It was somewhat fitting that the Alpine Loop climb was a major factor in Ben Jacques-Maynes fight to reclaim the KOM jersey on Saturday’s Queen Stage at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. Not only does he love it but he knows the intricacy of the final sprint to the top.
“I love the Alpine Loop climb, it’s just a great bike ride. To be a able to race over it with full use of the road coming down the backside descent, it’s one of the best bike rides you can do let alone race courses.” Jacques-Maynes told podiuminsight earlier this week.
After claiming the first KOM jersey, the Bissell rider had to think about the possibility of battling it out on its steep slopes during the tough stage.
“I would definitely prefer to not be off the front that day. I’ve been in the breakaway on Saturday.” he said. “I’m definitely excited to try my hand there. I’d prefer not to go every day, I’d like to bide my time but the race is going to decide how things play out and I’m prepared for anything.”
Saturday’s KOM battle was a three-way affair between KOM leader into the stage Timmy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) Jacques-Maynes and Caleb Fairly (Spidertech) with only one point separating all three protagonists.
Using his knowledge of the course, Jacques-Maynes was able to come around the other two twice and reclaim the jersey. Though often representing his Team Bissell in breakaways, he has very rarely won the KOM for his efforts.
“I think this is one of the first ones. It’s a special feeling to be actually climbing okay. The hills that I’ve won, they’re not the ripping steep stuff, it kinds of level off at the top of each of them so I get to sprint against climbers which is great.” he said with a laugh.
With one stage to go and two very tough climbs, Jacques-Maynes is ready to defend his six-point lead on on Duggan.
“I think that hanging on to the Ski Utah KOM jersey is going to be pretty important for Team Bissell, it would be a great thing to take home from this stage race.” he said. “I would gladly sell out for some teammates if they can take the stage win into Park City. If it comes down to that, there’s definitely certain hierarchy in how good you can do on the day and you have to be realistic about that.”
The KOM fight started on the first stage, when Jacques-Maynes and Fairly escaped into the early five-rider break.
“Getting the KOM is one of those things that just pops out. You get in the breakaway, you start doing the math, okay if I do the sprint jersey and even if I win every sprint I’m not going to be able to get the jersey because the winner has more points. The KOM jersey, I get to wear a couple of days, it’s definitely worth it so I fight a little bit harder for that.” Jacques-Maynes said at the start of stage 3.
The deal was even sweeter because there were no points available on the next day meaning another podium appearance.
More points were up for grabs on stage 3 and Fairly made it clear that he was going for it. “I was wanting it the first day but I couldn’t quite beat Ben Jacques-Maynes in the sprint. It would be nice to win the KOM jersey so I’ll definitely be looking for opportunities to snag points here and there. It would be nice to have.”
Attacks flew and after the dust settled, neither Jacques-Maynes not Fairly took points in the first climb and neither made the break which escaped soon after. But the move did include USA National road champion Duggan who nabbed the KOM points while he was trying to move up on GC.
The big mountains returned on stage 5. It was pure chaos at the front of the field with everyone wanting to get into the break, attacks and counters flying left and right. Jacques-Maynes made the first move on the slopes of the first KOM climb, 11 miles into the stage. “I won the first KOM over Jordanelle and none of the other guys who were up there got any points. At that point, it was a bit of defense so I was able to sit back, relax and just watch the guys.”
After more attacks, five riders that did not include any KOM contenders escaped off the front. Status quo for the trio until the next climb, the cat 1 up Alpine Loop, the climb that Jacques-Maynes loves.
“There were points available on Alpine Loop so Caleb hit out with a teammate with two or thee to go to the top. Timmy went after them so I thought okay it’s game on and I went. Timmy took over and just drove it, he was going hard, he actually blew Caleb up over the top of that.” Jacques-Maynes explained.
“I knew that climb. I’ve been here all week, I rode it, so I knew exactly where I was on the climb and thinking back to that, ‘okay it’s flat right at the top’. The last 200 meters – I knew quite well that there’s a hairpin and then it’s flat and winding so if I get to the front, I can keep on shutting the door and not sprint very hard. But Timmy didn’t even stand up when I went by him.”
Jacques-Maynes was able to increase his lead but there were more climbs to come after the tricky descent off Alpine. “I bombed that descent and I looked back and there were some guys coming across, we waited through the gully and we had five.”
At the bottom, a chase group of five was formed which include Fairly, Duggan, Jacques-Maynes, Michael Schär (BMC) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Rabobank). Jacques-Maynes admits that he did not want to chase the break.
“I wasn’t expecting us to catch the breakaway on Suncrest but the BMC guy that was with us was going hard on that climb. He was pretty much he only guy motivated to get up there. Timmy was riding for GC, he had a teammate up there, the Rabobank guy had a teammate up there.”
The catch was made on the third climb of the day. “We caught them with a k[ilometer] to go and that had a nice little dip into it. Timmy had words with his teammate, he started leading it out and I came right around.” Once again, Jacques-Maynes beat out the other two for the KOM points.
The riders were caught on the final climb up Snowbird.
The strategy to defend the jersey on the final day is simple.“Just go early.” Jacques-Maynes laughed.
How hard the battle will be depends on if Duggan is focusing on GC or the KOM points. “I have to be pretty realistic, look at me.” he continued. “There’s no way I can go over the top of Empire Pass with the top climbers. So I have to go get the point on the earlier KOM like today so try for that. If he’s worrying about GC, great for me otherwise I might have a battle on my hands.”