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo). The four rotated through to push the gap up to 20 seconds but behind the massive blue train of UnitedHealthcare lined up at the front while the field hung on – strung out – behind them.
The cooperation in the break didn’t last with Alzate finding the pace too slow while Van Ulden found Alzate’s tempo to be too uneven. It was bound to happen, Alzate attacked solo at 27 laps to go while the other three exchanged words. But a few laps later, Alzate was back in the break, once again words and gestures were exchanced but the four rotated through again. Alzate took the two intermediate points sprint while Wren, Candelario and Van Ulden battled for the two intermediate time bonus sprints.
The UHC train was quite happy to let the four dangle off the front, using only a couple of riders including Adrian Hegyvary and Jonnie Clarke to keep the tempo high. Not liking what he was seeing, Jamis/Sutter Home DS Sebastian Alexandre tried to force some action at the front of the field. Nick Frey attacked but was quickly reeled. Alexandre’s goal was to get UHC to use more riders at the front. The next lap, Alexandre told his rider in the break to stop working hard in the break – that was at 20 laps to go.
The break was always doomed, it was just a matter of when it would be reeled in. At 10 to go, the field splintered as the UCH team revved up the pace, time to think about the bunch sprint. At 7 to go, the BISSELL team swarmed the front and took over, reeling in the break, as the pace kept going up and up. A battle for control at the front which UHC won and where they stayed for the final 5 laps. Behind them, the sprinters and their team jockeyed for position, everyone wanted to be behind the last man Jake Keough.
With one lap to go, yellow jersey Rory Sutherland took over the front of the train. The final sprint was on. Rider after rider peeled off the front of the train, Hegyvary, Sutherland, Karl Menzies. Robert Förster started his sprint before the final corner then peeled off for Hilton Clarke with Keough on his wheel. The three came to the finish line almost together with Keough taking the win, followed by Clarke and Förster.
Sutherland finished in the main field and remains the leader with 9 seconds on Hegyvary and Tom Zirbel (Jamis/Sutter Home).
Alzate, who won the fight to stay on Keough’s wheel, took fourth and the Wheaties FUEL Sprint jersey while Van Ulden was awarded the Freewheel Bike Most Aggressive Rider jersey. Chad Haga (Team Rio Grande) will wear the green jersey as the Nature Valley Top Amateur and Joey Rosskopf (Team Type 1-Development), the white jersey for the TRIA Orthopaedic Center Best Young Rider.
Racing continues on Thursday with the 107 km (66.5 mi) Cannon Falls Road Race, the same distance for both the men and women. The course winds through scenic Goodhue County before finishing on a 3.1km (1.9 mile) circuit in downtown Cannon Falls. A gravel road section on the way into town adds another wild card to this stage. If the winds are calm in 2011, look for a pack sprint. If it’s windy, all bets are off.
The men start at 5pm – follow @podium_live for updates during the race.
Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare). “I think we’ve proven this weekend that we’re one unit, whether it’s off the bike or on the course. The team is one unit, we do everything together. The dedication from the whole team is perfect. Each one of those guys is a specialist in what they do throughout the whole race to perfection. ”
About the final laps. “BISSELL came over the top of us and gave a good effort but I just kind of called the guys to be really calm and just them to wait until the other guys burn their matches and we go back around them. We’re getting well drilled at this, we’ve been putting it to some good effect. Each one of the guys did a perfect effort at the end. A good win.”
About who would take the win. “The order that we’ve putting into the leadout train for the past few weeks has been Frosi, Hilton and then me and it’s been working, we’ve been going 1-2-3 and we’re just going to try keeping doing it.”
About the next stages. “I think it’s hard, there are a lot of strong teams here. I think tonight was a lot of bullets used so we need to make sure we’re conservative and make sure we have the legs but the guys proved that they’re strong and we’re going to keep it up.”
Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare). “We’re all going well, we’d never have this chance if it wasn’t for the depth and the strength of this team.”
About Sutherland pulling. “He’s a vital part of our leadout as well. Adrian worked all day and he was second overall and Rory is leading the race but he’s helping us win the stage. We’re all helping each other all tour, the roles are reversed each day and we work as a team.”
Carlos Alzate (Exergy). “We were working together well but we were not going fast enough so I attacked. We were not going the speed needed to to stay away. Not enough space in between the peloton and the break.”
About the final lap. “There was a lot of fighting but I got into a position that I liked which was right on the tail of the train. It’s hard to be there but it’s better. Right on the wheel of UnitedHealthcare for the final sprint.”
Bernard van Ulden (Jelly Belly). “We were going hard and got off the front with one guy but that didn’t go and then got off again with Alzate. Two guys, Cando and Tyler, came up to us. We were going alright but Alzate was pulling through unevenly, he was coming through really hard and then slow down, and I was ‘hey man, even it up we’re just starting’. He kept doing that so I finally got sick and tired, and I just sat up and let him go. Cando was yelling at me to close the gap, and I was like ‘no dice’. Alzate spent the next couple of laps off the front on his own, I was like ‘have fun with that, we’ll see you in a couple of laps’, which we did. He was going for the points and that was cool and me and Tyler were going for the time sprints. Everybody was starting given up early, with 10 to 12 laps to go, we’ve been out here this long we might as well last five more laps if we can, keep it safe for us. But everybody just sat up.”
About the team plan. “Our main plan was to sprint for Ken or Brad, and I’m always like stick to the original plan, I was still going to ride as hard as I could in the break but hopefully my teammates would mow us down. I was hoping to see our whole train on the front. I never really thought it was going to stay away.”
Top 10 Stage 2 Results (Complete Results)
1. Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team) 1.15’09”
2. Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team) st
3. Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team)
4. Carlos Alzate Escobar (Team Exergy)
5. Kenneth Hanson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
6. Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis Sutter Home)
7. Charles Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
8. K Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling)
9. *Eric Young (Bissell Pro Cycling) 5″
10. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team) 5″
Top 10 GC After Stage 2
1. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team) 1.28’22”
2. Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team) 9″
3. Tom Zirbel (Jamis Sutter Home) 9″
4. Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team) 11″
5. Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) 15″
6. K Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling) 16″
7. Fernando Antogna (Jamis Sutter Home) 17″
8. Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling) 24″
9. Andres Diaz Corrales (Team Exergy) 27″
10. Chris Baldwin (Bissell Pro Cycling) 30″