BMC Racing Team's Jackson Stewart surprised himself with good form this week, turning out a win in the Cherry Pie Criterium in Napa, California last Sunday, giving a strong indication of his form in the lead up to the Tour of California. The 27-year-old from Los Gatos surprised himself with the win, saying he doubted his form following the Tour of Qatar.
"I didn't feel one hundred percent, but I felt alright," he said on the team's website. Stewart made the winning breakaway, and then was able to take the sprint. "After getting home from Qatar, I was having problems with my training. The racing there was very intense and I had crashed in Qatar. I think the long flight home was the nail in the coffin as far as how resilient my body felt. And the week leading up to the Cherry Pie Crit I had been getting massages and seeing the chiropractor, but I was still frustrated with how my body was reacting."
Stewart received encouragement from his coach, Charlie Livermore, and help fine-tuning his position before the race. "I think that helped me mentally know that nothing really was wrong, and my body was just a bit tired," Stewart explained. He and team-mates Alex Moss and Mike Sayers went into the race attentive, covering every move. "I think Alex went first and then Mike, but both their breaks were pulled back. It just happened that it was my turn to follow a break and that was the one that stayed away. Luckily I was racing with Alex and Mike since they are both big experienced guys and they were able to help control the race behind our break."
The win gave both Stewart and his team confidence going into the much bigger Tour of California. "Even though it was only a local race, there were a lot of guys racing it that will also be at California too, so it is a good confidence booster," said Stewart. "Any win is always a bonus."
Stewart guessed the same approach would be used to some extent in the Tour of California, where he took most aggressive rider on stage four last year. "I'm sure we will race opportunistically. [Alexander] Moos is definitely a guy we can shoot for getting high on the GC, and Darren Lill has a lot of potential in that vein too.
"[Jeff] Louder and [Scott] Nydam are always threats, even if Scott has recently felt as beat up as I do. And the rest of the guys like Taylor Tolleson, Tony Cruz, Danilo Wyss and myself will hopefully be strong in the flatter finishes."
Stewart mused that staying away in a break might be a bit harder than it was in the Cherry Hill criterium in the Tour of California. "The circuit finishes don't really give the US racers an advantage, but they do generally ensure that breakaways will have a hard time staying away until the finish. But we'll always be in the action of the race. Success in the classifications will fall into place when we do that well."