With the smallest of margins separating the top General Classification placings Sunday at the Tucson Bicycle Classic Stage 3 Circuit Race, riders had plenty of opportunity to steal victory.
But any efforts to swipe precious seconds via time bonuses or attacks were thwarted as temperatures increased and GC leaders cleared their paths to the podium.
Solo rider Marie-Soleil Blais (Astana Women’s Team) gained one second via time bonus on pro mountain bike racer Erin Huck (CZ Racing/Bicycle Haus) to take the overall win by five seconds.
“It’s nice to win and to have the opportunity to show my new team’s sponsors early in the year,” Blais said. “I was confident about today because I like the course. Everything went well and kept under control despite some hard moments.”
Blais said it was her third time doing TBC and training in Tucson.
“I’ve been getting a lot of support from locals here over the years, so I’m really thankful and I’m happy they could enjoy this win with me,” she said.
Next, Blais said she will head to the Redlands Bicycle Classic then to her first European block.
Serghei Tvetcov (Floyd’s Pro Cycling), with help from his team, held off competitors who were only four or five seconds away from raining on his team’s TBC parade. He took the overall win by two seconds, and his teammate, Nickolas Zukowsky, moved into second.
“Always great to be on top; it’s special with great support,” Tvetcov said. “This win – it was a great intro for the season. We have young guys which never have experience to protect yellow. We glad that we can do such a great effort before the big races.”
Team director Gord Fraser said TBC was a great start for Floyd’s.
“I knew bringing in proven winners like Tvetcov and (Travis) McCabe was going to be rewarding, and they demonstrated to my young riders how to take responsibility and race professionally,” Fraser said.
Fraser said the team will have training camp in Tucson next, then divide and conquer the Redlands Bicycle Classic and Tour of Taiwan.
The Men’s Pro circuit race came down to a four-up sprint between Zachary Nehr (Project Echelon Racing), Leo Bugtai, Alexander Cowan (Floyd’s Pro Cycling) and Conor Schnuck (Gateway-Harley Davidson) after the four broke away from the field. It was Nehr for the win and the first victory of the season for Project Echelon Racing.
“It feels amazing to get the first win of the season for Project Echelon Racing,” Nehr said. “Our guys have been stacking the podium already this season, but we were still in search of that elusive first win. What happened today was a culmination of hard work, determination and our belief in ourselves and our teammates.”
Nehr said his team’s plan was to race aggressively, but they took a hit when teammate Matt Zimmer, who was in sixth place for GC, crashed on the third lap and had to be taken to the hospital, where he received 11 stitches to his right elbow, according to teammate David Greif. Another Project Echelon teammate, Tim Savre, who was in ninth place overall, suffered a mechanical and wasn’t able to catch back on.
With two of their strongest riders down, Nehr said he and his remaining teammates never gave up.
“I launched an attack the final time up the climb and got away with a group of five,” Nehr said. “Coming into the finish, we all started looking at each other. But with a long, uphill sprint into a headwind, I knew I needed to be patient and wait to launch my sprint for as long as possible. Inside 150m to go, I finally launched and gave it everything I had to the line.”
“Words cannot describe how happy I was to cross the line first, and take the first win of the year for Project Echelon Racing!” Nehr added.
The Women’s Pro circuit race finished in a bunch sprint with solo rider Summer Moak (Rally UHC Cycling) edging out Hagens Berman | Supermint’s Harriet Owen at the line.
“It felt really good to win today,” Moak said. “I was disappointed to miss the winning breakaway yesterday, so my goal was to win the race today. I had to be smart about the moves that I followed as a solo racer, and I knew that the finish was long and girls would go too early, so I just stayed protected most of the race. Coming into the finish, I was patient and surfed other teams wheels until I knew it was a good time to go.”
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