Today was stage 4 of the tour of CA…Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara.
We were fairly certain that the stage would be a field sprint as Peter Sagan’s team seems happy to pull on the front with Jamis all day. Orica, UHC, Garmin, and Omega all like a sprint too. So any break would be doomed. We decided only one guy on the team could cover moves…Marsh Cooper. Everyone else was instructed to take care of Haga and our sprinters, position them at the front for the final climb, and then take the front with our leadout at 1k to go.
The attacks started from the gun and lasted around 20k before something finally stuck. Marsh Cooper showed his race savvy by placing himself in the move…even though he was the only Optum rider covering moves. That break would stay away from most of the stage. Coop already had a bunch of KOM points from stage 1. He picked up a few more today to move himself into 2nd in the KOM competition after 4 stages.
While Coop was slaying himself off the front, the rest of the team was focused on delivering Haga, Cando and Hanson to the final climb in the front. Soladay, Hanson, and Jesse have all trained extensively in Santa Barbara and they informed the team about a tough and technical uncategorized hill with 15k to go. We knew the group could split, and it would be imperative for our sprinters to be in the front. The guys did a great job and nobody was caught out.
The plan from there was to wait until 1k to go. The guys knew the finish stretch and they knew there was a rise with just over 1k to go. That rise would create an opportunity to roll the World Tour teams. In all the chaos, we were down to only three guys with 2k to go, but the three guys managed to stay together. With 1k to go Soladay blew past the Orica leadout train with Cando and Hanson in tow, put in a huge 500 meter effort and delivered Cando to 500 meters. Cando then hit out and got Ken to around 250 meters before Ken opened up his sprint. The only rider capable of coming around was Tyler Farrar or Garmin.
Not bad for a Continental team. 2nd place is the best we’ve ever finished in a stage here. However, the best part is that it was not just Ken being super fast. It was a team effort. Everyone did an amazing job…from covering the early move, to positioning our key guys for the climbs, to executing the perfect leadout against the worlds fastest teams.
We should see two more field sprints this week and we are looking forward to them. Haga still holds 7th on GC and is looking forward to the TT on Friday.