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Youngster Mathias Frank is proud on BMC's Man of the Day Jeff Louder (Foto by Georges Luechinger)
Youngster Mathias Frank is proud on BMC's Man of the Day Jeff Louder (Foto by Georges Luechinger)

Louder makes the right move, almost snags stage

18. February 2009


With the third stage's 50 mile flat lead into the finish line practically begging for a bunch sprint, it was always going to be touch and go whether the day's breakaway would be able to fight for the victory amongst each other.  That BMC's Jeff Louder came within 2 kilometers of grabbing the stage is testament to how much effort he and his three breakaway companions put into the day's ride. 

Since the sprinters can hope for only a couple of stages suited to their talents at this year's Tour of California, the teams with strong sprinters were not about to let this opportunity slip away.  Within the finishing 2.8km circuit, Louder was swept up by the hard-charging group.  Thor Hushovd surprised everyone who expected more fireworks from Mark Cavendish, and won the stage after being expertly lead-out by his Cervelo TestTeam.  BMC's Markus Zberg powered his way into 9th for the stage, proving that he recovered well from his long breakaway on Monday.

Never really gave up

The members of BMC realized that the best way forward is to ride as aggressive of a race as possible.  With that in mind, BMC was attacking from the gun and finding the breaks.  "Today was a good race for the guys who have really stepped up and put in 100% effort," John Lelangue said after the stage.  "We talked about finding the right break at the start of the stage, so Alex, Thomas, and Jonathan were trying and Jeff was the one who eventually got the right move."  Louder and his companions got away from the pack on the Sierra Road climb which kicked off the stage.  With many of the other teams counting on a sprint finish, it was going to be an uphill battle even after the group descended onto the flats.  "You never know whether a break like this will work," Louder explained.  "At the end, I didn't exactly know what was happening behind, but I never really gave up."  Louder's tenacity encouraged him to attack the fading members of the break, an effort which drove him just 2 kilometers from winning the stage.  "This has been an abnormal race, so why shouldn't that translate into an abnormal win for Jeff Louder?!" Louder joked.

How the break unfolded

Up until Louder's attack within sight of downtown Modesto, the escape group had been working very well together.  "Brad White initiated the move and since I was on his wheel I was able to follow it," Louder said.  "The group was good, but we had to work hard over Sierra Road to stay away from the pack which was hot on our tail."  It took nearly 50 kilometers of dangling off the front of the group before the breakaway felt comfortable that the move was even going to stick.  Since one of the break members was placed quite high on the General Classification, there was no way the peloton was going to give them too much of a leash.  "With Bauke Mollema in the group, there was no way we were getting 15 minutes or anything like that," Louder reasoned.  "But once we felt secure in the break, we really didn't have to give it serious gas until the last 20 or 25 kilometers."  Yo-yoing around a 4 minute lead for quite a while, hopes were raised in the BMC camp that the winner of the stage could come from this break.  "The break today, as with yesterday, was a good break with a serious chance," Lelangue said.  "We have no interest in getting visibility from suicide breaks, but we certainly want to be present whenever there is a reasonable chance to take the victory." 

Hurry up and recover

With a jagged-looking profile staring the riders in the face for Wednesday's Stage 4, the riders will have to concentrate on recuperating as quickly as possible.  "Yeah, I was thinking a little bit about tomorrow's climbing stage when I was on the road today, and wondering what this effort would cost me," Louder admitted.  "I think I have good form though, and we'll just see how I recover after today."  The hard work done by the staff behind the scenes will greatly aid Louder's recovery.  "I am really proud of our whole team, not just the riders but the mechanics and soigneurs too," Lelangue said.  "The adverse weather also means that the mechanics are having to work harder with the equipment, the soigneurs are having to wash that much more laundry and provide that much more support to the riders after the stages.  There is a great deal of satisfaction that everyone gets from the team effort and I am very proud of everyone."