Chad Beyer (Competitive Cyclist) came close – 15 seconds close – to winning the overall at the SRAM Tour of the Gila. After the time trial, his admitted weakness, Beyer dropped down from second to ninth on GC at 2:38 from red jersey Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare).
“It was good, it would have been nice to win the overall but I’m happy with my effort, I left it all all there.” Beyer told podiuminsight.
With nothing to lose, Competitive Cyclist squad implemented an aggressive plan on the final stage, the Gila Monster with its five categorized climbs. Counting on the face that UHC would be marking defending champion Francisco Mancebo, his teammates decided to seed the break.
“We were looking for a move.” Beyer explained. “Either me or Cesar up in the move with one or two other teammates and I was looking for it, I just hit it and kept going.”
Attacks started as soon as the neutral section ended in the 103.5 miles (166.6km) stage. A large group of riders escaped the field following a counter-attack at the first intermediate sprint eight miles into the stage. With such a big group, upwards of 20 riders, officials scrambled to identify all the riders while a few pushed the pace.
After the dust settled and a few more riders bridged up, Beyer was up the road in a 25-rider break with two teammates, Thomas Rabou and Max Jenkins. Also in the move were Kenda/5-hr Energy teammates Paul Mach, Jim Stemper and Andy Jacques-Maynes, In the break were also Rubens Bertogliati (Team Type 1-sanofi), Marsh Cooper (Optum-KBS), Lawson Craddock and Ian Boswell (Bontrager Livestrong), Carter Jones (Bissell), Cameron Wurf (Champion System), Tanner Putt and Andrew Meyer (BMC-Hincapie), Robin Eckmann (CalGiant), Jason McCartney and Jeff Louder (UnitedHealthcare), Juan Arango and Edwin Avila (Colombian National Team), Luis Amaran and Tyler Wren (Jamis/Sutter Home) and Andres Diaz (Exergy).
Rabou and Mach turned turns at the front of the break, driving the pace early on with Jenkins taking over on the second climb, the cat 2.
“They were doing the bulk of the work, Kenda had one guy with us, Colombians worked a little bit but that was pretty much it. It was amazing that two guys were able to put that much time.” Beyer said of his teammates.
“A break of 25 get up the road, I’m really disappointed, all these teams, they always talk the talk about racing hard but when three guys are working out of 25, that’s tactics but there are certainly a lot of other teams that have reasons to work as well.” said Competitive Cyclist DS Gord Fraser. “But I was really happy with Thomas Rabou who flayed himself into the first climb and Max Jenkins later on, and Chad, I thought it was a little early, I’m not going to lie.” he laughed, “but the gap was good. Chad had a storming ride, just listening to those time gaps and just hoping that it was enough. “
“I lost a lot of brain cells today.” smiled a tired Rabou after the stage. Jenkins nodded in agreement.
By the time the riders had descended the second climb, and were approaching the turn-around, the gap was hovering around the 5:30 minute mark. Behind the UnitedHealthcare team was at the front of the field while only three riders were truly driving the break.
Beyer was getting information and encouragement from his DS. “As soon as I hear a time gap, I have to give him the inform so he can gauge his effort accordingly. Giving him food, reminding him to eat, drink and just the little things when you’re completely red-lined for the last two hours you tend to forget. So just remind him, spin a lighter gear, eat, drink, telling him the gap.” said Fraser.
Fraser was also talking to one other DS in particular, Axel Merckx of the Bontrager-Livestrong team. “Trying to negotiate with Axel a little bit for a better stage place.” he laughed.
The break splintered at the bottom of the first category climb under attack from a few rider. Then, Beyer and Craddock escaped and started to climb together at the front. The duo set a good pace, building the gap up, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds but a chaser was coming. Boswell made the junction on the Sapillo climb.
The teammates worked Beyer over and escaped on the final cat 3 climb to the finish to go 1-2 with Craddock taking the win. Beyer, finished third, six seconds back.
“Livestrong were riding pretty well, they had the stage in mind, I had the GC in mind. I just needed a little bit more but it was good, I left everything out there, I didn’t have anything left in the sprint. “ said Beyer.
Then all eyes were on the clock. The magic number was 2:35 after Beyer had garnered 4 seconds of time bonus for his placing.
Behind, the field had also exploded on the climb following the turn-around at Cliff Dwelling.
“I attacked at the top of the first cat KOM and I went with Bajadali from there” explained Cesar Grajales (Competitive Cyclist). Best Young Rider jersey Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong) bridged up to the Grajales group on the Sapillo climb which also included Andy Bajadali (Optum-KBS).
Grajales continued, “So when the Livestrong kid bridged to us, right away we hopped on his wheel. He wasn’t committed to it, he was nervous, he’s still young, he’s strong but he was afraid of going hard. So then Rory and what was left of the field bridged to us, and I started to recover, we got caught with like 15 km to go. Then I was trying to recover a little bit there and Paco attacked, and got dropped … and that was it for me.”
Sutherland crossed the finish line, 2:25 down from the stage winner, keeping the overall win by a slim 15 seconds.
“When the second Bontrager kid bridged up to Boswell, I thought they had a good chance, they were definitely looking for the stage and I don’t think they put as much as they could but that’s racing, they have to take care of their interest first, obviously got the stage. It cost them a little but because they lost second on GC so it’s understandable that they wouldn’t fully commit but it was good, really good racing.” said Fraser.
“It was amazing, my result is all because of those guys today.” Beyer said of his teammates. “I needed a little bit more to take the overall GC, it was so close but it was a great effort, great fun.”
Beyer finished second overall on GC and won the KOM competition. Does this result make Beyer a threat in the GC at future races?
“Maybe.” he replied. “I need to work on my time-trial but other than that…. I’m going well and hopefully I can keep this form for the rest of the season.”
Fraser stated that he was proud of his team. He also disagreed with the comment that Competitive Cyclist had a tough start in 2011 especially compared to their domination early last year.
“We had real bad luck in Uruguay with some breaks but Redlands went very well. It was my mistake in Redlands that cost us that win, when I was walking back to the van I’d thought we’d won the race. We raced my plan and we executed the plan to win, it’s unfortunate that there was contradicting clauses in the race bible.”
He continued, “Then of course, we won Joe Martin which we didn’t last year. We won Battenkill, we came a little ways from winning this. We’re not undefeated like last year, the other thing too is the level of competition continues to improve, all these teams are getting better and better. I think we’re just in the same place as we were last year if not even better.”
Even though the team had many successes last year, including winning the USA Cycling NRC Individual Standings with Francisco Mancebo, the squad was not invited to the Amgen Tour of California.
“It’s up to I think the press to indicate the injustice of that, we’re doing our part in the sporting sense, we have good sponsorship so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be at that race.” commented Fraser. “But we’re moving on we’re focusing on US Pro Championships, focusing on Philadelphia and further down the line, we’ll go to Utah with a bit more ambition.”