Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies’ five man roster were fixtures on the podium this weekend at California’s 4-day Chico Stage Race, winning three stages on the way to bring home the yellow jersey for new 2014 recruit Will Routley. Tom Zirbel and Mike “Meatball” Friedman rounded out the final podium :09 and :26 behind Routley’s winning time of 6.07′:51″.
Routley, known as a savvy solo tactician, helped seal victory for the team with a decisive attack during the race’s second stage, the 145 km Paskenta Road Race. The stage saw Routley and his teammates Zirbel and Friedman form half of the day’s six-man breakaway, doing the majority of the work to create a sizable gap on the rest of the field.
From there, Routley called upon his European experience, attacking and dropping his breakaway companions on a tough 5-mile stretch of gravel near the end of the race. He finished :36 seconds ahead of Friedman, Max Jenkins (Marc Pro Strava) and Zirbel, who were all that was left of the breakaway after Routley’s aggressive move to close out the race.
“The team’s performance in stage two, arguably the race’s toughest day, was very good tactically and set the stage for a very successful weekend,” said Performance Manager Eric Wohlberg. “With Zirbel doing what he does best in the TT, Routley was able to deliver a very solid ride as well in third, which further added to his cushion and meant we would be in a comfortable position for the final day of racing.”
Friedman, deciding to test his sprinting legs in the finale, took a close finish and the Chico Points Jersey in the process. The multitude of podiums helped the Orange and Black capture the team classification as well, for a clean sweep of the weekend’s biggest prizes.
The men’s team heads later this week to Portugal, where they will complete in the UCI 2.2 ranked Volta ao Alentejo. Tom Zirbel will return, hoping to win another stage of the race where he claimed a solo victory in 2013.
Chico Stage Race Roster
Volta ao Alentejo