Finally. After losing the overall on the final day of Nature Valley Grand Prix last year, the Kelly Benefit Strategies-Optumhealth team prevailed this year with Jesse Anthony winning the overall. Anthony was protected by his teammates who covered all the dangerous attacks by the Jamis/Sutter Home team until the final laps, and then it time for the yellow jersey to follow wheels.
Just like last year, Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) attacked on the penultimate time up the infamous Chilkoot Hill that leads to the finish, the only difference this year was that the defending champion was out of the running for the overall win, sitting at over 5 minutes down from Anthony. Sutherland’s attack stuck and he was able to enjoy his victory salute to take consecutive victories at Stillwater Criterium.
Anthony drove to the line behind to take second place on the stage and secure his overall win. Frank Pipp (BISSELL) was third.
Once the first intermediate sprint was contested at the end of the first lap, the green machine of the KBS-Optumhealth squad lined up at the front, Anthony at the back with his teammate Alex Candelario. A few riders tried to escape, Will Dickeson (Jelly Belly) was the first but he was quickly reeled in. Then, Timothy Rudd (Nature Valley Pro Ride) made his bod for glory, fielding what is the best mustache at the race. Andrew Dahlheim (BISSELL) bridged up to him on the next lap with a mission of getting the next KOH points to protect his teammate’s Kyle Wamsley lead – mission accomplished.
Not a threat on GC, the KBS-Optumhealth team was happy to let the pair dangle off the front. Seeing this, Jeremy Vennell (BISSELL) jumped from the field and connected with the duo halfway through the 20-lap race. The gap started to inch up, with 7 to go it was 24 seconds but Dahlheim couldn’t hang on. Vennell and Rugg continued on with Vennell doing most of the pace making.
Behind, Jamis/Sutter Home launched another attack, sending Tom Zirbel and Jamey Driscoll up the road. That got a swift reaction from UnitedHealthcare. What a difference a day and a year make. Last year, the two were fighting for the overall win but on Sunday, they worked together. UHC’s goal was to bring back all escapees to set up Sutherland for the stage win and KBS wanted to reel in the threats to GC.
Blue jerseys could now be seen at the front, they were hunting down the riders off the front. With 5 laps to go, only two riders were still off the front, Vennell and Rugg with a gap of 22 seconds. Seeing that Anthony was left with only two teammates in the dwindling main group, Luis Amaran attacked again with his Jamis/Sutter Home teammate Tyler Wren. A move that Anthony covered himself. The violent acceleration on the climb shelled even more riders.
One lap later, UnitedHealthcare’s Robert Förster attacked to reel the duo that was still away. The result was a re-shuffle with a select group of about 10 riders off the front, a group that included a solo Anthony, Sutherland, Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly), Amaran and Pipp. The ten were still together when Sutherland made his move with one lap to go.
Van Ulden finished second overall behind Anthony and Amaran moved up to third.
After fighting for two days in a duel with Logan Hutchings (Elbowz), Wamsley won the KOH competition. Förster won the sprint competition. Joseph Schmalz (Elbowz) won the best young rider and Chad Haga (Rio Grande), the best amateur classification. Rugg was awarded the most aggressive jersey. Bissell won the team classification.
Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team). “The guys took off a bit earlier than I wanted to or thought we should but you could see what happens, Jamis had a go at it to try and move up on GC and that kind of disrupted the full chase. We still had three guys in there in eight. We’re not up on GC so we played for the stage win, that was the aim before the day and we got it.”
About the win. “Not being on GC makes it sometimes a little easier because the impetus to chase me down is not as high. I saw those guys trying to get on but when they group up no one really wants to chase behind and there’s no real need unless it’s just for the stage win. They’re the GC contenders behind. Last year was beautiful but this year being actually able to enjoy the climb on the last time instead of having to sprint up it was nice. ”
Did you really enjoy the climb? “Yeah. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts, everyone here sees the crowd and how many people come out to cheer us on, it’s an awesome stage and it’s fantastic for the city of Stillwater to have such an event, there are not many like this in the country.”
Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth). “My goal today was just to watch the GC contenders. I didn’t want to have to follow too many attacks from anyone that was more than a few minutes down on GC and the guys rode unbelievable today. They never flinched, they were in control, we watched everyone attack and we saw who it was and made sure it wasn’t someone too dangerous, and when the dangerous guys attacked, they reacted right away. They rode a perfect race, the whole team was just unbelievable today.”
About the stage. “The crowd here in Stillwater is unbelievable. It rivals Mayanunk Wall in Philadelphia. The hill is unexplainable until you really do it, even if you’re having the best of days, it hurts so much. I had great legs today and all week, but it was a battle to stay up front and stay with my teammates and follow the wheels at the end. It was super hard. The team did such an amazing job for me on the race, I couldn’t do without them, they delivered all the way until the end and then I just had to follow a couple of wheels the last couple of laps. I wish all the guys could come up with me on the podium, they rode so awesome.”
When did you think you had it? “When I was sprinting up the last hill. I couldn’t turn the brain off, I was right with Frank Pipp, we were sprinting for second place.”
About punching in the air when he crossed the finish line. “I was just really satisfied for the team. Kelly Benefit Strategies-Optumhealth has been working super hard all year, we’ve been racing aggressively in every race we’ve done and we threw it down this week as hard as we could, everyone went in 110 percent, everyone on the team was committed and it ended up working out for us.”
Kyle Wamsley (Bissell). “It was a little harder than I would have like, but you know what it’s a bike race. You have to hand it to Logan to running me the whole race and he didn’t give up today. I wacked it pretty hard going into the climb, I big ringed it and I looked back and he was still coming ‘wow this guy will not give up’. Hats off to him and it makes me that much more happier that I could hold on to the jersey when I have somebody racing me for it.”
What the KOH jersey means for the team? “The podium, that’s what it’s all about. We have team classification as well. We have a jersey and that’s really important to be up there every day, day in and day out. ”
Top 10 Stage Results
1. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 1.09’50”
2. Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) 1″
3. K Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling) 3″
4. Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 6″
5. Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis Sutter Home) 6″
6. Tyler Wren (Jamis Sutter Home) 25″
7. Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 29″
8. Zachary Davies (V Australia) 29″
9. Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 29″
10. *#Joseph Schmalz (Elbowz Racing) 29″
Top 10 Final GC
1. Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) 9.56’32”
2. Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) 17″
3. Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis Sutter Home) 45″
4. Andres Diaz Corrales (Team Exergy) 1’16”
5. K Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling) 2’47”
6. Freddie Rodriguez (Team Exergy) 3’11”
7. Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling) 3’49”
8. Jamey Driscoll (Jamis Sutter Home) 4’37”
9. Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) 5’00”
10. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) 5’32”