Posted by Editoress on 04/30/09
Silver City to Mogollon, 151.5km, mountain top finish in 3:36:02
by Steve Bauer
Planet Energy Pro Cycling Team began the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico with reserved ambitions. The 6 men team of Francois Parisien, Ryan Roth, Andrew Randell, Bruno Langlois, Maxime Vives and Keven Lacombe was fit and well prepared, however the upcoming 5 days of racing would boast the toughest competition in North America since the Tour of California in February. Indeed, the champion of this year Tour of California Levi Leipheimer was on the start line today with team mates Chris Horner and the man himself: Lance Armstrong of Mellow Johnny’s. Our team tactics were simple: be present in the important breaks and preserve Francois Parisien as best as possible for the tough mountain top finish.
The race rolled out of Silver City at 9:05 am sharp, and it did not take long for the peloton to begin attacking. The race never let up until a strong move of 12 riders went clear. Our team missed the important break and Andrew Randell ensured our team got to the front to chase it down. Keven Lacombe and Bruno Langlois were on the counter attack several times hunting for the next “good move”.
Over the next 20km, through some tough rolling hills, the peloton stayed glued together. At approximately 70 km to go, 15 men went clear and once again our Team Planet Energy missed the important move. Perhaps we were trying too hard earlier? Mellow Johnny’s Armstrong, Leipheimer and Horner also missed!
Our Planet Energy team began chasing immediately, but without help from any other team we decided to take a risk and sit up. After the break reached 3 minutes, Lance Armstrong began to ride in front with Chris Horner and our decision was correct. We decided to help Mellow Johnny’s, since we needed to bring back the race to have any chance on GC. Otherwise it may have been over.
We rode. Vives, Randell, Roth, Lacombe, Langlois with Armstrong and Horner. Parisien and Leipheimer sat on. After 40km of chasing over tough climbing terrain the gap was reduced to 1 min at the base of the final10 km climb. The race to the summit was launched with Lacombe giving Parisien excellent position to do the final battle. The peloton was splitting into multiple groups as the race ascended from the valley.
After the finish Johan Bruyneel approached me and thanked our team for the help in the chase. He said “without you guys it would have been over for us”, having only 2 riders Armstrong and Horner to chase for Leipheimer. I said to him: "We've missed the important move, so we needed to stay in the game as well."
Aside, it is very interesting to read the reports of the following journalists:
Steve Frothingham of Velo News : “Mellow Johnny’s team and a few of the other teams that were not in the break began to narrow the gap”.
And Kirsten Robbins of Cycling News: “Seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner did the work of eight-men, bringing star-climber Levi Leipheimer into the opening stage victory”
Our team Planet Energy did most of the work with Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner to narrow the gap. End of story. You can quote me on that!
Note: Planet Energy is still ranked 4th in UCI Tour of America as per April 25, 2009.
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