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Brent Bookwalter still looking to help BMC take the overall at Utah (foto by AbbiOrca.com)
Brent Bookwalter still looking to help BMC take the overall at Utah (foto by AbbiOrca.com)

BMC relinquishes lead; Bookwalter and Louder still well placed in Utah

20. August 2009

Salt Lake City

After an impressive team performance in the Tour of Utah prologue, the BMC Racing Team proved their mettle by controlling the race over a very difficult course on Wednesday.    

Stage one took the riders 137 rolling kilometers from the city of Ogden back to the state capitol, throwing two tough climbs in along the way.  On the final climb which crested about 15 kilometers from the finish, the Rock Racing duo Francisco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla gapped and out-descended the reduced lead group, leap-frogging Mancebo into the race lead.   BMC's leaders Brent Bookwalter and Jeff Louder finished with the lead group 25 seconds behind the winners.    Their strong rides today will keep them well placed as the race will really heat up on the stage two climb to Mt. Nebo on Thursday.

Strong team performance

"The day went okay for us and certainly all our guys rode very strongly," Directeur Sportif Mike Sayers reported after the stage.  "We rode as hard as we could to control the race and on the final climb we still had Steve Bovay, Jeff Louder and Brent Bookwalter working the pace."  On paper, the first road stage at Utah looked to be the easiest of the bunch.  "It was a pretty substantial stage, but our team worked really well together keeping the pace high and preventing any breaks from gaining time," Brent Bookwalter said.  "Everything went to plan, though near the top the two Spanish guys got away and made everyone look silly."  Working like a well-oiled machine, BMC had riders to cover every situation in the race.  "Chris Barton rode like a horse today, pulling the entire field from the feed zone to the base of the last climb without any help at all," Bookwalter said.  "Then Garcia, Bovay and Chad kept the pace high until Ian took over on the climb, and finally Jeff just took phenomenal pulls over the top and railed the descent."

Downhill not so easy

Though each of the other teams had around the same number of riders present in the main lead group of 25, BMC only received a modicum of help chasing down the break.  "It's frustrating that when they attacked everyone kept holding their cards close to their chests, since those are the two worst guys to loose time to," Bookwalter explained.  The two riders from Rock Racing got a small gap on the group over the top of the climb, but put in the most time on the descent.  "They really put it away on the descent, which is really the only thing we hadn't planned on for the stage," Jeff Louder explained.  "It was no secret they would try something like that, but with 25 guys in the following group, you would have thought we could have all worked to keep them closer or catch the move."  BMC had only three riders left in the group on the descent, and were trying to protect Bookwalter from having to work.  "Though I would have preferred not to have had to ride so hard at the end there, I am so happy to work for Brent since he has been a great friend and teammate," Louder said.  "I'm sure that I can recover well with the Mt. Nebo climb on the cards for tomorrow."  "All our guys were working and Garmin-Felt put in a few pulls, but when the two Rock guys attacked near the top of the last climb, no one really came forward to help," Sayers said.  "We spent some matches keeping them pretty close, but everyone else seems content to race conservatively." 

Climbers' war

Though it is always a boost of confidence to wear the leader's jersey, now that BMC will not be in a position to defend, the tactical options will open up.  "It is nice that not having the jersey will take a little bit of the pressure off, but we can't forget that every second we loose to those two guys from Rock, will be incredibly hard to get back," Louder reasoned.  The lead-up to the Mt. Nebo climb is tough for any team to control, which means whichever team holds the leader's jersey will have to put in a huge effort even before they reach the climb.  "There is a long flat section leading into the climb which is really hard to control and can be very windy," Bookwalter said.  "And then the climb itself is very long with several false summits and before you know it you are at 9000 feet and breathing through your eyeballs!"

Tactics-schmatics: the strongest man will win

"Half of the Mt. Nebo climb is ridden above 8500 feet, so there will be no worrying about silly tactics from other teams," Louder predicted.  "The strongest man will win."  Nevertheless, the course will allow for several situations which could reveal a chink in the race leader's armour.  "Obviously the major problem to deal with is that Sevilla and Mancebo are the two best climbers at the race," Sayers said.  "We can certainly take time on them in the time trial, but the real challenge will be to keep close to them on the two major climbing days."  Anyone who wants to win this event will not be able to race conservatively, but rather will have to be willing to sacrifice themselves in an attempt to out-ride the strong Rock Racing climbers.  "I'm still certain we can win this thing," Sayers concluded.  "We just have to be very smart and make sure the race tactics work for us."