Team Bissell put a rider in the breakaway during every stage of this year's Amgen Tour of California. On Wednesday, Jeremy Vennell and Ben Jacques-Maynes went up the road for the California-based team. On the lower slopes of Mount Hamilton, Vennell was the last rider to be caught by the main field.
For Jacques-Maynes, stage 4 marked his second day this week in the break. His twin brother Andy Jacques-Maynes, meanwhile, spent a long day out during Tuesday's stage 3 between Auburn and Modesto. "You've had a Jacques-Maynes in the break everyday. Fortunately, I've got a stunt double," said Ben Jacques-Maynes.
The attacks began as soon as the field left the neutral circuits through the streets of Livermore. Determined to establish an early breakaway, riders repeatedly attacked the field with several moves coming from the Bissell team. Finally, a move from Vennell succeeded, and soon the group swelled to 10 riders. "When the first time gap came in at 2:00, I thought we'd make over Mount Hamilton," said Jacques-Maynes after the stage.
But the gap did not hold. Back in the main field, Team RadioShack came to the front and laid down the law. "It makes sense what they did. They wanted to keep everyone in the field on their toes," said Jacques-Maynes of the RadioShack tactics. The fast tempo in the field kept the pressure on RadioShack's rivals and doomed the chances of the breakaway.
"We chilled out over the first KOM, and expected the time gap to go up, but it went down. That lit the fire under us and we started riding hard," said Jacques-Maynes. The break worked well together with riders only skipping turns when they reached their limits. "Everyone knew the score," said Jacques-Maynes.
The 10-rider break, which included the firepower of World Champion Thor Hushovd of Garmin-Cervélo and past World Cyclo-cross Champion Lars Boom of Rabobank, kept the pressure on and stayed just beyond the reach of the main field. "I've ridden through these roads. Today it was like motorpacing. We were going 40-50 km/hr. We had 10 guys going flat out," said Jacques-Maynes.
Despite their daily efforts, Team Bissell has yet to stand on the podium at this year's race. They are chasing a stage win or recognition in the daily Amgen's Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider competition. "Jeremy [Vennell] instigated the break and was the last one caught. In any other race, that would have been worthy, but I guess there was a lot of racing after that," said Jacques-Maynes. The Amgen Tour of California is the biggest race of the year for the local boys from Bissell.
Thursday's stage between Seaside and Paso Robles is a bit of a wildcard in this Amgen Tour of California. "Tomorrow would be the day that a break could go away. Sunday is too short, and it will be very controlled," said Jacques-Maynes. Much depends on how hard RadioShack chooses to ride in defense of Chris Horner's Yellow Jersey and how determined the sprinters' teams are to chase. "RadioShack will have to control the race tomorrow. A lot of people will want to rest between the two GC days," said Jacques-Maynes. "We're just going to keep going out and racing our bikes hard."