By Eric Riggs With our GC contender being sick and the rest of us getting rolled pretty hard in the two opening time trials, we set our sights on redeeming ourselves by winning the remaining two stages. Since we were not in contention for GC and had the best sprinter in the race we were in a pretty powerful position to achieve this.
During Stage 3's crit we took a back line position and let the GC contenders battle it out between themselves. A break would go and a GC rider who missed it would weld the entire field back together. Over and over. With five laps remaining we put our entire team on the front in anticipation of a field sprint. Teammates Shawn Rosenthal, Travis Lyons, Steve O'Mara, Rainier Schaefer, and Adam Switters rode brilliantly giving myself and Daniel Holloway a stress-free ride to the final corner in winning position. Holloway jumped hard past me just before 200 meters and handily won the sprint and the stage.
We had the same plan for the road race. With us out of GC and with the strongest sprinter we had no incentive at all to power or even work in moves that did not guarantee us the stage win. Even with this in mind I still wanted one of us to get up the road in a small move to put added pressure on the other teams to carry us to a stage win.
A little after the start of the second lap I bridged up to David Benkoski (Team Clif Bar Cycling) and rode with him off the front for the remainder of the race. Back in the field my teammates did a reportedly stellar job of covering all the moves and getting their free rides in the chase after us.
On the last lap it became apparent to me that the break would stay clear to the finish line and Benkoski would most likely take the sprint. With six miles to go I told him I was done working and not comfortable going to the line with him when my sprinter is fresh from sitting in all day behind me. Benkoski put his head down and kept working while I tried to appear as strong as I could to dissuade him.
Keith Hillier (Marc Pro - Strava) bridged up with about three miles remaining and worked with Benkoski to keep us in front of a looming peloton. Coming into 200 meters I jumped and held it to the finish for the stage win while Hillier gave chase and inadvertently led out Benkoski for second place. Holloway won the field sprint immediately behind us for fourth, but was later moved into third as an Official who seemed to be having a pretty horrible day relegated Hillier to eighth.
Special thanks go out to Heather Pugh, our hardworking, hybrid soigner-cook who made us all kings for the weekend.
Check out a Norcal Cycling News article on Holloway's crit win here.