Joe Martin was a signifigant race for the team. We showed that Redlands was not a fluke but a force to take into account. However I am unimpressed and disappointed with the media response for the teams performance, especially after stage 3 when we swept the podium. No article in Velonews or Cyclingnews, no mentions from other teams in their post race reports, only Elbowz Racing rider Eric Marcotte nodded his head in acknowledgement in his article on Cycling Illustrated. So I am here to give the truth. Our riders in the break did not sit on until the finish. The win wasn’t handed to us. Nope, we rode together, affected the race, and flipped the script on its head.
The script is how most stages in a stage race play out: a small, manageable early break is allowed to escape while the leader’s team slowly brings it back so the stage can end in a sprint finish. Of course, there are other things that can happen but most of the time, thats how it goes. Its comfortable. And its simple. And its boring. Its how the race played out on Stage 2. Afterwards, Robin, my roommate, complained about boring racing and it would be so much fun if a team decided to just race and not be content with the script. The next day, Robin got his wish.
Stage 3 of Joe Martin was rainy and cold but it didn’t stop the first hour fireworks until a group of 8 rolled away right before the hard section of the day’s loop we would cover four times; a climb with a steep bottom and rolling false flats toward the top. Over the top, a fog that never dissipated obscured any views of the countryside and the road ahead. For miles, the gray mist hung cold and heavy. Not even the green tea that magically appeared in our bottles could change that.
Optum had been following the script and riding the front to protect the lead of the yellow jersey man, Chad Haga until 2 laps to go when the 5 Hour Energy Team went to the front, riding hard, and split the field into many pieces over the climb. But everything came back together quickly setting up a nervous final approach to the last time up the climb. Nervous because everyone expected it again and expectations drive demand.
Blair and myself brought the team up front next to Optum who had reorganized and were once again chasing the break. We hit the climb the final time and I began to go backwards, knowing that I had to climb at my own pace. At the top, I was in a big group that was just off the back of the field. My group chased like mad and when we made contact with the front, I spied Joe and Oscar attacking and disappear into the mist. I immediately worked my way to the front where Blair and Joey were waiting to cover moves. I didn’t understand it at first, but we had 4 riders in the breakaway! 4 of 18. Joe, Oscar, Robin, and Andy. It didn’t even hit me until a Jelly Belly rider came up to me and said, “Damn that was impressive when 4 of your guys went and no one else could go. We are all cross-eyed!”
The fog was thick as ever and until we dropped down off the plateau we had been racing on, the break couldn’t be seen. Optum continued to chase. Then Jelly Belly. Panic ensued. Astellas Oncology helped chase. The Champion System. Then Cash Call. And the time gap slowly, slowly, creeped down to 20 seconds. I thought they would be caught for sure until Mancebo (2nd overall) and Haga (1st overall) sprinted across. I yelled at Joey to go with them. Just as he did, I saw Andy get blown out of the breakaway. He had ridden as hard as he could for the last twenty minutes. He had ridden just as hard and just as fast as the twenty guys chasing.
Blair and I continued to stay up front just in case things came back together for a field sprint but Mancebo’s move had changed a lot. Optum stopped working, 5 Hour were content, only Cash Call and Jamis were on the front and the gap began to grow again. Now Oscar was driving the break with everything he had at 1 kilometer to go. At 500 meters to go, Robin began his leadout for Joe who was sitting third wheel. But he went so hard that Diaz, the rider in 2nd, got dropped. Joe waited for a moment before starting his own sprint. At 50 meters left in the race, Joe sat up and began to celebrate the 1,2 not knowing that Joey had snuck across the line in 3rd.
Personally, I opened up my sprint a little late and only managed 4th in the field sprint but that didn’t matter that much when I learned the result. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Robin took the lead of Best Young Rider, Joe took the lead of Best Sprinter, and the team took a 2 second advantage in the Best Team classification. 20 years from now, guys will look at each other and say, ‘This was the stage that Hincapie Devo team went 1,2,3. Impressive. No one has done it since.’