It’s certainly not the first time that Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) has won a race by attacking on the final climb but today was the first time that he achieved just that in front of a huge crowd in Boulder, his home for the past three years. And not only that, he did by beating ProTour riders at the Queen Stage of the USA Pro Challenge.
A huge result for him and the team. “This is a 2.HC race, nationally televised. And for me personally to win in the town where I live, on the climb that I know so well and live on, with my friends and family here I don’t think we could have asked for anything better than this.”
“This week has been a really rough week for us, maybe harder than we expected, had some bad luck here and there and I didn’t have the legs most of the week. Last night I clicked my head on, I dreamt all night of the finish line here. I had a terrible night’s sleep, I woke up at five this morning just wide awake thinking about it so I thought might just as well get up and start planning the day.”
After a somewhat disappointing week at the race, it was all or nothing for Sutherland as he made his way into the early break. On the plus side, he had teammate Chris Jones with him and he knew the final climb up Flagstaff inside and out. “I don’t know how many times I’ve done this mountain, but it’s getting near a 100. Flagstaff is such a beautiful mountain. It’s about knowing the area and the climb, and when to push yourself or when to take it easy.”
The strategy for the day was clear. “I said to the riders before I went up, ‘you better make sure you’re ready, because I’m coming up in that breakaway.’”
After a flurry of attacks, the early break with Sutherland, Jones and 12 other riders was established less than 20 kilometers into the Queen Stage. Ahead of them loomed three climbs and huge crowds as they made their way from Golden to Boulder.
“First, I wanted to make it to Boulder, come through and see all my friends and family, then I wanted to help Timmy up to Nederland so he could see all his friends and family.” explained Sutherland who wasn’t the only Coloradoan in the move, also present were USA National Champion Timmy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Chris Baldwin (Bissell).
The gap grew quickly to over five minutes halfway through the 165-km stage before the BMC-led field started to reel them in. Cooperation ceased to exist in the front group with 27 kilometers to go shedding five riders. The field was closing in, only two minutes and a few seconds behind 13 kilometers later.
Sutherland knew exactly what to do on the final 5.6-km vertical, dramatic climb up Flagstaff to the finish line at Sunrise Amphitheater.
“ I know this climb well enough that I know I’ve got to go from the bottom.” he explained. “I know where to go easy, I know where to go hard. I’ve done it I don’t how many times and that is the most beautiful one I’ve ever done.”
Sutherland attacked at the bottom, made his way across to and quickly dropped Jens Voigt (Radioshack-Nissan) who had attacked the break a few minutes earlier. He then continued to push as he navigated around the huge crowds and fans running, sometimes too closely next to him. He had time to enjoy his victory, with friends and family present. Fabio Aru (Astana) crossed the line, 20 seconds later and Voigt was third, a further five seconds back.
“When I was coming up on 5K I was getting goosebumps; I can’t even explain my emotions. My win today was a combination of knowing the course, and having teammates behind me. But once you get up that break, it’s every man for himself.”
Sutherland concluded, “This is definitely the biggest win of my career. I’m still coming to terms with how I pulled it off! It’s great for UnitedHealthcare and it’s great for me as well.”