28 August 2011

Another Eugene Celebration stage race over, and boy what a race! After the prologue on Friday night I was leading the GC, but only by 7 seconds from Giant MTB Pro Carl Decker. The road race yesterday was 4 laps totalling 76 miles, with a couple of climbs. My Hutch’s team had a plan and we executed it perfectly – the break of the day went on the second lap, only three riders, with one of them being my teammate Nick just sitting on. That meant that I could sit in the pack whilst the other top ten riders had to chase once the lead went up to 4 minutes. I wasn’t too concerned; it was a 95 degree day, and it was going to be a long way with only two riders sharing the work out front. With a lap to go, the break was back in sight, but then everyone pretty much sat up and the time started going out again. So with half a lap to go, I started doing short turns with my remaining teammate Paul doing much longer ones, with the aim of catching the break on the final hill. Sure enough we caught Nick and Dave at the top, but Eli (Team Oregon) was still out front – he did a great ride as despite Paul and I pulling hard inside the last two miles, he held off to take the win by a few seconds. But all to plan, I just needed to do a good time trial to maintain my lead.

This morning was the 15 mile time trial. As leader I was the last man to start, 30 seconds behind Carl. I did a pretty good ride – my time was 31:23 (compared to my all time best on that course of 30:57), but Carl did a better one, beating me by 21 seconds to take over the lead by 15 seconds.

So I thought my chance of winning was done – very hard to make up that sort of time in a criterium. But I hadn’t realised there were time bonuses – 15 seconds for the win – so in theory it was possible. Once again the team had a plan – they would take care of keeping the race somewhat under control, and I would save it all for one move at the end. This year I have been good at remaining tranquil in the bunch, just waiting for the right moment, and tonight was no exception. I stayed out of the wind until one lap to go, and then attacked really hard, sprinting as if it was the finish to get a gap. Which I did, then I had to hold it for a lap – on the finishing straight the line seemed a long way away with the pack closing behind. But I held them off to take my first ever road win in Oregon! Behind, Nick did a tactical sprint for second to ensure Carl didn’t get a time bonus, but without catching me. So I got the stage, but what about the overall? 15 seconds was the gap and 15 seconds was the bonus…. It had to go to countback on the tenths of a second from the time trials; twenty minutes of calculations by the judges eventually announced…. that I had won! Very exciting, that is my fourth win in a row in this event. Many thanks to Sal and the OBRA crew for putting it on, and to my teammates for a great race!

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