On paper, the course of stage 2 of the Sea Otter Classic men’s stage race with its hilly loop and final tough 1-mile climb, suited Matt Cooke (Team Exergy) to perfection. And the man delivered taking the win, maybe his first since he turned professional seven years ago. A few seconds behind him, his teammate Morgan Schmitt took second while yellow jersey Andy Jacques-Maynes (Kenda/5-Hr Energy) was third.
With Schmitt only seven-seconds down on GC going into the stage, Team Exergy hit the front to try and take those seconds back. In the end, Schmitt now sits at one second down with two stages to go.
“We just attacked like crazy, we’re trying to win the whole thing and if we can’t do that, we’ll try to win the stage which we did, thankfully.” Cooke told podiuminsight after the stage.
As the field made its way on the first of eight laps around the 7.7-mile loop, a massive crash at the front took down two of the Kenda/5-hr Energy riders.
At the front, Cooke heard the crash. “You don’t want to turn around when you hear a crash because you could jerk your bike to the side. My good friend Roman went down and that’s a shame. Crashes are just the worst part and I hope that he and the other guys are okay. Then it was basically fight, fight to get into the break. Finally a break went away and we had a guy in it. Kenda was down two guys, they did a really good job but their guys were tired and we just attacked like crazy at the end.”
With Logan Loader in the break, the Team Exergy riders waited in the field to launch fireworks on the final lap.
“We had Andreas Diaz making attacks on the main climb, the KOM climb. He was trying to get away but it just ended up wearing out the Kenda guys, that’s what we wanted.” Cooke explained. A select group of less than 10 riders came over the top.
“We were like ‘alright this is it’ so we kept on rolling. Guys came on the back but it was going to be the same six or seven guys, they’re the ones with strength.The same guys went away on the KOM.”
Then four riders broke away. Cooke, Schmitt, Jacques-Maynes and Stephen Leece (CalGiant) were off the front fighting on the final 1-mile climb to the finish. Cooke crossed the line with Schmitt right behind him.
Cooke was all smiles when talking about the teamwork shown by his teammates. “Logan was in the breakaway. Sam was attacking, he went down and even then he was still attacking after that. Andres Diaz, always a workhorse.”
The battle continues on Saturday with the 7.7-mile time trial raced on the same course as the road stage, starting at 3:30pm