Belgian Tom Devriendt of Team 3M outsprinted his breakmates in the pouring rain to win the Menomonie Road Race, stage 5 of the North Star Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon. Australian Fabio Calabria of Horizon Organic/Einstein Bros was second and the reigning US National Champion Eric Marcotte of Team SmartStop was third. The three were part of an early five-rider breakaway that stayed away to the finish line to battle it out for the stage win.
“We started the last 25 kilometers with three minutes before the first group but when we came on the laps, the peloton came at one minute and 25 so I knew it was going to be a tough ride. I played a bit of poker, there were a lot of corners and in the rain it was dangerous but I had a good tactic in my mind to make them think that I’m not a good turner and the last lap, I was so focused. When I smell the finish, I’m unbeatable.” said Devriendt with a laugh.
First time racing in the United Stages, Devriendt is enjoying his experience. “It’s really nice. When you’re used to race in Belgium, it’s so different. When we do the crits here, it’s awesome, it’s nice, it’s like a family. A lot of wind and hilly too, it’s nice.”
The battle for the overall win took a back seat in today’s 101-mile stage and Canadian Ryan Anderson of Team Optum remained safely in the yellow leader’s jersey.
Attacks flew early as the peloton left Menomonie under cloudy skies but nothing was sticking with too many riders trying to escape. The field was still together for the first King of the Hills and the first Points sprints. For Optum, it was all about getting the right combination of riders in the break and for many teams, it was about making the move.
“In the beginning, there were a lot of guys that wanted to be in the break, a lot of guys down on GC so we let much of the race race itself and then if the group was getting too big then the guys would quickly form at the front and keep it under control.” Anderson explained.
Finally the right combination was found. “There were a lot of attacks, my team was always in one of the attacks but Optum always caught them. I think with 30 or 35 kilometers, we were riding away. We ride for 5 kilometers and they let us go.” commented Devriendt.
The breakaway consisted of Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly), Griffin Easter (Airgas), Gabriel Baca (Elbowz), Marcotte, Calabria and Devriendt. By the second King of the Hills sprint, the gap was over two minutes. With Calabria the highest placed rider at over five minutes from Anderson, Optum was never worried and controlled the pace at the front of the field.
Calabria went after his first priority of the day and collected KOH points to take over the Sports Beans King of the Hills jersey. “We wanted to have someone from the team in the break today just to show everyone that we’re here and we’re here to race so the plan was to get into the break, and then obviously try to get the KOH points because the climbs were weighted pretty heavily.”
A few riders launched from the field on the fourth and final KOH, with 26 miles to go in the stage. Counter-attacking after his teammate was reeled in, Ansel Dickey (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) was soon joined by David Santos (KHS-Maxxis-Jakroo) and Coulton Hartrich (SeaSucker/Guttenplan). The trio were reeled back in on the second finishing circuit.
The gap which extended to a maximum of three minutes and 40 seconds was coming down as the break entered the first of four 2.75-mile finishing circuits in Menomonie.
Calabria said, “I think everyone was pretty tired but we definitely still had to ride so we’d stay away. I think everyone did a pretty good job of riding until probably real close maybe two corners out. And then, Freddie hit out a few times on the last lap, he hit out pretty hard coming out of the second to last corner and so he ended up leading it out. I came out of the corner fourth on Marcotte and everyone went for it coming out of the last corner and that was that.”
Marcotte took top points in three point sprints to claim the green Xcel Energy Sprinter jersey. Ben Wolfe (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) retained the white TRIA Orthopedic Center Best Young Rider jersey while Santos keeps the green North Star Top Amateur jersey. Devriendt was awarded the red Penn Cycle Most Aggressive Rider jersey.
The North Star Grand Prix concludes on Sunday with the legendary Stillwater Criterium which features a 24 degree climb up Chilikoot Hill. A climb that the racers will contest 23 times.