Intense final stage will bring further gains toward the team’s U.S. goals
The third and final stage of the Vuelta de Castilla y Leon was a significant change of pace – featuring four categorized climbs through the broken, mountainous terrain around the Palencia region.
The strategy, as planned by Performance Director Eric Wohlberg, was to get into early moves and push riders up the road to help set things up for Marsh Cooper, Sebastian Salas, Jesse Anthony, the confident climbers on the team. Eric Young was able to get into the first breakaway of the day, but it was quickly drawn back. Young flatted shortly after, and was forced to chase hard before the opening climb of the stage.
The first climb split the peloton apart – a loose chip seal road, white as snow, with tight switchbacks and zero guardrails. The descent brought things back together, and the team worked hard to protect Cooper and Salas for the bigger, decisive climbs later on.
Tom Soladay was quick to jump on the next attack up the road, and helped to form the major breakaway of the day. His breakaway stuck through the categorized sections of the course, and stayed away for the majority of the race, while the rest of the peloton battled for position over the roller coaster course. As Tom’s group was slowly reeled in, it was time for Salas and Cooper to test their legs over the final sections of the course. Cooper managed to get himself into good position at the front of affairs, while Candelario and Mike Friedman fought to protect Salas through technical descents and preserve the extremely high pace for the young climber. By this time, the field was completely shattered. Riders finished with large gaps, and Cooper was able to maintain a steady pace to come home just a minute from the winner, Ruben Plaza of World Tour team Movistar.
“My teammates did an incredible job sheltering me today, and it was up to me to get as high a placing as possible over the final climbs,” said Cooper. “I gave it my all, and I came up a bit short, but it was a fantastic race and great preparation for the climbs our team will be seeing at the Tour of the Gila and Tour of California later this season. I am ready to head back stateside, train hard, and keep preparing for our late season goals.”
After a month long expedition, the team flies back to the US tomorrow, and will continue preparations for Arkansas’ Joe Martin Stage Race and New Mexico’s UCI ranked, Tour of the Gila.