The team opened up the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon today with a tough, windy 195-kilometer stage. Ken Hanson finished 11th in the brutal uphill sprint, the top American rider.
“It was a really tough finish, and the guys were fantastic sheltering me through all of the crosswinds and into the final climb,” said Hanson. “It’s always tough to get that close in a finish like this, and I am always a little disappointed to miss out on a big result considering how much the guys sacrificed for me today. It was an uphill sprint which isn’t ideal for my skill set, but we have two more days to battle and everyone is really motivated to get a podium before we head home.”
Eric Wohlberg reports on the action below. Also, check out a behind the scenes photo gallery of the race.
Today was 195 kilometers on a mostly flat course with one category 3 climb and a tough, 2k changing grade (2% shifting into 5 %) uphill finish. The steepest section of the course was the last 500 meters, and we hoped to set up Ken Hanson for a chance at the sprint.
Strong west-southwest crosswinds quickly turned the day into a slugfest. Our general plan was to conserve as much energy as possible, watch the ProTour Teams, try to match their moves, and deliver our sprinters within 500 meters so they could have at it. A break of 7-8 riders took off early in the stage, but none of the big Spanish teams were present so we were content to wait. The breakaway’s gap quickly grew to 7 minutes and continued to build until the race turned north into a difficult crosswind section about 40km in.
Movistar set an unholy tempo and created a schism that quickly divided the peloton into four distinct groups. We were among several teams that were somewhat caught out by the lightning quick move, and we had to burn some matches to close a 1 minute gap over the next 20k. Movistar’s local knowledge of the area certainly helped them there.
Once the course turned into a tailwind section, the field consolidated a bit and the break was hovering at 3 minutes out. The remainder of the course was around 70k of northerly roads back up to the finish in Valladolid. Once again strong winds and team attacks by Movistar created havoc amongst the group, but we still had good legs and numbers. Coming into the final 40k, Movistar again hit out and tore the field to pieces coming into and over the only categorized climb of the day.
Tom, Marsh, Sebastian, Jesse, Mike and Eric were key players and did a great job sheltering, closing gaps and positioning Ken and Alex for the sprint. Thanks to their efforts, Ken and Alex found themselves in an elite selection of 30 or so riders over the top of the climb. They worked together over the final run into town and readied themselves for the sprint. Movistar and Euskatel were setting the pace into the uphill finish. Alex took Ken as far up the 600 meter finishing hill as he could. Ken used the strength he had left to finish 11th after a very long, windy day.
Tomorrow’s stage is 164 km with 3 categorized climbs – the final one topping out at 10k to go. The climbs will end but the wind will not…