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Tour of Utah Stage 1: a day off for GC riders, Orica-GreenEDGE pulls overtime

August 7, 2013
Stage 1 start line, Jens Voigt and Michael Matthews (photo by Luis Barbosa)

Stage 1 start line, Jens Voigt and Michael Matthews (photo by Luis Barbosa)

While Orica-GreenEDGE was looking for a win on Stage 1 of the Tour of Utah, the teams with GC ambitions sought something very different – an easy day. The two plans weren’t all that compatible.

By the finish line the GC guys achieved their goal.

Orica got second.

Rest for GC guys

Frankie Andreu, Director of GC hopeful Francisco Mancebo’s 5-Hour Energy p/b Kenda team, put it this way: “Today’s kind of a day off – if you can have a day off in the Tour of Utah. Because if you look down the road the stages are so extremely hard coming up, you need every ounce of energy, you need to save as much as you can…Even if it’s one day, I’m going to try to take advantage of that.”

So Andreu didn’t instruct his team to get into the breakaway. Other directors may have done the same because when Chris Jones and Michael Torckler pulled away from the peloton early on, they didn’t spy anyone coming up to join their party (literally, since Jones celebrated his birthday on Tuesday).

Matthew Cooke, a strong climber and recent edition to the Jamis-Hagens Berman team who said he will be working 100% for teammate Janier Acevedo, shared Andreu’s concerns. “If you shred yourself today,” Cooke said, “you will pay the price later down the road.”

Comments from Garmin-Sharp’s Tom Danielson hinted at a conservative approach by that team too, at least on Stage 1, as team members test their legs after taking a break from racing or riding the Tour de France.

Overtime for Orica

With Jones’ and Torckler’s Bissell and UnitedHealthcare teams sitting in and those with GC ambitions unwilling to take up the chase, Orica shouldered much of the work in an effort to shape the outcome according to plan.

Chris Jones and Michael Torckler broke away early

Chris Jones and Michael Torckler broke away early

“We had to use all our team to bring the break-away back so we didn’t have much of a lead-out for the finish,” Michael Matthews explained after coming in second to BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet.

After the stage Orica director Matt Wilson shared one quick word as he drove away: “Disappointed.”

Matthews, who is searching for first win in 2013, was disappointed too though happy with his effort. “I felt really good all day. The boys worked really well for me all day – they had their trust in me,” he said. “I did my best in the final but there was just one guy that slipped away.”

Other teams who had sprint ambitions found the finish tough for different reasons.

Freddie Rodriguez (Jelly Belly), the new U.S. national road champion who finished ninth on the day, said he’s recovering from injuries. “Definitely it was a fast finish coming down that hill and everybody with fresh legs,” he said. “We were flying through the circuits. You could tell most teams didn’t have a good handle at taking control. It was just up in the air.”

The downhill angle to the last meters made it a finish for a more powerful sprinter. That’s why Van Avermaet attacked in the final kilometer. He said he didn’t think he could win going head-to-head with Matthews.

At the start UnitedHealthcare’s Mike Tamayo listed Kiel Reijnen and Alessandro Bazzana as the team’s two sprinters. Reijnen, this year’s Philly winner in a sprint, placed fifth.

“That sprint required a bit more power than I’ve got; I’m too small for that kind of stuff,” Reijnen explained after the finish. “Van Avermaet just went on that steep bit before the turn and I hesitated. I didn’t follow because it was a headwind and knowing it was a downhill sprint I thought it would be too fast to try and anticipate, but he’s a super strong rider so there’s only so much you can do.”

One more chance

There aren’t many projected large sprint finish days at this year’s Tour of Utah. Friday’s Salt Lake City circuit race is likely the only one remaining.

“That should be a good race for us. It’s got some little climbs and we’re all good climbers. We’ll be able to get through that all right so it’s another opportunity to sprint.” Matthews said after today’s finish.

The efforts Orica invested for a chance at a sprint win call to mind a statement Robbie McEwen made at his retirement press conference in California when he responded to a question about how sprinters get over mountains.

“The mountains have been a nightmare. The GC guys say they have it hard because they have to pay attention all the time. Sprinters say that’s bullshit. The GC guys can go through transition stages easy, but a sprinter races every day.”

BMC's Greg Van Avermaet wins 2013 Tour of Utah Stage 1

BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet wins 2013 Tour of Utah Stage 1

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