Another stage, another win for UnitedHealthcare at Nature Valley Grand Prix. But tonight at the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium, they had to work very hard to keep it under control.
Stage 4, 40 laps around a 6-corner, flat course started off fast and aggressive and it stayed that way until the end. Nick Frey (Jamis/Sutter Home) opened up the hostilities on the first lap and was quickly joined by Andy Jacques-Maynes (BISSELL), Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies-Optumhealth), Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly) and Matt Cooke (Team Exergy).
Then the next lap, something not often seen, the yellow jersey himself Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare) followed Carlos Alzate (Team Exergy) to bridge up. Förster simply wanted to give his teammates an easier ride.
The riders in the break continued to work well together until two were told to stop by their directors to wait for their teammates trying to jump across. Seconds back were Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) and Luis Amaran (Jamis/Sutter Home). Even though the cooperation was not perfect, the gap continued to increase, all the way up to 30 seconds with 33 laps to go. But the break exploded next lap under the impetus of the first intermediate sprint for time bonus won handily by Förster who just didn’t like what was happening.
The break had exploded. Alzate was charging solo off the front, Jacques-Maynes, Förster and van Ulden were chasing and Cooke was dangling a few seconds behind the trio. Everyone was reeled in the next laps and counter-attacks flew.
Four more riders escaped. This time, it was Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL), Andres Diaz (Team Exergy), Andy Bajadali (KBS-Optumhealth) and Eric Schildge (Jamis/Sutter Home). The gap started to inch up, 15 seconds at 22 to go. Behind them, as it had been since the beginning, it was all blue at the front. The 7 UnitedHealthcare riders were lined up, setting a fast tempo to control the leash. Jonny Clarke, Boy von Poppel and Adrian Hegyvary took turns at the front. Halfway through the race the gap was now at 20 seconds, and defending champion Rory Sutherland put in a few pulls in the UHC train.
The other teams were massing behind the blue train, waiting for the catch and counter-attacks. Even faster at 10 to go, and soon the catch. Immediately, Amaran countered with a solo attack for two laps. With 6 laps to go, a crash on the backside sent about 30 riders to the pit. On the next lap, the riders were put back into the field at the front, as opposed to the customary back, one word chaos. A perfect time for a solo flyer for Jesse Anthony (KBS-Optumhealth) who stayed away for 2 laps. At the same, the battle of the trains was taking shape, on the left UHC and on the right, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda. With 3 to go, Jelly Belly took over but UHC was back in control on the next lap.
The sprint was on, with UHC leading out Förster and Keough. A Jelly Belly rider came around on the outside before the final corner forcing Förster to launch his sprint early but he was able to hold on for the win. His second and the team’s fourth in four stages.
Racing continues on Saturday with the 101-mile Menomonie Road Race. Expect lots of attacks for many of the teams who hope to crack the UHC juggernaut. Men start at noon CT.
Follow @podium_live for all the action.
Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare). “We wanted to control the race from the beginning, that was the deal. And then five guys jumping and I feel for the boys, they work behind me, it’s easier when I’m in the group. For me it’s easier to jump in the group and I stay there so the boys in the back have a bit easier first ten laps. Usually I don’t want to sprint for the time bonus but the guys were not working together really well and then I was not in the back, I was in second position and I said okay, when they want to sprint, we sprint.”
About final 3 laps. “We know that Kelly Benefit-Optumhealth guys wanted to try something and they try it but we are strong enough to catch them, and then Jelly Belly tried it again with two laps to go but we have four strong riders with Karl, Rory, Jonnie – the boys know exactly what to do, they are not nervous, okay Jelly Belly pass us, we do a little bit more speed.”
About his final sprint. “The timing was not really perfect and one guy from Jelly Belly tried to pass us before the corner so I go for it from the corner and then I sprinted.”
About defending the yellow. “Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow. We have a hard 160km ahead of us on Saturday. The key is this is a Team and the one thing we will continue to do here is work hard for each other. Tonight the guys worked hard for me. Tomorrow I’ll work hard for them. Whether it’s me, Rory, Jake or anyone on the Team, it’s about doing what we need to do to help each other.”
Nick Frey (Jamis/Sutter Home). “I knew that UnitedHealthcare had so many strong guys that they would let the first thing go and just sit up through some of the tight turns and it would be gone. The problem was that Forster went with us, we could have tried counter-attacking him but he’s got such a fast jump, he can just jump right on anything. What was really interesting is that Luis and Candelario came to bridge up, Seba told me to sit up and Jonas told Reid to sit up and so we just totally stopped. I didn’t understand what was going on for awhile and then, UHC was not having that, it was all I could do to hang on to Luis and Cando when they came up.”
“We all came together in a group, we had 8 people and we’re like this is good, really good because Luis will be good on Stillwater and UnitedHealthcare is not dumb, they just came after us. We just wanted to be in the break but it’s tough when that team is so strong, just to pass 8 guys is like your entire jump, at least for me. You’re going as hard as you can and you’re looking over and you’re going 2 miles an hour faster than they are and they’re just laughing at you. ”
Kyle Wamsley (BISSELL). “It was fantastic because I was safe the whole day. It was just my turn, we’re saving Frank for the finishes in case it splits. I’ve been feeling a little off all week and it was my turn to cover the move, so I got lucky.”
About the first break. “That first break was super dangerous but we had Andy in there so we didn’t want to go after that too much.”
About the second break. “We were rolling pretty good I think, Bajadali and Diaz were going for the time bonuses. I really didn’t have any business going for that, I was saving it for tomorrow, trying to seal up the mountain’s jersey because it’s good for BISSELL and it’s important to the team. Just a little nice opener tonight, staying out of the field with the multiple crashes.”
Stage 4 Top 10 Results (Complete Results)
1. Robert Förster (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 1.11’08″
2. Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team)
3. Kenneth Hanson (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
4. Carlos Alzate Escobar (Team Exergy)
5. Alexander Candelario (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth)
6. K Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling)
7. Ben Kersten (V Australia)
8. Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team)
9. Charles Huff (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda)
10. Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth)
Top 10 GC After Stage 4
1. Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 4.56’31″
2. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 18″
3. Tom Zirbel (Jamis Sutter Home) 27″
4. Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) 33″
5. Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 33″
6. K Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling) 34″
7. Fernando Antogna (Jamis Sutter Home) 35″
8. Adrian Hegyvary (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 38″
9. Andres Diaz Corrales (Team Exergy) 40″
10. Jeremy Vennell (Bissell Pro Cycling) 42″