We returned to Bend Oregon for one our favorite races of the year. The weather, the town and the racing have always treated us well and this year was no exception.
The first day's Prologue time trial was a quick 2.5 mile spin through the neighborhood. Everyone was a little unsure of their form, but after the race we placed 7 guys in the top 20 so it appeared that everyone was pretty ok.
The first road stage had to be rerouted because of a pesky fire that was burning right on the road we were suppose to finish on. The race organization did a great job of securing an alternate venue, basically a reverse of the stage we were scheduled to do on Friday. The finish was on top of Mt Bachelor, where there was still snow. Apparently they get 400 inches a year. The early break was easily reeled in and it set up for a big group finish at the summit. Joe Lewis and Joey were 2nd and 3rd behind a fast charging US national champ...Eric Marcotte. The rest of the team was in the 40 man group that came to the line so I though we were still sitting well for the rest of the race.
The following day's Time Trial was on an out and back course that had a bit of lingering smoke from the fire. Joey caught his minute man and rolled home for a great finish but was upstaged by eventual winner, Serghei Tsvetkov. Dion, Joe and Robin all had great TTs so we finished the day off by having a lot of bullets in the chamber for what we thought would be a game changer day out on Mt Bachelor again.
The plan was to make sure we could put one or two people in the break, Toms seemed to have a little spark in his step just like he did on Megantec last month so I was certain he would be there for the final climb. The race started with a neutral 3 miles but that didn't prevent some riders from sympathetically crashing into each other and causing a massive pileup. You would think a grown person could ride through a neighborhood and not fall down. Some riders look and act like a paint can balanced on a stir stick. Maybe USA cycling could have a mandatory bike handling class… Oscar took the brunt of the crash for us and once we got him patched up and back up to the race they got it going again. The road was a steady up hill grind and 40 guys got dropped almost immediately while Toms and a group of 10 road away from the front.
That group was able to get a max of 3 minutes on the field as well as the Bissell team. A bunch of random guys road pretty hard prior to the climb to get their GC guys in contention. The final climb turned out not to be as tough as we thought it would be and therefore we road a little conservative. Toms was joined by GC guys, Reben Zepuntke and Bjorn Selander on the climb and they had about 30 seconds at the top. Toms sprinted in for second behind an on form Travis McCabe, not exactly the result we wanted but we still had a great ride. Afterwards the team road the 20 miles back home to pack in some training prior to The Tour of Utah.
Saturday's criterium was hard from the start, we wanted to try and break something off to make the Jelly Belly guys work. After about half way a break did go and it just did not have the right combo. Oscar was in it and very capable but so was McCabe, so we had to kill it. McCabe apparently couldn't understand why Oscar wasn't working so he kept attacking until he crashed himself in the second turn. That took the wind out of the breakaways sails so the field quickly caught them and the finish looked to be a regular field sprint. Optum set the pace and we were just to the inside of them for the last 2 laps. In the final lap it was us against Optum. Low and behold Serghei came rolling through and took an amazing sprint win and what would prove to be the race changer 10 second time bonus. Ty was 3rd...again good but not what we wanted.
Hurray! Aubrey Butte! The hardest, hottest stage of the race. This is what we were waiting for…The plan was to make the race as hard as possible from the gun and get a break up the road and then continue to get our guys across as the race went on. That’s what we did, I think the only breaks we missed were the ones that we started. At one point we had 5 guys out of 16…that proved to be the winning move. Dion Smith made the front of that split and we lost the other 4…setting up a last lap launch from Joey to get across. With 11 or so riders in the front and 2 guys from each of the major teams this was perfect. The group had a lot of firepower and Jelly Belly had a tough task in bringing them back. The break raced into the final turn and that pesky Eric Marcotte jumped early and held on to take another great win. Dion and Joey were 3rd and 4th. In the field it was only the Bissell team and Serghei going all out to catch…we needed 50 seconds and in the end but Serghei did what he needed and rode tempo to the finish and he ended up winning the race by 7 seconds. Great win for him and for the Jelly Belly Team. I love a good battle. Joey was our top placed overall in 4th, Dion and Toms also ended up top 10.
So, lots of podiums lots of racing and lots of miles. The team rode great all week, no weakness and for that great team riding we won the "Best Team" classification again! So, finally we climbed to the top step in this race! Now the team heads to park City Utah for some altitude adaption before The Tour of Utah.
- Thomas Craven, Chief Sports Director