Optum p/b KBS executed a near perfect leadout over the races closing kilometers to deliver Ken Hanson to third overall against some of the world’s best sprinting talent, including stage winner Francesco Lasca and Orica-GreenEdge powerhouse Michael Matthews. Eric Young finishing the stage hot on Hanson’s heels in fourth after leading out Hanson.
Performance Director Jonas Carney reports on the action:
Sunday was the Vuelta a la Rioja, a 158k race with two categorized climbs and a flat, fast finish. Our plan was to put all of our eggs in one basket, and try to do nothing but deliver Ken Hanson and Eric Young inside the last 500 meters against some of the top sprinters in the world. With Euskatel, Movistar, Orica GreenEDGE, and Caja Rural bring all their best sprinters to the race; it would be a tough task to get our guys inside 500 meters ahead of their sprint trains.
The race was controlled for the most part because the big teams wanted to keep it close together for the finishing sprint. Our guys sat back and took care of Hanson and Young, while some other teams attacked and raced for the sprint competitions and KOMs. The only real excitement of the day was when Orica smashed it on the toughest climb of the day and caused a major split. Jesse had already pulled out and we lost 3 more guys when some Moto-marshals gapped a group off on the descent. Caja Rural and Colombia Coldeportes chased super hard and there would be no coming back.
Entering the final circuit, the pace was blistering, with the World Tour teams battling to position their sprinters. Then with just 1k to go, Scott Zwizanski rode past them and took the front with Eric Young, Mike Friedman, and Ken Hanson in tow. Zwiz finished his turn and Young unleashed his sprint inside 500 meters. Our three guys led through the final corner at about 250 meters to go. Unfortunately two riders…Lacsa from Caja Rural and Matthews from Orica overtook them before the line. Hanson finished 3rd and Young finished 4th.
While we didn’t win the race, it is quite a big deal to be standing on the podium at a UCI 1.1 race in Europe. It’s a huge confidence booster for our team. Not only did we put two guys in the top 4, we executed an almost perfect lead out against some really big teams. We hope to have another chance at a sprint on stage 1 of Castilla y Leon, less than 2 weeks from now.