All set to defend the yellow jersey of Andy Jacques-Maynes, the Kenda/5-Hour Energy team had to readjust their plan early on in stage 2 of the Sea Otter Classic men’s stage race when a crash took out two of their riders, Roman Kilun and Max Korus.
“Some guy, I didn’t see who, maybe five guys ahead of me, hit this big bump. He hit it, tumbled, Roman went over him, I basically ran Roman over, Max said that he ran over Roman too so Roman got it bad. Someone said that there was some yelling at the bottom of the pile, it sounded ugly. We were worried it was Roman for awhile.” Jacques-Maynes told podiuminsight after the race.
That left two riders, Jim Stemper and Nate English to try and control the attacks which came mostly from Team Exergy for the man, Morgan Schmitt, sitting second on GC. Korus was dropped while Kilun with blood coming down his right leg, went through two bike change to finish the stage.
Time for plan B. “Ideally we would get to save Nate, he’s so strong and has a chase to win the race too so we had two guys but then our strategy changed when we lost two. So only having two guys to chase, we tried to wait as long as we possibly could. And then it was at 3:36, I think, when we started to roll. Nate doing the lionshare of the work. I wasn’t having a great day and I thought I’d stay in there as long as possible. It was actually perfect. It’s good to ride with good guys.” Stemper explained.
A few attacks flew in the first lap around the 7.7-mile Fort Ord loop but nothing was sticking, until finally five riders were off. In the move were, Logan Loader (Team Exergy), Louis Meintjes (Simple Green/Bike Religion), Keith Hillier (Marc Pro Strava) and Sean Mazich (Jelly Belly).
With no threat to GC, the gap grew until halfway through the race. “We chased early on but then it was so close that we decided to let it out. It went from one minute to three and a half and then with four laps to go we decided to ride a decent tempo. We knew that Andy was far enough into the lead that if they were within a minute going into the last climb that we’d be alright for the GC but it ended being that we brought them back a lot sooner.” English said.
The fireworks happened on the eighth and final lap. “It was a good time.” English said of the final lap.
“It went over the climb, people were letting it rip on the main climb with one lap to go and I was setting a good tempo until half way up. A few of the Exergy guys went for it, Andy was right on them and I held on to the back of that front group of ten or so. The break still had a few seconds on us so I went back to the front to pull them back, we got them half lap to go and then through the feedzone, some of the Exergy guys attacked. Andy was fine, I almost made it to them but not quite because I was a little tired at that point.” English smiled. “But then I knew that Andy was going to be fine because it was flat and downhill to the final climb so there’s no way he would be in trouble.”
In the end, Jacques-Maynes finished third on the stage won by Matt Cooke (Team Exergy). Schmitt came in second.
“They started rolling and I was going guys we’re going kind of fast. I was worried because they were going so fast and I thought they wouldn’t last more than half a lap. They brought it back to a minute. “Jacques-Maynes said to his teammates, “you guys are unbelievable.”
With two stages to go, Jacques-Maynes has a slim one second lead on Schmitt.
English knows that Team Exergy will be fighting until the finish. “Exergy has a really strong team and they have more guys than us. We’ll definitely see how the time trial goes. In and of itself, just how we’ve been riding so far and the time trial tomorrow, it’s a good race, I think that we definitely have a good chance of winning it. The circuit race is allright for our team.”
English has already successfully helped a teammate defend the race lead this year, so far. “In general, it’s fun to be part of a winning team, and to control the race and set the pace to a large extent. It’s fun to win, and it’s fun to have a strong enough team to do it,” he smiled, “and hopefully we can keep it up.”
Stage three, the 7.7-mile time trial starts at 3:30pm on Saturday afternoon.