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BMC's best today - Tony Cruz (Foto by Tim De Waele)
BMC's best today - Tony Cruz (Foto by Tim De Waele)

Tony Cruz earns a top-10 finish in field sprint; Darren Lill crashes hard but is ok

5. June 2008

Reading Classic

As Gavin Chilcott predicted on Tuesday, the Commerce Bank Reading Classic offered a race course fit for the success of a small breakaway. 

The 74 mile (119km) circuit course presented the riders with 10 challenging laps, the last three of which would take in the steep Mt. Penn climb.  With just 2.5 miles from the top of the climb to the finish line, first over the hill was almost certain to win the race.

A race according to expectations

The day was punctuated by a couple of very dangerous escape groups which threatened to steal the race from the main pack.  However, the impressively strong ride from Oscar Sevilla put an end to everyone’s hopes for the day’s victory.  “Sevilla had an extremely impressive ride,” Gavin Chilcott said.  “And his attack went almost exactly as we had envisioned before the race.”  The team’s game plan for the day was to save energy early on, and be in a position to fight on the final climb.  “We had a specific plan to race calmly and not make it into all the futile early breaks,” Chilcott said.  “Then we wanted to have either Darren ready to go with a Sevilla-like attack, or keep our sprinters in good position in the event of a field sprint.”  The first part of the team’s plan went off the rails when Darren Lill crashed out with just over a lap to go.  “I was feeling strong today, but had to work a little more than I wanted to in the final three laps,” Lill explained after the race.  “With about three laps to go there was a dangerous break up the road, so I had to bridge up to them and then by the time I reached the break, a smaller break had separated itself and I had to work to bridge up to that group.”  Darren continued, “So with the second to last lap, I tried to sit in and rest up for the final push, but on the descent of the climb I crashed, and that was that.”  “Darren went down pretty hard as it was a really fast section of the course,” Chilcott explained.  Luckily for the Tour of Switzerland-bound Lill, nothing seems to be broken or seriously damaged.  “I came away from the crash alright, I think,” he said.  “It felt like I may have dislocated my shoulder for a second, but then it popped itself back into place, so it may be sore for a few days, but nothing serious.”

Winding up for the sprint

“The last blast up the climb, we had Jeff make an effort to jump across,” Chilcott said.  “And when that was neutralized we started to position our sprinters for the field sprint.”  In the end, the group would be sprinting for third since Sevilla’s powerful move held onto win followed by a young High Road racer nipping out solo for 2nd.   “High Road’s Bernard Eisel took the field sprint and we had Tony in there for something like 9th overall,” Chilcott said.  “Had we been sprinting for the win, I’m pretty sure we would have had a podium.”  With the heat and humidity, Tony Cruz found he had to coach himself through the early part of the race.  “I was feeling pretty terrible through most of the race,” Cruz confessed.  “I was seriously struggling with the heat and humidity, but in the last few laps I stared to pick it up a bit and was able to come good in the sprint.”  The over-sized peloton also added extra obstacles.  “There are so many guys in this
race and not everyone is on the same level,” Cruz said.  “Sometimes guys struggling become obstacles, but you just have to be respectful and know that maybe another time it will be your turn to be an obstacle!”  On the final climb Tony knew he was in with a chance for the sprint, but found himself in a tangle of handlebars.  “On the last climb I got tangled up and even had to clip out of my pedals,” Tony revealed.  “Luckily Jackson Stewart was right behind me and was able to help me stay stable and push off even on the steep incline.  That meant that I didn’t get too separated from the group and was ready to pounce when that lull before the sprint overcomes the group.”

Philly’s sprint a whole different ball game

The culmination of the Triple Crown week will come Sunday with the Commerce Bank Philadelphia International Championship.  The longer race also has a sprinter’s dream finish, which usually dictates a mass sprint for the victory.  “Sunday is a different sort of sprint from today’s,” Chilcott said.  “The Reading sprint is technical and all about positioning, something our guys are quite good at.  Philly is much more of a drag race where the specialist sprinter’s teams will clearly have the upper hand.”  With half the BMC team at Philly already thinking about the up-coming Tour of Switzerland, no one will want to take any chances Sunday.  “For me Switzerland is the main focus now,” Lill confirmed. “I will be concentrating on helping our sprinters and staying out of trouble on Sunday.”  “We definitely have sprinters fast enough to get in the mix on the final sprint at Philly,” Chilcott predicted.  “We’ll just have to approach it with a realistic plan of attack.”  “Philly is definitely one of my favourite races, and there are a lot of bragging rights attached whenever you win it” Cruz said. “I will certainly be working to make the final selection.”