Fifteen minutes into the 60-minute criterium, stage 1 of the Sea Otter Classic men’s stage race and the winning move was up the road. Morgan Schmitt (Team Exergy), Connor McCutcheon (Green Bike/Bike Religion) and Andy Jacques-Maynes (Kenda/5-Hr Energy) were off slowly building a gap to over one minute by the finale. In the end, Jacques-Maynes took the win ahead of McCutcheon and Schmitt. (Read replay of tweets)
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From the start, attacks were flying with riders trying to get away on the 1-km course on the Laguna Seca track. It’s been done before, especially with only a few teams fielding full squads. Fifteen minutes into a race, a counter-attack, the right combination was found and three men were off the front.
“It was so back and forth, back and forth and suddenly the gap opened up behind us. It was just the right move, Morgan and I were both being pretty aggressive, and Morgan had teammates sitting up behind, I had teammates sitting up behind. The Bike Religion guy tagged Morgan, I think I jumped across hard and that was that. We looked back, we saw the gap, we looked at each other and let’s do it.” Jacques-Maynes told podiuminsight after the race.
The gap grew to 30 seconds while teammates in the field were protecting their respective rider in the break. Both Kenda/5-hr Energy and Team Exergy were disrupting any chase that was trying to get organized. No other team was able to muster up the power or will to pull them back.
“We did the intermediate sprint, that was my main goal to go get those seconds, I was figuring it was going to come back to a field sprint. But at that point, we got to about 40 minutes in and I just decided to start twisting the throttle, I’d go super hard up the hill when it was my pull and that was making a difference. That was stretching the gap out and that demoralized the chase behind, that was that. It was good.”
The gap grew to the minute mark and it was all she wrote. The winner would come from the break, and the favorite with the fastest kick was Jacques-Maynes. But then, with three laps to go, he fell off the pace.
“In the downhill corner, I heard my tire leaking so I just stood it up and went off in the gravel. I was like I don’t want to hit the deck right now, I can come back from a flat. There was such a big gap that even if I had to get a wheel, I could still keep a gap to the field. I got back on the pavement, I’m bouncing, and this is not flat, ‘oh crap’, so I had to hit the throttle.” said Jacques-Maynes.
Ahead, the other two in the break didn’t up the tempo and Jacques-Maynes was able to catch back on with two laps to go where he sat on to recover.
“This is good, if I have any sprint left I just need to sit, man I am cooked right now.” were Jacques-Maynes’ thoughts at that moment.
“I felt that I was the strongest guy so I was confident. In that mid-race sprint, I beat them pretty easily so I was like okay I have a good chance here, don’t mess it up really.” he continued. “I attacked into the switchback and came through it pretty quick, sprinted out of it and that got me a little bit of a gap, and then it was just a long tailwind sprint all long the front stretch.”
Jacques-Maynes leads the GC with six seconds on McCutcheon and seven on Schmitt. The next rider is Schmitt’s teammate Logan Loader at 1’34” down.
The race will be a duel between Kenda/5-Hr Energy and Exergy with three stages to go. “I think it will come down to the timetrial and the circuit race on Sunday is really hard. Tomorrow will probably just be a set up, Exergy will probably send Matt Cooke up the road or something like that because he’s suited to that super steep hill.”
Jacques-Maynes is confident in his team being able to defend the leader’s jersey. After all, they have successfully defended twice, so far this year, once at San Dimas Stage Race where Jacques-Maynes won the overall and at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
He concluded. “Kenda/5-Hour Energy is super strong, we’ll be able to defend. I have no doubt in my guys.”
Stage 2, the 69-mile road stage, on Friday starts at 12pm PT. Follow the action live on @podium_live