Tom Zirbel made his way into a seven-rider breakaway that finished more than a minute ahead of the field Saturday during the stage 5 Menomonie Road Race of the Nature Valley Grand Prix and took back the yellow jersey he gave up on stage 2. Alejandro Barrajo won the stage ahead of Jelly Belly's Christian Kriek and Competitive Cyclist's Tommy Nankervis.
In the women's race, Specialized-lululemon's Emilia Fahlin won a sprint finish ahead of teammate Loren Rowney, and Optum Pro Cycling-Kelly Benefit Strategies' Carmen Small held onto her overall race lead.
For the penultimate stage of the tour the race traveled to Wisconsin, where the men faced 160 km of rolling rural terrain and the women tackled 131 km.
Optum once again put a clamp on the women's field to protect Small's race lead, setting up a sprint finish after four circuits of a 4.8 km circuit around the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus in Menomonie. TIBCO-To the Top once again tried multiple attacks, with Megan Guarnier hanging onto the Most Aggressive Rider jersey she took the previous night at the Uptown Minneapolis Criterium, but none of the day's moves gained enough traction to prevent a bunch sprint in the finale.
"We wanted to control things," Small said. "So we would always let kind of one or two riders out and then just ride tempo. The more they were out there the easier it was to control the field. We wanted a group to come into the finish, so we weren't looking for a breakaway today."
Indeed, the group came into town together riding tempo. Recently named Olympic hopeful Amber Neben (Specialized-lululemon) jumped off the front on the first of the four circuits to try a solo flyer. But Neben's move also fell victim to a chase led by Optum and Exergy, which went to the front with three to go intent on leading Cliff-Ryan to her third stage win of the tour.
With one to go the field was all together, and Specialized-lululemon took advantage of the opportunity to launch their lead out train past Cliff-Ryan's Exergy line up, delivering Fahlin and Rowney into first and second on the stage, while Vanderkitten's Emily Collins rounded out the podium. Cliff-Ryan, who managed fourth, said the team took over too early to sustain a proper lead out.
"We started with three laps to go," she said. "And on this course, it's three miles, it's not a crit course. So we're still learning as a team. They did a perfect lead out, but everything was just a bit early. So a little mistake today, but we'll fix it."
Collins benefited from the Exergy mistake, jumping on the Specialized-lululemon train as they swamped Cliff-Ryan's lead out riders.
"(Fahlin and Rowney) came through, and I hopped on Loren's wheel coming around the last corner," Collins said. "They did a good job, because I couldn't come around at that point. Looking back I should have gone earlier, but I'm happy to be up there today."
Fahlin, who said she was originally trying to lead out Rowney, was especially happy with the win after two stages of not being able to get past Cliff-Ryan's finishing kick.
"We had to try something," she said. "We were on their train on the last stretch, and on the last right I figured we just had to go. I knew I had Loren on my wheel, and I started the sprint really, really early. But she wasn't able to stick on my wheel, so I came first through the last corner and held it."
Small, who finished fifth on the stage and leads Fahlin now by 25 seconds and Neben by 44, has one more day to defend yellow before she can claim the final overall prize. The stage 6 Stillwater Criterium is a 2.25 km course with grades on the infamous Chilkoot Hill approaching 20 percent. Small said the team is ready for the challenge despite having had to control the race since day one.
"The hill isn't too bad itself, because it's only about 30 seconds long," Small said of Chillkoot. "But it's what comes after the hill, where it's a false flat and goes uphill a little more. It's a race of attrition, so you just hang in there as long as possible."
Zirbel rolls the dice and regains yellow, Barrajo sprints to stage win
The men's 160 km race was characteristically aggressive, with attack after attack animating the first two hours of racing. But nothing could stick over the rolling course until Zirbel got off the front on a slight downhill after the second-to-last KOM about 96 km into the race. He was quickly joined by Barrajo, Kriek, Nankervis, Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling), Andres Diaz (Team Exergy), Coulton Hartrich (Athletix-GlobalBike) and Elbowz Racing's Heath Blackgrove.
"I just kind of rolled off the front and that was it," Zirbel said. "They'd just had enough. Then a couple of guys bridged and a couple of more guys bridged."
The diversified nature of the group added to its chances for success, as did the worn out field led by a Kenda/5-Hour Energy squad that had burned a lot of matches the night before defending John Murphy's race lead.
"It was perfect because every team was represented except Kenda," Zirbel said. "Nobody had two teammates, so it was really even working and everyone was motivated. We knew the gap was established, and that's all it takes. When you have a bunch of guys who are tired and a yellow jersey team that was basically in tatters by that point, yeah, it's hard. We were organized, and that's probably more than you could say for the peloton, because I'm sure they were just as tired as we were."
