On stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California, Alex Candelario (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) finished a very close fourth in a bunch sprint behind three very fast men, all on ProTeams. But before tangling at the front for the win, the sprinter had to make his way over three climbs as the pack raced 115.3 miles (185.5 km) from San Jose to Livermore.
“I got to give it up to my teammates for the opportunity today – people don’t understand how much work it takes for a sprinter to get close enough and actually have a shot at the win.” Candelario stated afterwards.
One of the riders helping Candelario that day was Michael Creed.
“Creed is an instrumental guy for us because he just knows exactly when you need help, he’s always there, he’s always in the right spot.” Candelario told podiuminsight.
He continued, “He carried my water bottles on Diablo. Any time there’s even a slight crosswind, he’s there sheltering you. Over the course of five hours, all that makes a huge difference, that’s what it takes when you’re sprinting against the best guys in the world. We’re already pretty big underdog, it’s hard just to get a crack at it, guys like make a huge difference.”
“You’re just always on his hip.” Creed described his role that day.
“If there’s a crosswind section even if it’s just like a couple 100 meters or even if it’s not that bad. It’s just relaxing for the rider to have a guy just right there. And that’s not even that hard. And yes on a longer climb, I carry the water bottles. Again it’s probably not anything great but it’s nice, saves you water weight and it probably helps him stay relaxed.”
There is no need to communicate between the two. “You just race long enough, you just know.” Creed commented, “If it is just the wind coming in at a weird angle, or there’s an opportunity to move up easily, you just help him out with that. On the longer climbs, you take some of the weight off his bike.”
Not feeling great, Creed had not been able to assist Candelario in the first two stages. “I just felt horrible, I haven’t been able to climb my way out of a paper bag.” But on stage 3, he was able to help out.. “And then that was the day he got his best result so pretty much he can’t do without me, I’m pretty indispensable.” he said with a smile.
The two go back a long way, all the way to the Prime Alliance team in 2001. “One of my first pro teams I was won was with Candelario.” Creed said. “It’s cool to come full circle with him. He got beat by Boonen, Haussler and Sagan, that’s an amazing trio. I think he’s really under-rated. Candelario, he’s a guy that could go to a team like Garmin, and fit in but because he’s been so under the radar, I don’t know if he’ll get that opportunity but…”
Especially with their shared history, Creed wishes that he could him even more. “I have pretty good speed but I don’t have the last two kilometers speed, I can get him to about 2 K to go, and then once you get up over 800 watts I’m…” he paused and shrugged.
“It is weird. It was down to 70 of us, and it’s a headwind and we’re bunched across the road and you can see him five rows by himself and you’re like, dude I hope you pull it off but there’s nothing I can do. It makes you wish that you could do more.”
At the start of stage 4, the longest stage of the race with six categorized climbs, Creed was ready to do it again if needed. Or to help out his other teammate Sebastian Salas who holds the KOM jersey. That’s what a water carrier does.
“Six climbs, I have to carry a lot of water bottles today. Salas had a big day yesterday but he has to do another one today.” Creed mused. “So if I don’t go in the early break, then yeah for sure, hang with Cando and carry his water.”