|THE WETBLOG HAS BEEN RE-IGNITED, |
JUST IN TIME FOR RACING SEASON
Saturday's afternoon criterium had a great festival atmosphere, better even than say half of the races at USA SPEEDWEEK in May. It was very apparent that this race has a 25 year history, is incredibly important for the struggling farming community of Merced, marks the beginning of the NorCal cycling season and is prestigiously regarded as one of the top three stage races of the year. Making it all too obvious why Logan, a Santa Cruz native, has had this race marked in red ink for months. Yesterday he proved that he is on great form so today we were excited to get out there and keep the ball rolling.
The course was shaped like the letter I, or more like a P and b placed on top of one another. This left a combination of 300 meter straightaways, short 70 meter bursts between corners, a lot of high-speed carving and some crafty bike handling as the roadway was well decorated with reflective turtles. The pace stayed high throughout the 80 minute event with California Giant riding extremely well on the front in defense of Huffman's yellow jersey. But with 14 laps to go (14 miles to go), Bissell took over and the pace increased. We waited in the corner quietly for our moment and with Bissell's train breaking down, Conor Mullervy took over with 1 lap remaining. The rest of the team peeled off over the course of the next 1500 metres and Freddie delivered Logan out of the final corner for the 350 meter drag to the line. Looking strong in the sprint, the nature of urban racing caught up with Exergy and Logan was pinched by the cement parking curbs in the final 100 metres, placing 3rd on the stage but moving up with time bonuses = another solid day! The team rode extremely well together, the best team ride I have ever been a part of and we protected Logan from the many new Cat.1/2 riders who were looking for attention but not necessarily in the most constructive of manners.
Starting Sunday's 192km stage, Bissell's Bevin led by 22 seconds over Optum's Zirbel, with Serge and Logan tied for 3rd at 23 seconds back, only 1 second behind Zirbel. With time bonuses at the intermediate sprints and 10 seconds in the finale, we had to be aggressive, stack the break and win the stage. Maybe send Serge up the road late with Zirbel, who we knew would try a late sneak after Optum had softened up Bissell's train.
|VeloImages: Beauty Day|
|VeloImages: Conor Mullervy Breaks|
After 70 minutes of attacks, a small four man breakaway established a gap with Team Exergy's Conor Mullervy. They reached a maximum advantage of 5 minutes but after 80 miles out front, were caught with one lap remaining (25 miles). At this point both Quinn and I were caught out with mechanical problems that weren't helped with stiff officiating and were dropped from the field as Zirbel attacked hard and Freddie followed, the field chasing behind. Despite his own mechanical problem during those tense moments, Logan was able to stay in the group with the help of Tino and Kevin while Serge waited patiently for the serious doodoo to hit the fan.
With 4km remaining, Serge got his wish and snuck up the road with Zirbel, placing extreme pressure on Bissell's diminished train and leading Bevin to cover those moves himself. Serge and Zirbel only needed 12 seconds to win the GC with the help of time bonuses. However at the red kite, it was gruppo compacto and Freddie dropped Logan off at 500 meters (essentially the base of the final 200 meter hill that led into the 300 meter downhill sprint finish). Logan cruised onto Optum's leadout despite the inherent chaos of the rapidly changing terrain and jumped past Ken Hanson (Optum) early at 250 metres with the help of a 54 tooth big ring, taking no chances today and sealing the victory in a stylish victory salute.
|VeloImages: Stage 4 Podium|
|Veloimages: Stage Win!|
Labels: Road Report