For the second day in a row, Matt Cooke of Team Exergy battled his way into the break at the USA Pro Challenge. After spending most of 202-km stage one in the 22-rider break, Cooke is at it again on today’s stage from Montrose to Crested Butte.
The goal going into the seven-day stage race was two fold, first the team wants to be aggressive. “We’ve been riding for GC for the last two stage races, and it hasn’t worked out. You can have one bad day and lose all of your hard work. I don’t think I’m climbing as well as in the past so I think it’s just better to be aggressive. I’d like to get some points for the KOM jersey if it’s possible, I’ve got a couple, Danielson and a couple have a lot more but who knows.” Cooke told podiuminsight.
And secondly and maybe more importantly, Cooke and the team want to look good in front of of a global audience and in front of the media.
“We wanted to put guy out there, to get our name out there. Exergy has had some bad press lately and we want to show them that it hasn’t affected us and that we’re still a good bike racing team, that we have skills and that every guy on this team has got something to contribute.”
Six days ago, cyclingnews.com reported that title sponsor, the Exergy Development Group, was late in paying sponsorship invoices and added that Team Exergy denied any issues with payment.
Getting into the break on Monday was not easy, by all description the start at high altitude was insanely fast. “It was a brutal start.” Cooke explained. “There were a lot of guys who had breathing problems and it started extremely fast. It was a hill straightaway, an uncategorized climb which was the hardest part which put guys into the box early.”
Attacks multiplied at the front until three groups were off. “There was one up the road, Serge was in the second and I was in the third. Eventually, we all combined to make it a pretty big group.”
Both Cooke and his teammate Serghei Tvetcov took turns pulling through and sitting on the large break which included four Garmin-Sharp riders. As we all know, the presence of the TV moto bikes also played a part into the break tactics. “I was trying to save as much energy as I could, if I was at the front, I wasn’t getting away, I was going to pull through. There was a few times where the TV camera is in front and you pull, you’re going to be on TV, that’s part of the game.”
Eventually, the large break shattered with only Tvetcov making the front split. “It would have been great to have both our guys in there, that’s what we want but it was a question of which moves do you cover? Obviously you cover Hincapie and Zabriskie but there were other good guys too that got caught out. That’s the way it is.”
In the end, the field came back together for a bunch sprint though Cooke had been dropped on the final climb and finished six minutes and 46 seconds down. Team sprinter Freddie Rodriguez finished fourth behind winner Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp).
Cooke had tagged stage 2 as a day for the GC riders, after all it was on this finish that Levi Leipheimer made his bid to win the overall last year. But the team still planned to be aggressive and work for their two fast men, Rodriguez and Andres Diaz.
“I think Freddie is also doing well, Andres Diaz is doing really well. We’ll try to get those guys in there. Then we also want to be aggressive and continue to get into breakaways for the rest of the week. It’s the last race of the year and we want to put our name out there and show that we’re not dead.”
Definitely not dead. I’d say alive and kicking.
After another fast start in today’s 159-km stage, Cooke made his way into the 12-rider break and battled it out for the points in the two categorized climbs early in stage two. The 33-year now stands in second place in the KOM competition, trailing Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) by three points.