Barrajo said he was happy to work with Zirbel because their different goals complimented each other well; Zirbel wanted time in the overall battle, and he wanted the stage win.
The group's gap ballooned to more than two minutes before it started coming back down. The seven escapees had just 50 seconds going over the final KOM with about 27 km remaining, but by the time they had reached Menomonie to start their four finishing circuits, their advantage had bumped back up to 1:45. Nankervis said the breakaway picked up the pace on the run into town to make sure all of their hard work paid off.
"When he had about 30 or 40 km to go, people started to get a bit complacent," Nankervis said. "But a few of us were just motivating everyone to keep working. Because if you're going to invest that much in it you might as well keep going. You don't want to walk away with no result."
The 1:45 gap held for several circuits in town before the field began to whittle into it, but by then it was far too late to do much. Jacques-Maynes fell off the pace briefly and lost contact but dug deep and fought his way back into the group before they all came through together for the bell lap.
Barrajo got the advantage coming out of the last corner and easily outpaced his breakaway companions for the stage win, with Kriek and Nankervis filling out the top three.
Zirbel finished fifth, and with the bunch that contained Murphy coming in 1:08 down, Zirbel took back the yellow jersey he won on the opening stage time trial but then surrendered to Murphy at the stage 2 criterium in St. Paul. Jacques-Maynes moved into second overall, 17 seconds off the leader, and Diaz grabbed the third overall spot, just 18 seconds in arrears. Hartrich, who won two stages at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic just a few days before Nature Valley, grabbed the best amateur jersey and sits fourth overall, 36 seconds off the leader's time.
Now Zirbel, one of the biggest riders in the peloton, has the unenviable job of defending yellow on one of the toughest criterium courses in the country. But he said he was ready to rely on his Optum team to help him make it happen.
"I have total confidence that they're going to put me in the right position," he said. "They're very strong. We lost (Mike) Friedman (in a stage 2 crash), which was unfortunate, but we've still got five strong guys. It should be interesting."
Optum team director Jonas Carney also gave his overall leader a vote of confidence going into the final stage.
"Tom's a big guy, but he climbs well for a big guy," Carney said. "We'll try to defend for him tomorrow, and he only has a few guys to keep an eye on. If he has a good day I think he'll be OK, and if he has a bad day we'll try to control Diaz and Jacques-Maynes. I feel like Tom can do it, and we're going to give a thousand percent for him tomorrow."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alejandro Borrajo (Arg) Jamis-Sutter Home||3:40:02|
|2||Christiaan Krick (RSA) Jelly Belly Cycling||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|3||Tommy Nankervis (USA) Competitive Cyclist Racing Team||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|4||Heath Blackgrove (NZl) Elbowz Racing||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|5||Tom Zirbel (USA) Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Coulton Hartrich (USA) Athletix Cycling Team Benefiting Globalbike||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Andres Diaz (Col) Team Exergy||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Daniel Holt (USA) Team Type 1 Development||0:01:08|
|10||Tyler Wren (USA) Jamis-Sutter Home||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Ty Magner (USA) BMC-Hincapie Development Team||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|12||Carlos Alzate (Col) Team Exergy||0:01:13|
|13||Charles Huff (USA) Jelly Belly Cycling||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Freddie Rodriguez (USA) Team Exergy||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Jesse Anthony (USA) Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|16||Frank Pipp (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|17||John Murphy (USA) Kenda/5-Hour Energy p/b Geargrinder||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|18||David Lozano (Spa) Team Type 1 Development||Row 17 - Cell 2|
|19||Hector Hugo Rangel (Mex) Mexican National Team||Row 18 - Cell 2|
|20||Christian Helmig (USA) Elbowz Racing||Row 19 - Cell 2|
|21||Devan Dunn (USA) CashCall Mortgage||Row 20 - Cell 2|
|22||Mike Creed (USA) Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||Row 21 - Cell 2|
|23||Stefano Barberi (USA) CashCall Mortgage||Row 22 - Cell 2|
|24||Cesar Grajales (Col) Competitive Cyclist Racing Team||Row 23 - Cell 2|
