Can anyone stop the UnitedHealthcare juggernaut at Nature Valley Grand Prix? Stage 3, the 66.5-mile (107-km) Cannon Falls Road Race was fast from the beginning with attacks flying. Race radio was constantly putting out ’5 riders with slight advantage’ but everything was quickly brought back.
More photos in the gallery.
The first KOH, at only 6 miles into the stage was the first forcing with Logan Hutchings (ELBOWZ) taking top points ahead ahead of Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL) and Andy Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth). The three were quickly brought back. Everyone wanted in on the break but nothing could get away with the non-stop activity at the front of the field.
Same scenario for the second KOH about 12 miles later. This time, Wamsley took top points followed by Dan Holt (Team Type 1-Development) and Hutchings.
Riders that made it into short-lived breaks included Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly), Luis Amaran and Jamey Driscoll (Jamis/Sutter Home), Andres Diaz (Exergy), Marsh Cooper (KBS-OptumHealth), Andrew Dahlheim (BISSELL), Travis Livermon (Team Mountain Khakis p/b SmartStop). Four riders, Tom Zirbel (Jamis/Sutter Home), Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL), Mat Stephens (ELBOWZ) and Cooper, did manage to stay off the front a bit longer. But there was no way UHC was going to give this move a long leash with Zirbel sitting at only 9 seconds down from yellow jersey Rory Sutherland.
It was all back together as they made their way into the first of the six finishing circuits in Cannon Falls. Chaos reigned at the front. With 5 to go, Jelly Belly was organized and lined up the team at the front, working for sprinter Ken Hanson. They kept control of the front until the final lap when UHC took over, working for sprinter Robert Forster with Jake Keough acting as the sweep behind him. Chaos ruled behind with many riders taking risks to stay on Keough’s wheel. Two crashes on the final lap, one on the backside and one in the final corner before the uphill finish, derailed the sprint for many riders.
Forster made it three for three for UCH with Keough hanging on for second. Hanson was in the thick of things but got boxed in when Forster’s leadout man peeled off to the right, in his sprint line. Hanson took third.
With the 12-second time bonus on the line, Forster moved into the GC lead, bumping Sutherland down to second. Zirbel was awarded the Most Aggressive jersey and Wamsley takes over the KOH jersey. No changes to the other jerseys: Carlos Alzate (Exergy) for sprint leader. Chad Haga (Rio Grande) for Best Amateur and Joey Rosskopf (Team Type 1-Development) for Best Young Rider.
Racing continues on Friday night with the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium raced on a pancake-flat .88-km (0.5 mi) course with its six tight corners. Will UHC do it again? The men race 40 laps starting at 7:45pm CT.
Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team). “It was a fast race with 48 kmph speed average. All the teams try to attack us and it was difficult to stay together, we lost some boys from the hard work in the first 70, 80 kms and then we come to the loops. Jelly Belly made a good leadout from the front, the last loop was a little bit chaos. We lost one rider in the crash, Hilton Clarke in the crash. In the last two km, the team made a good job, like the last day. Rory make a good leadout with the yellow jersey, Karl again and we try to win for me today and it worked.”
About taking over the GC lead. “We spoke about it in the meeting in the morning, I knew that I was only 11 seconds behind Rory, we tried to make the leadout for me today and when I win today, I have the jersey that was the plan.”
About defending the jersey. “For sure I want to hold the jersey as long as possible but when Rory comes back or another rider, I don’t care as long as it’s the team, the main thing is the team.”
About Friday night’s crit. “We try to do it the same like yesterday but since we lost one rider, we are only seven tomorrow and we used all the guys today to do the sprint so maybe it can be a little bit different but the guys are good, they are all in good condition, we all worked well together and we know what to do.”
Ken Hanson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda). “The team rode great, that was the game plan to organize into the dirt. It broke up a little bit and we didn’t really have everyone together but we organized once we got int the circuits and rode steady. We knew our best chance was to just ride the front and keep me out of trouble and then UnitedHealthcare was going to take over and try to lead out the sprint. Things were looking pretty good, it was unnecessary dangerous moves into the last corner by some other teams and instead of being able to stay on Keough, I was having to fight my bike to stay upright so I got gapped off. So I chased onto the finishing stretch and I got onto the back of them and I was going to go on the right hand side, which was the way that Menzies pulled off from the leadout so I got boxed in so I had to coast. Once I lost the momentum on the hill that was it so I ended up third. I’m happy to get on the podium but it could have been better.”
About the race. “In the beginning, it’s aggressive and the roads are open and fast rolling, it’s really hard for groups to stay away. The KOM sprints are early on and they’re big ring climbs where you’re just flying up them so groups were slipping away and coming back. But nothing really dangerous got away. A group of four with Zirbel was a break that UHC let the leash up on, they were never gaining time or within a threat to get away. I think UHC was just keeping them controlled. All the other teams were keen on keeping it aggressive which is good, it makes for a good race.”
Top 10 Stage 3 Results (Complete Results)
1. Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 2.17’19″
2. Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team)
3. Kenneth Hanson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
4. Ben Kersten (V Australia)
5. K Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling)
6. *#Joseph Schmalz (Elbowz Racing)
7. #Chad Haga (Team Rio Grande)
8. Benjamin Chaddock (Team Exergy)
9. Tom Zirbel (Jamis Sutter Home)
10. Fernando Antogna (Jamis Sutter Home)
Top 10 GC After Stage 3
1. Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 3.45’40″
2. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 1″
3. Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 10″
4. Tom Zirbel (Jamis Sutter Home) 10″
5. Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) 16″
6. K Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling) 17″
7. Fernando Antogna (Jamis Sutter Home) 18″
8. Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 24″
9. Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling) 25″
10. Andres Diaz Corrales (Team Exergy) 28″