A sense of deja vu came over when Jesse Anthony (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategy) put in a massive acceleration to close down a four and half minute gap to the early break on stage 1 of the 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
Last year, Anthony also rode solo over 40 kilometers to not only catch but drop the early break. He continued solo before jumping on the wheels of a very select chase group which he outsprinted for the stage win.
But the 2012 outcome was different. Anthony couldn’t hang on when the lead group caught him on the final climb. He led the second group across the finish line, one minute and 11 seconds behind the winner, and was awarded the Most Aggressive jersey after the stage.
“I felt like I had nothing to lose so might as well go for it. And I did. It almost worked, I barely missed the front group over the top of that climb, I caught the break and then we went up. The field caught us pretty quickly once we hit North Ogden Pass.” Anthony told podiuminsight.
“It wasn’t a plan the entire day but I did talk to a couple of my teammates and I did talk to Jonas about it. I told the guys, I felt that I had nothing to lose. I don’t know if I was going to stick with the front group over that climb, it was really getting hard, I’m not a super climber.”
Anthony’s solo move came with 80 kilometers to go in the 121-km stage as the sun was beating on the riders and the temperature crossing the 100 F mark. He quickly closed the gap to the break that had started to splinter.
“Those guys had been out for so long, just really tired. And then sitting in the field is not always easy but today it was fairly mellow. Garmin and Radioshack were just setting a really steady tempo. Most of us in the field at that point were still relatively fresh.”
But the high heat ultimately did him in. “The heat out there was unbelievable. Sometimes you were riding along and you could just feel this hot air in places where, maybe it doesn’t move around as much, we would just ride through little patches of air that was really hot. When you things under wraps and just ride a relatively mellow pace, it’s not that bad but once you start getting that heart rate up, like once I attacked, you feel hot really hast. I think that’s what really hit me on that last climb, I’d just been out working hard for a long time, the heat really kind of overwhelmed me.”
Anthony bridged up first to Will Clarke (Champion System), one of the riders that had dropped back from the break. But Clarke was not able to hold on to the wheel and Anthony continued solo once again. He caught up to the remnants of the break which included Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Caleb Fairly (Spidertech) and Eduard Alexander Beltran (EPM-UNE).
Though Anthony won with a similar attack last year, the field seemed content to let him go. “I felt that those teams had it pretty dialed in exactly what their plan was and how big they could let the gap up front go. Again when it’s really hot and there are some climbs like that, they are fairly confident in exactly what they have to do. And also it’s early in the week, with bigger climbs and harder stages coming up. I think that if the break did survive it wasn’t the end of the world for them.”
The final climb up North Ogden Pass doomed the break.
One positive for Anthony is that it showed that the fitness was there. “I wasn’t sure going into this but I’ve definitely been training hard, prepared really well and I think I’ve done my homework correctly. I felt good today so just going to try to recover and see what tomorrow brings.”
The Massachusetts-resident spent the previous four weeks at altitude. “I spent a week in Bend before Cascade or in Sisters, I was at roughly 2,000 feet for two weeks around Cascade and then after that I was in Boulder for two weeks. I feel very acclimated, I’m hoping the altitude won’t be too much of an issue, I think that the factor here besides the course is the heat. We have to make sure to stay hydrated.”
He and his team are not done. Their goal is to win a stage this week. “We’re going to do what we always do which is race aggressively, look for opportunities and hopefully we’ll get something out of it.” he said. “I think we have two guys who can ride very well in the general classification, Andy Bajadali and Mike Creed were both in the front group today and they looked really good. I think we’ll be looking out for those guys in the overall and the rest of us will be hunting for stage wins.”
When asked which stage he would go off the front again, he replied with a laugh, “stage 3”, though he doesn’t plan on going for the long early break.
“I’ll be off the front as long as it advantageous.” Anthony continued. “If I can find opportunities like today I’ll certainly be going for it, otherwise I’ll be looking out for my teammates. I’m sure every day will present a new challenge and a new opportunity for us.”