|25||Luis Devila (Mex) Jelly Belly Cycling||Row 24 - Cell 2|
|26||Scott Zwizanski (USA) Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||Row 25 - Cell 2|
|27||Alder Martz (USA) BMC-Hincapie Development Team||Row 26 - Cell 2|
|28||Travis Livermon (USA) Team Mountain Khakis/SmartStop||Row 27 - Cell 2|
|29||Bobby Sweeting (USA) Kenda/5-Hour Energy p/b Geargrinder||Row 28 - Cell 2|
|30||Luis Amaran (Cub) Jamis-Sutter Home||Row 29 - Cell 2|
|31||Zack Allison (USA) Mercy Cycling Team||Row 30 - Cell 2|
|32||Andrew Bajadali (USA) Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Ricardo Van der Velde (Ned) Jelly Belly Cycling||Row 32 - Cell 2|
|34||Mike Olheiser (USA) Competitive Cyclist Racing Team||Row 33 - Cell 2|
|35||David Santos (USA) CashCall Mortgage||Row 34 - Cell 2|
|36||Chris Winn (Aus) Horizon Organic/Panache||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Lee Muse (USA) CashCall Mortgage||Row 36 - Cell 2|
|38||Connor McCutcheon (USA) Nature Valley Cycling Team||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Eric Marcotte (USA) Elbowz Racing||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Michael Woell (USA) Freewheel Bike||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Chris Baldwin (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||Row 40 - Cell 2|
|42||Andy Jacques-Maynes (USA) Kenda/5-Hour Energy p/b Geargrinder||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Travis McCabe (USA) Landis/Trek||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Tanner Putt (USA) BMC-Hincapie Development Team||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Austin Allison (USA) Horizon Organic/Panache||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Cole House (USA) Competitive Cyclist Racing Team||0:01:24|
|47||Jean Michel Lachance (USA) Rossetti Devo Cycling Team||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Ryan Knapp (USA) Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist||0:01:32|
|49||Thomas Jondall (USA) Landis/Trek||0:01:38|
|50||Josh Yeaton (USA) Horizon Organic/Panache||0:01:42|
|51||Jeremy Powers (USA) Jelly Belly Cycling||0:01:46|
|52||Ivan Dominguez (USA) Competitive Cyclist Racing Team||0:01:57|
|53||Logan Hutchings (NZl) Team Hotel San Jose/Boneshaker||0:02:01|
|54||Mike Stone (USA) BMC-Hincapie Development Team||0:02:03|
|55||Ryan Wills (NZl) Team Hotel San Jose/Boneshaker||0:05:51|
|56||Shawn Milne (USA) Kenda/5-Hour Energy p/b Geargrinder||0:07:43|
|57||Kyle Wamsley (USA) Jamis-Sutter Home||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Zachary Davies (USA) Team Exergy||0:21:28|
|59||Jonathan Toftoy (USA) Twin Six||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Joseph Schmalz (USA) Elbowz Racing||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Tim Rugg (USA) Champion System p/b Stan's NoTubes||Row 60 - Cell 2|
|62||Andy Baker (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||Row 61 - Cell 2|
|63||Andrew Dahlheim (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||Row 62 - Cell 2|
|64||Shawn Gravois (USA) Athletix Cycling Team Benefiting Globalbike||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Austin Vinton (USA) Mercy Cycling Team||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Winston David (USA) Athletix Cycling Team Benefiting Globalbike||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Christian Parrett (USA) Athletix Cycling Team Benefiting Globalbike||Row 66 - Cell 2|
|68||Sean Sullivan (USA) Elbowz Racing||0:22:28|
|69||Matt Gorter (NZl) Astellas Oncology Cycling Team p/b ABD||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Colton Jarisch (USA) Mercy Cycling Team||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Ben Zawacki (USA) Team Mountain Khakis/SmartStop||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Chris Uberti (USA) Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Brandon Feehery (USA) Astellas Oncology Cycling Team p/b ABD||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Alex Meyer (USA) ISCorp||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Tony Olson (USA) Nature Valley Cycling Team||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Jose Antogna (Arg) Jamis-Sutter Home||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Guido Palma (Arg) Jamis-Sutter Home||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Ryan Aitcheson (Can) Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Michael Dziedzic (USA) Landis/Trek||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|80||Luca Damiani (Ita) Kenda/5-Hour Energy p/b Geargrinder||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|81||Sean Mazich (USA) Jelly Belly Cycling||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||Clay Murfet (Aus) Team Mountain Khakis/SmartStop||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Mat Stephens (USA) Elbowz Racing||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Branden Russell (USA) Team Type 1 Development||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Josh Gillingham (Can) ISCorp||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Ricky Gargiulo (USA) Champion System p/b Stan's NoTubes||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||Alexey Shmidt (Rus) Team Type 1 Development||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Andrew Minier (USA) Twin Six||0:27:18|
