Team delivers Hanson to the finish in near-perfect position to battle Spain’s top sprint talent
Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies’ Ken Hanson showed himself again today as one of North America’s premier sprinters, during stage 2 of the UCI 2.1 ranked Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. Already a winner and podium finisher on this month-long European campaign, Hanson climbed onto the 3rd rung of the ladder today following a near perfect team execution over the 164km stage.
“Our leadout once again preformed incredibly well today, delivering me in great position for the sprint,” said Hanson. “It was a good finish for me despite the climb late in the stage, and I found myself well positioned on the final straightway. But unfortunately we missed out on the win today. However to finish third in a race like Castilla y Leon is a great sign, for some big races back stateside, that our leadout is starting to really solidify. I can’t wait to have another shot at it.”
Following a long breakaway, which Optum p/b KBS rider Marsh Cooper was able to join, the team placed all bets on a stage win for the US Pro Criterium National Champion, which they very nearly puled off. One stage remains in the race and for the European campaign before the teams packs up and returns home. Sunday’s stage is 184km with a tough 2km hilltop finish.
Race report from Director Eric Wohlberg:
Today was a 164 km stage, with three categorized climbs, the last being a Category 3, topping out just 10 km from the finish.
We decided to run the same basic plan as stage 1 – cover any large breaks (especially if they had Movistar or Euskatel), keep our sprinters sheltered and be very wary of the last climb of the day. The one unknown was how the GC battle may play out, but we made a caluculated guess that the stage wasn’t really difficult enough to upset the GC and most of the teams would be happy to wait until Sunday’s queen stage.
There was plenty of action out of the gate as a lot of teams wanted to get up the road, but as anticipated, the power house squads were happy to control and let their sprinters have another crack at the finish. Unlike yesterday, the wind was much more manageable and the field was not coming apart at any time, so we could relax a little with regard to positioning. A third of the way in, Marsh covered a 10 man move as an insurance policy for us. However the break was never given more than 1.5 – 2 minutes as there were a couple of GC threats in that group. Marsh rode smart and did not commit in a big way in order to save his legs for the final climb.
The move did come back on the lower slopes of the final KOM with 11 km to go and Marsh slotted into the little nest (Sebastien/Jesse/Eric) that was built around our finishers. The initial plan was to wait and hit the front of the field just before the 2 km point so we would have command through the last technical chicane and 90 degree left-hander. This was the pinch point and the road soon opened up into a wide boulevard. Sensing trouble, Tom Soladay took the initiative and did a massive 4 km downhill pull from 5 km to go and kept Mike, Alex and Ken out of the washing machine.
Coming through the last corner we were 1,2,3 and Friedman dropped Alex and Ken off inside 1 km to go. Alex and Ken had to deal with some interference in the final 500 meters and Ken was jumped by another train of 5 riders. He quickly reset and lined up for the final 250 and made it onto the podium against a very strong field.
It was a good day for the team and we are hoping to finish strong tomorrow, which has a 2 km hill-top finish over 184 km distance.