A strong team effort helped Sutherland pass Zirbel in the last few minutes of the race, giving him a slim 3-second gap at the end of the six stage Nature Valley Grand Prix.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We put everything into one late attack,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sutherland said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had race plans and been trying to execute them all week and we just werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quite there. Today, everything went right. The guys rode great, executed well and I had the legs at the end.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Team celebrity Floyd Landis put in a solid attack to help wear out Zirbel’s Team Bissel support riders, keeping Sutherland within reach throughout the stages.
Hit ‘more’ to see the race report from Team OUCH’s press master…
SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s two-pronged plan was quite simple, and took advantage of the strength on OUCH Presented by Maxxis, and tried to replicate the scenario that played out at the end of Wednesday nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s St. Paul Criterium.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When things got really fast and crazy near the end on Wednesday night,Ã¢â‚¬Â explained team directeur sportif Mike Tamayo, Ã¢â‚¬Å“gaps started to form and Zirbel was caught out of position. That allowed Rory to make the front group and pick up those six seconds. We wanted to try to create the same situation again today and open some gaps to see if we could catch Zirbel out.Ã¢â‚¬Â
But first, Tamayo said, they wanted to make ZirbelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Bissell teammates work. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We sent the one guy on our team who has the capacity to ride away from guys on this course out on the attack,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
That was Floyd Landis, who initiated an attack with 14 laps to go, that forced Bissell to ride a hard tempo at the front until reeling him back in with seven trips remaining around the notorious Stillwater circuit, which featured the painfully steep Chilkoot Hill at its end. For his efforts, Landis earned the dayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Most Aggressive Rider jersey.
OUCH Presented by Maxxis also got a little indirect help from the Colavita-Sutter Home squad, which had their sprinter, Lucas Sebastian Haedo sitting 3rd overall coming into the stage, just 0:10 behind Zirbel.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Colavita raced really well today,Ã¢â‚¬Â Tamayo said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“They were also attacking constantly trying to get their guys free and wear down Bissell. At one time or another, they had five different guys off the front. Between us and Colavita, Bissell had a lot to do. Give those guys credit. ZirbelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a strong rider, and Bissell rode really well in defense of his lead.Ã¢â‚¬Â
When it came down to the closing few laps, it was all OUCH Presented by Maxxis doing the damage. With three laps to go, the team lined it up on the front of the pack and drilled it as hard as they possibly could, up the hill and down the other side.
As the OUCH Presented by Maxxis train came through the last corner before the second to last climb up Chilkoot, the pace had caused the desired gaps, and the team launched Sutherland, who drilled it as hard as he could up the climb. He jumped across to Anthony Colby (Colavita) and Phillip Mamos (Amore e Vita) to form the decisive move. The duo hung on as Sutherland continued to apply pressure on the descent and return to the foot of Chilkoot for one last climb to the finish.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I had the clock on Rory and he picked up four seconds the first time up Chilkoot, and another two on the descent,Ã¢â‚¬Â Tamayo said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“On the final trip up, he picked up the last four seconds.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Mamos and Colby both took advantage of Sutherland towing them around the last lap, with Mamos sprinting ahead to win the stage by two seconds, while Colby got ahead of Sutherland on the line to take 2nd.
But Sutherland was content with 3rd place. His goal wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t to win the stage. It was to get to the line far enough ahead of Zirbel to take the overall title.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was just a fantastic end to the day and the week,Ã¢â‚¬Â Sutherland said.