|89||Nicholas Coil (USA) Mercy Cycling Team||Row 88 - Cell 2|
|90||Chad Hartley (USA) Kenda/5-Hour Energy p/b Geargrinder||0:27:28|
|91||Paolo Cravanzola (Ita) Team Type 1 Development||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|92||Chris Doig (USA) Freewheel Bike||Row 91 - Cell 2|
|93||Brandon Krawczyk (USA) Twin Six||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|94||Diego Sandoval (Mex) Mexican National Team||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|95||Peter Hurst (USA) BikeReg.com / Cannondale Elite Cycling Team||Row 94 - Cell 2|
|96||Tomas Roba (USA) Horizon Organic/Panache||Row 95 - Cell 2|
|97||Joshua Roeser (USA) Twin Six||Row 96 - Cell 2|
|98||Adam Froemming (USA) Freewheel Bike||Row 97 - Cell 2|
|99||Jens Brabbit (USA) Twin Six||Row 98 - Cell 2|
|100||Evan Burkhart (USA) BikeReg.com / Cannondale Elite Cycling Team||Row 99 - Cell 2|
|101||Dan Harm (USA) Astellas Oncology Cycling Team p/b ABD||Row 100 - Cell 2|
|102||Joseph Welsh (USA) Athletix Cycling Team Benefiting Globalbike||Row 101 - Cell 2|
|103||Gevan Samuel (PuR) Rossetti Devo Cycling Team||Row 102 - Cell 2|
|104||Dylan Jones (USA) Mercy Cycling Team||Row 103 - Cell 2|
|105||Tyler Brandt (USA) Nature Valley Cycling Team||Row 104 - Cell 2|
|106||James Stangeland (USA) Nature Valley Cycling Team||Row 105 - Cell 2|
|107||Liam Donoghue (USA) ISCorp||Row 106 - Cell 2|
|108||Eric Young (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling||Row 107 - Cell 2|
|109||Kip Spaude (USA) ISCorp||Row 108 - Cell 2|
|110||Chris Monteleone (USA) Team Mountain Khakis/SmartStop||Row 109 - Cell 2|
|111||Kyle Knott (USA) Athletix Cycling Team Benefiting Globalbike||0:29:41|
|112||Nick Traggis (USA) Horizon Organic/Panache||0:30:18|
|113||Braden Bingham (USA) Horizon Organic/Panache||Row 112 - Cell 2|
|114||Steve Weller (USA) BikeReg.com / Cannondale Elite Cycling Team||Row 113 - Cell 2|
|115||George Cyrus (USA) Landis/Trek||0:51:18|
|116||Nick Schreiber (USA) Landis/Trek||0:56:28|
|117||Wes Holloway (USA) CashCall Mortgage||Row 116 - Cell 2|
|118||Justin Williams (USA) CashCall Mortgage||Row 117 - Cell 2|
|119||David Zimmermann (USA) Freewheel Bike||1:02:13|
|DNF||Logan Loader-Mooney (USA) Team Exergy||Row 119 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Zach Bergh (USA) Astellas Oncology Cycling Team p/b ABD||Row 120 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Andre Vandenberg (USA) Astellas Oncology Cycling Team p/b ABD||Row 121 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Thomas Brown (USA) Team Mountain Khakis/SmartStop||Row 122 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Jerome Townsend (USA) Team Mountain Khakis/SmartStop||Row 123 - Cell 2|
|DNF||John Tomlinson (USA) ISCorp||Row 124 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Emile Abraham (USA) Rossetti Devo Cycling Team||Row 125 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Andrew Crater (USA) Rossetti Devo Cycling Team||Row 126 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Alexander Gonzalez (Col) Rossetti Devo Cycling Team||Row 127 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Chad Adair (NZl) Team Hotel San Jose/Boneshaker||Row 128 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Pete Custer (USA) Nature Valley Cycling Team||Row 129 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Evan Fader (USA) Nature Valley Cycling Team||Row 130 - Cell 2|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Andres Diaz (Col) Team Exergy||5||pts|
|2||Eric Marcotte (USA) Elbowz Racing||3||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Luis Amaran (Cub) Jamis-Sutter Home||1||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Andrew Bajadali (USA) Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies||5||pts|
|2||Logan Hutchings (NZl) Team Hotel San Jose/Boneshaker||3||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Joseph Welsh (USA) Athletix Cycling Team Benefiting Globalbike||1||Row 2 - Cell 3|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result||Header Cell - Column 3|
|1||Tommy Nankervis (USA) Competitive Cyclist Racing Team||5||pts|
|2||Christiaan Krick (RSA) Jelly Belly Cycling||3||Row 1 - Cell 3|
|3||Coulton Hartrich (USA) Athletix Cycling Team Benefiting Globalbike||1||Row 2 - Cell 3|