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Chad Beyer has provided some essential support to Jeff Louder this week at Utah (foto by Tim de Waele)
Chad Beyer has provided some essential support to Jeff Louder this week at Utah (foto by Tim de Waele)

BMC and Jeff Louder try hard, but no change in GC after Utah queen stage

23. August 2009

Snowbird

Though there is little doubt that the fourth stage of the Tour of Utah lived up to its reputation as one of the hardest climbing days in the whole US calendar, it was not enough to cause any significant change in the top three on the overall general classification. 

BMC went into the stage planning on ripping the peloton to shreds on the early climbs in order to isolate race leader Mancebo and set up Jeff Louder for a second Snowbird stage win.  They accomplished their task only to see all their hard work be nullified when the Louder-Mancebo group was misdirected off course, loosing Louder the advantage in numbers over Mancebo he had had up to that moment.  Meanwhile, the actual race for the stage was happening a minute ahead, where Felt-Garmin rider Alex Howes was able to solo to one of the biggest wins of his young career. 

Plan A: shred the group

"I can honestly say we did everything today that we planned on doing," Directeur Sportif Mike Sayers said.  "In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to have someone in the early break, but that wasn't the plan since we intended to hammer it up the first climb and shred the group."  Since BMC actually came into the race one man short when Jackson Stewart was called at short notice to the squad racing in Ireland, they did not have enough guns to join every move.  However, they did manage to destroy the field up the first climb, isolating Mancebo and setting up Louder and Brent Bookwalter for the last bit of the stage.  "There was a front break of about 9 guys and then only about 25 guys left after the first climb," Sayers explained.  "There were some crashes on the descent of the first climb which muddied everything up, and after that the front chase group was basically down to Brent and Jeff, Mancebo, then Landis, McCarty and Lill."  Louder knew that the team had to focus on isolating Mancebo to have any hopes of victory.  "We went into the Alpine Loop basically planning to put all our eggs into the climbing basket," Louder said.  "Ian rode a massive tempo up the climb which was great to see and then Brent and Floyd Landis just bombed it down the climb so by the bottom there were only about eight of us and Mancebo was alone." 

Foray off-course not planned

The group of seven containing Louder and Bookwalter had gained about a minute on the rest of the field and were quietly reeling in the breakaway when the always feared unexpected happen.  "The guys were directed off course," Sayers said.  "I don't know how it happened, and though it is ultimately the responsibility of the rider to know the course, it's unfortunately that there wasn't an official out there to keep that from happening."  The result of the time spent off course was that the remaining peloton was able to catch back up to Louder's group, reuniting Mancebo with a couple other teammates.  "We had gained about a minute and had Mancebo alone, but then threw that all away with the diversion," Louder said.  "It's frustrating because who knows how the race would have unfolded without that, but you can't get too upset since it really is up to the riders to know the course."  The lead group with Louder, Lill and Mancebo re-entered the course just in time to join back up with several of Mancebo's teammates.  "These things happen and there is nothing to do but keep racing," Sayers reasoned.  "We put McKissick on the front of the group to drive the pace to the bottom of the climb, hoping to wear down the other riders enough to regain the initiative." 

No excuses on Snowbird

Once the group reached the bottom of the climb, race leader Mancebo took matters into his own hands.  "At the base of the climb Mancebo put in a blistering attack and dropped everyone," Sayers said.  "Lill went after him and Jeff did his best to follow, but was never able to grab an advantage over Mancebo."  Louder frankly admitted that Mancebo simply out-climbed him to the summit of the Snowbird.  "Once we hit the climb, it quickly narrowed down to me, Mancebo, Lill and Stetina," Louder said.  "Lill put in an attack that got rid of Sevilla; at that point Mancebo took a long look around at us, dropped it down a few gears and just motored away."  Lill and Louder rode more or less together until Lill attacked on a steep pitch of the climb.  "He gapped me a bit on the steeper sections, but by the time the climb was levelling out, I managed to pull him back," Louder said.  "But it goes without saying that I just didn't have the legs that I did last year; instead of 100% I guess I had only 95% of what I needed."

Good turn out

In spite of falling a little short of their highest goals, Mike Sayers and the rest of the team could only be very proud of all the work they did.  "Ian McKissick rode super strong today, Chad was right there too and of course Brent and Jeff," Sayers said.  "We did what we said we were going to do and should feel fairly satisfied with the results."  Louder agreed that the team performed perfectly.  "Ian and Brent were amazing today and Ian especially did a ton of work for use getting enough water to us since it was a huge water day with the record heat," Louder said.  "It is bittersweet for me since it is nice still to be on the podium, but I came here to win and am disappointed that I didn't defend my victory from last year."  The amount of spectator turn out was also a highlight for Louder in particular.  "There were a lot of people - friends of mine and complete strangers - who were out there cheering me on," he said.  "The manager of Snowbird says that there were 7000 cars parked up there this year, which is a maximum even for a ski season day."  Happy to have the personal support, Louder is even more pleased to see his home state race reach such popularity levels.  "Who needs Lance!" Louder joked.  "It is great to see so many people excited about this race; I'm just sorry I could not pull off the win again for all the people who have supported me."  Louder still sits in third place overall, though with only a criterium remaining, there is little chance for any more movement on the general classification.  "Maybe I can go out and lap the field in the crit tomorrow!" Louder laughed.  "Well, whatever happens, we'll be sure to put on a good show."