Coincidence? A few hours after joining the twitterverse, Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) pulled out the win in a chaotic finale at the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium, stage 4 of the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
“This is all because of Jeremy Powers, I wouldn’t be able to be here without him and forcing me to do it last night, I think he kind of pushed me to the front a little bit more today.” Huff said with a laugh when asked about the ‘coincidence’.
Four men versus the field quickly became the story of the night. Truth be told however, it was really one man versus six when Jesse Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) in the break became briefly the virtual leader on the road with yellow jersey John Murphy sitting behind his Kenda/5-Hr Energy at the front of the field.
Defending champion Anthony made his first attack to take five seconds in the first intermediate time bonus sprint while Murphy benefited from a leadout to grab three seconds – those three seconds became of prime importance at the finish.
Reeled in, Anthony tried again later when he bridged up to three men off the front, his teammate Mike Creed, points leader Carlos Alzate (Exergy) and Ricardo van der Velde (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) with 25 laps to go. Though the four rotated through, Creed did the brunt of the work, burying himself for his teammate and the gap went slowly up. Six laps later, the gap was 17 seconds and then Anthony took the second intermediate time bonus, another five seconds in the bank. The gap continued to slowly creep up to 25 seconds with 13 laps to go but Anthony was showing his displeasure with some of his breakmates.
Meanwhile behind Murphy was tucked in behind his teammates and stated that he never worried. “There were two dangerous guys in that move but our Kenda/5-Hr Energy boys were perfect and kept it at the right limit. We let them soak up some time bonus and we came to the finish, we’re good.”
And truly all his team needed to do was to keep the gap at a manageable time and wait until the sprinters’ team took over, teams such as Bissell that had been massed en force behind Murphy, waiting to pounce.
With the gap down to 13 seconds at six laps to go, Anthony made a last ditch effort to keep going, attacking two other two left in the break but he was quickly reeled in, Bissell had taken over and they wanted a bunch sprint.
“We put one of our guys, Andrew Dahlheim, into the rotation for a little bit because we saw they were getting tired,” said Frank Pipp (Bissell). “We decided at six to go that we were going to take over the front.”
The Jelly Belly team also was waiting to see what happened. “I don’t ever have any doubt in my teammate and Ricardo van der Velde is one of the best ones in there. He was up front and he was going for the win and that’s all we were focused on and then when he came back, we worked together as a team to get the win.” Huff said.
Another battle started at four laps to go, the battle of the leadouts. It was chaos. Bissell and Jelly Belly were going at it.
“About two to go it got a little bit crazy, and Eric (Young) and I were able to tuck in. I tried to lead out Eric, but we ended up getting mixed up in the sprint so it was just me out there sprinting for the line.” Pipp said.
“My team did great, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda was up there at the end.” Huff said. “My guys were up there. With one to go, Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) and Freddie Rodriguez (Exergy) took over and coming through the last corner, it was mayhem, I think we went four abreast through the corner, I had a mis-shift, everybody had to jump on me and I was lucky enough to jump to the other side of the road and get the momentum on those guys, otherwise they would have won the race instead of me.”
Huff took the win ahead of Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home) and Pipp. Murphy came in fourth.
Remember those three seconds that Murphy grabbed? Well they saved his yellow. With his third place, Pipp grabbed a six-second time bonus which would have put in yellow but those three seconds. Murphy now leads Pipp with a two-second lead in GC. Tom Zirbel (Optum p/b KBS) slipped down to third at four seconds.
And the criterium was only foreshadowing what will happen in stage 5, the Menomonie Road Race where last year Anthony made his attack to win the overall. The first major climb comes just 12 miles into the 100-mile stage which includes four Sports Beans King lines and plenty of hills that are not part of that competition. The men finish off with four laps around the flat 4.8km (3.0-mile) circuits inside the city. Racing starts at 12:00 pm (noon) CDT. No intermediate time bonus sprints, the only bonus seconds are awarded at the finish.
Top 10 Stage 4 Results
1. Brad Huff (Jelly Belly P/B Kenda Cycling Team) 1.08’56”
2. Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis Sutter Home)
3. Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling)
4. Freddie Rodriguez (Team Exergy)
5. Eric Young (Bissell Pro Cycling)
6. Tommy Nankervis (Competitive Cyclist Racing Team)
7. Carlos Alzate (Team Exergy)
8. John Murphy (Kenda/5hr Energy p/b Geargrinder)
9. *Ty Magner (BMC-Hincapie Development Team)
10. Christiaan Kriek (Jelly Belly P/B Kenda Cycling Team)
Top 10 GC After Stage 4
1. John Murphy (Kenda/5hr Energy p/b Geargrinder) 2.40’30”
2. Frank Pipp (Bissell Pro Cycling) 2″
3. Tom Zirbel (Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 4″
4. Scott Zwizanski (Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 10″
5. Bobby Sweeting (Kenda/5hr Energy p/b Geargrinder) 18″
6. Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling) 21″
7. Jesse Anthony (Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 21″
8. Mike Olheiser (Competitive Cyclist Racing Team) 21″
9. Andres Diaz (Team Exergy) 22″
10. Andy Jacques-Maynes (Kenda/5hr Energy p/b Geargrinder) 24″