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April 12/01 8:36 am - Espeseth Takes Willamette Lead!

Posted by Editor on 04/12/01

Tour of Willamette Stage 2
Courtesy David Cathcart, Intersports

In an epic day of racing, Intersports' Sandy Espeseth came away with the stage and yellow jersey after narrowly beating 3 other riders in the 74 mile Smith River Road Race. Contested under abominable rain and low 50 degree temperatures, stage 2 of the Tour of Willamette was raced over 5000 feet of climbing, including the famous Roman Nose pass.

Looking to steal the yellow jersey from Julie Young of, Intersports' Espeseth, Liz Emery and Erin Carter were aggressive from the gun. After only 1 hour, the three were away in a crucial break that yellow jersey Julie Young and previous race leader Alison Dunlap missed, but that included powerhouses Kim Smith and Katrina Berger.

The three Intersports riders powered the break to the base of the Roman Nose climb. Shortly thereafter the trio were reabsorbed by the hard charging GT squad, but a crucial selection had been made. Present in the selection, 5 km up the climb, were Dunlap, Smith, Espeseth, Caroline Alexander and Berger. As the grade progressively steepened and turned from asphalt to gravel verging on mud, the leaders advantage grew to 2 minutes over the disintegrating field, including cuurent leader Young. Three kilometres from the summit Berger had the misfortune of a puncture and Alexander a mechanical, but the 2 skillfully rejoined the field shortly before the treacherous 10km descent.

Showing signs of her hardwork, Alexander lost contact with the group on the descent, and the remaining 4 - Dunlap, Smith, Espeseth and Berger - were left to duke out the finish. Having sat on the whole day, Smith was the first to attack 1km from the line, and was quickly covered by Berger and Espeseth. Then, exploding down the right hand side 200m from the line, Espeseth managed to squeeze out the win and the yellow jersey. As an indication of how difficult the stage was, riders were still finishing more than 25 minutes after the leaders had rolled across - most caked with mud.


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