Hagens Berman | Supermint is breathing down the neck of Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling after Day 2 of the Tucson Bicycle Classic in the Women’s Pro 1/2 field, while Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis has all but solidified total domination of the Men’s Pro/1 competition.
Visit Dallas’s Anna Sanders’ seven-second lead in the general classification has been cut to five seconds after the 60-mile road race near Sahuarita, south of Tucson. Jelly Belly now has filled the top six spots for the GC after Australian Lachlan Morton cruised in for a win, and his teammates annihilated the field after 80 miles.
“We had a team game plan in order to protect/maintain our GC rider as well as not losing sight of winning the stage – both very attainable goals, and we did just that today,” said Visit Dallas’s Mandy Heintz, Saturday’s stage winner.
In a race that came down to a sprint finish, Heintz crossed the line first with Hagens Berman’s Scotti Lechuga in second. Lechuga was sitting in second for the GC, only seven seconds behind Sanders.
Sanders managed to narrowly edge out Irena Ossola (unattached) to pick up a four-second time bonus, critical seconds to stave off Lechuga, who picked up a six-second bonus for second place. Had Sanders lost the head-to-head sprint for third, she would have only held a one-second GC lead over Lechuga going into Sunday’s final stage. Now Lechuga must make up a five-second gap.
“As the saying may have it, ‘being on top, there is only one place to go’,” Heintz said. “This quote defines how wearing the yellow [jersey] is one of the hardest places to be in the peloton. Everyone is marking, watching and waiting to find a kink in our team’s armor. We were patient out there and our goals will be very similar for tomorrow.”
Manufacturing a win Sunday
Hagens Berman will have plenty of opportunities Sunday to pick up time bonuses and potentially upset a Visit Dallas repeat-win for Sanders. On the circuit race’s intermediate sprint – Lap 3 – there is a time bonus of three seconds for the rider who crosses the line first, two seconds for second and one second for third. The stage winner receives a 10-second time bonus; second place receives six seconds and third place gets four seconds.
“Scotti is second in GC, so we’re just trying to move her up to first,” said Hagens Berman’s Julie Kuliecza. “The plan is to make sure that Scotti is in the right position and have her go when she needs to so she can accumulate time bonuses during the race and hopefully be there at the finish too.”
Kuliecza said the team is using TBC to “work out all the kinks now” before they head to Redlands. She said the team led out Lechuga a little early and left her in the lurch at the end.
Heintz said it will be no easy task to maintain the lead.
“Everyone is competition when they toe that line and Hagens Berman is leading the force,” Heintz said. “We would love to see a repeat this year; however, all we can do is talk with our legs and put the faith in our team to deliver. We appreciate the passion of the women’s peloton and best of luck to everyone tomorrow.”
Stage races have been won on time bonuses before. At last year’s Tour of California, the GC was won in the final stage – a circuit race – by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff Saxo), who managed to gain a time bonus and win by one second.
In a sheer show of power, the Jelly Belly team, consisting of nine riders, left the entire field behind at the road race, after six combined into a breakaway group with two P&S Specialized riders.
Lachlan Morton cruised in for a win with teammate Jordan Cheyne not far behind.
“We all had a pretty good time trial yesterday and we’ve got nine guys here so we have a heavy advantage there,” Morton said, whose brother, Angus Morton also rides for the team. “The yellow jersey is really strong but he was really outnumbered so we just sort of took advantage of that.”
Alexander Cataford (Silber Pro Cycling), who won the time trial Friday and had the yellow jersey, slipped down to eighth in GC after the road race.
“I got off the front with Jordan and we got a gap,” Lachlan said. “We’re just trying to get in some good, hard racing, so we’ll just keep racing aggressively. It would be nice to hold on to the yellow jersey.”
Very Berry update
Jelly Belly has been in Tucson at a training camp for 10 days, Lachlan said.
“It’s really nice to get some early season racing in and enjoy the desert,” he said.
The team’s resident local, Joshua Berry, did not start after getting hit by a car while riding in Tucson on his TT bike. He is suffering from a concussion and neck injury.
“It’s a shame,” Lachlan said. “He was riding really well. I’m sure if was in the race today he would have been right up there. He’s been training hard. I’m pretty sure he’ll be back and raring to go pretty soon.”