Stage 2, the 78.5-mile (126 km) Three Creeks Road Race brought about the same scenario as the previous stage in both the men's and women's races: a break that makes it to the final climb, field chasing, break disintegrating under attacks, winner from the break, select riders from the field catching up to remnants of break.
But there was one difference, winner Matt Wilson (Team Type 1) had the extra incentive of riding for his injured teammate Ben Brooks who after heavily crashing in the first stage, remains in intensive care in critical, but stable condition. Wilson said the Brooks was on his mind all day and that he decided to win it for Ben when he got into the break.
Wilson not only picked the stage win but took over the lead in the general classification, and the KOM jersey,
"My initial feeling was one of happiness of this being all great," Wilson said in the team report. "But the first thing you think about is that you don’t have the right to be so happy about it when Ben is in the hospital. So I definitely have mixed emotions."
The Garmin-Chipotle team had enough of chasing all day yesterday so they went on the offensive. After some 20 miles (30 km), a break of 12 escaped the field which included three duos: Garmen Steven Cozza and Tom Petersen, Health Net-Maxxis duo of Kyle Gritters and Cory Collier, and Wilson and his teammate Valeriy Kobzarenko. Also in the break were Tom Zirbel (Bissell), Chris Wherry (Toyota-United), Stefano Barberi (THF), Allen Krughoff (Team Rio Grande), Brian Jensen (Successful Living), and Andy Jacques-Maynes (Cal Giant). The number came down to 10, as Jacques-Maynes flatted and Krughoff was dropped.
Working well, and with strong engines like Zirbelicious, Cozza and Kobza, the gap kept increasing to one minute, two minutes, and eventually up to four minutes.
The two teams not represented were yellow jersey Santiago Botero's Rock Racing and the BMC team. Rock Racing could not or did not want to chase (depends on which report you read) and the task fell to the BMC team.
"We had agreed with Rock to help with the chasing to keep the break close," BMC's Darren Lill said in the team report. "But after a bit, Rock stopped helping in the chase, leaving us to do all the work. We weren’t even leading the race, so we decided to get creative." So Lill and his teammate Ian McKissick went up the road and started chasing the break getting a minute by the bottom of the final climb.
Finally, Rock Racing's Cesar Grajales and Astana's Chris Horner came to the front of the field setting a high tempo for their respective teammate and shelling guys off the back.
Cozza was the first to launch an attack on the long haul up Three Creeks, setting it up for his teammate. As soon as he was caught, Petersen and Wilson counter-attacked and were off in a drag race to the finish with Wilson taking the honors. Collier finished third, at 31 seconds back, followed by Cozza, Zirbel and Wherry. Leipheimer made his move on the final climb (again) and caught up to half the breakaway and finished fifth.
Shuffle in the GC. Wilson now leads Leipheimer with 37 seconds. Botero moved down to third spot 45 seconds behind the new leader. Toyota-United's Chris Baldwin is fourth and Zirbel moved up to fifth spot.
With the time trial coming up, we can expect the jersey to change hands again with very strong time trialists Leipheimer, Botero, Baldwin and others in the field. But Wilson wants to get it back. "Now that I have it, I’m not going to sit back and not defend it. But it’s going to be virtually impossible to hang onto it tomorrow against such strong time trialists. But there’s still a lot of racing to come after that."
Today is a double-stage day. Stage 3 in the morning is the 15-mile out and back Skyliners Time Trial. Last year, Phil Zajicek set the fastest time in the TT with a climb in the middle, grabbed the leader's jersey and never let go. The women set off at 12:00 (noon) and the first man is at 12:50pm. (Pro men startlist, pro women startlist)
The sprinters come out and play in the late afternoon for stage 4, the popular six corners, flat and fast Criterium in the heart of downtown Bend.
Photos: Copyright Kurt Jambretz (www.actionimages.cc)
Full results here.