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Foto finish in Clovis (Foto by Phoenix-Sports.com)
Foto finish in Clovis (Foto by Phoenix-Sports.com)

Zberg takes 6th in sprint, Nydam crashes out hard

19. February 2009

Clovis

Having weathered another unpredictable stage at the Tour of California, BMC feels lucky that the day turned out as relatively well as possible.  The crash Scott Nydam suffered with 30 kilometers to go severely tempers the satisfaction the team can feel at placing Markus Zberg well enough that he grabbed 6th place in the full-on sprint finish. 

Even with the loss of Nydam and Jonathan Garcia who withdrew earlier in the day, the remaining BMC team members were able to protect their two best placed riders on the GC, Ian McKissick and Thomas Frei, while delivering Zberg to the perfect sprint position.  In the end, Mark Cavendish chalked up his first ever victory at the Tour of California though Tom Boonen nearly pipped the Columbia rider at the line.

Aggressive stage raced under sunnier conditions

"The plan again today was for one of our riders to get into a break," John Lelangue explained.  "So from the beginning we had several of our guys including Alex, Mathias and Scott charging off the front."  Since the break which eventually emerged on the first KOM climb included GC threat Francisco Mancebo, there didn't seem to be much point in latching onto it.  "The guys did a great job, but we didn't go with that break since Mancebo was there," Lelangue said.  Perhaps slightly chagrined once Mancebo dropped back into the main bunch, BMC's focus for the day turned to keeping their GC riders safe and helping Zberg place himself for the sprint finish.  "Today we were lucky with the weather since everyone has been suffering from the cold and rain," Zberg said.  "I have been training in a warmer climate so this surely has been a shock to the system."  Though the team knew they could count on Zberg coming up with a good place in the sprint, the hope was that the day would prove to be more selective for the GC contenders.  "I didn't think that the stage would come down to a sprint since I expected the climb to be more selective," General Manager Gavin Chilcott explained.  "Since both Thomas Frei and Ian McKissick said they were feeling really well, it may have been a good thing for us if the field had broken up more on that last climb; they certainly would have gained some places on the GC."  As the prospect of a sprint became more certain, the team worked together to get Zberg well placed.  "With 2 or 3 kilometers to go the guys brought me forward and put me in a really good position," Zberg said.  "I was on Boonen's wheel, but then got separated at the wrong moment, and had trouble reconnecting.  So for me it wasn't a perfect finish, but 6th is pretty good with this field."  With his 6th place on the stage, Zberg earned his first UCI points of the season.

Garcia abandons, Nydam suffers suspected broken collarbone

The day did not entirely go well for the team with the loss of two riders in the same stage.  First, Jonathan Garcia had to abandon before the feed zone.   "Jonathan is not sick and we know he is well-trained, but for some reason he has not been feeling well on the bike," Chilcott revealed.  Having lost contact with the peloton and the caravan of cars early in the stage, there was nothing for Garcia to do but withdraw.  "We thought that I was well prepared for the Tour of California, but from the beginning of the race I just haven't felt that great, and today I simply wasn't able to force it anymore," Garcia said.  An excellent climber and solid time trialler, his contribution to the team will be missed.  However, a worse accident was in store for the team when 30 kilometers from the finish, Scott Nydam crashed right in front of the team car driven by John Lelangue.  "I saw that he was coming back to give me the jackets from the other team members, and as he was looking back to see where I was, I saw his handlebars make a u-turn and he crashed right in front of the car," Lelangue recounted.  "It was really scary since I had to take quick action to avoid running him over."  After being taken to the hospital, Nydam remembered coming back to the car and turning around to hand off the jackets when one jacket grabbed his handlebars and took the front wheel right out from under him.  "It looks like he may have broken the collarbone that he broke last year at the Tour of Utah," Lelangue said.  "But compared to how scary the crash was, we can be very thankful that it is just a collarbone." 

Team work coming together

Though the top-placed riders on the team are down on the GC by several minutes, there is still a hope that either Thomas Frei or Ian McKissick can move up on the classification with strong rides in the mountains and the stage 6 time trial.  The team is riding to keep these two members well placed while also focusing on working for Zberg in the sprint finals.  With the loss of two men, this means only three riders remain to help with the team objectives.  "We are down to six guys now, and with three of them being protected, that puts a lot of work on the shoulders of Alex, Jeff and Mathias," Lelangue said.  Nevertheless, that cohesion which was so satisfying during the last half of the 2008 season is again in evidence.  "Aside from the incidents with Scott and Jonathan, the day was pretty good for the team because we are seeing that even though this particular group of guys haven't raced that much together, they are really riding well with and for each other," Chilcott said.