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It’s nice to demonstrate we belong here

19. February 2008

Santa Rosa

It was an exciting day in the team car for Gavin Chilcott and his crew as they watched Jackson Stewart ride away from the peloton, at one point gaining nearly 13 minutes in the first stage of the Tour of California from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. 

“Overall the day went well. It was a good outcome for the team on a number of levels, some visible and some not so apparent,” Chilcott was pleased to report after the stage. 

How it unfolded

It seemed to take a while for the first breakaway to form, but once the dust settled, BMC found that one of its riders was soloing off the front, with a good chance to stay away for quite a long time.  “We decided very early on that Jackson had enough of a gap that he should go ahead and stay away as long as possible,” Chilcott said.  “We knew today that through their tactical needs, the big teams like CSC and Astana would let a breakaway get up the road,” Chilcott pointed out.  “When the Kelly Benefits rider attacked, Jackson followed.  As the three man break collapsed, there came a moment when Jackson’s chances were on life-support.  But he kicked it once more, and this time – riding solo -  he was able to get a gap that quickly grew to 6 or 7 minutes.”

The fluidity of tactical decisions

With the rest of his BMC team mates massing at the front of the peloton to help disrupt and discourage any taking too hard a chase after him, Jackson’s solo break stabilized and in fact continued to grow.  “The only thing that didn’t go to plan today was that we didn’t expect Jackson to be alone the whole time,” Chilcott related, “but it turned out to work to our advantage as it gave him a chance to rack up points in both the sprint and the King of the Mountains classification.”  Once they realized Jackson was going to get some much time, the directors started to calculate the chances of his getting to the tope of the Coleman Valley Road climb first.  “The King of the Mountain prize was certainly the driving force of the break,” Gavin revealed.  “Whether we defend it tomorrow depends on how Jackson is feeling after today’s effort.” With the climbs coming early in the stage, it will really depend on how Jackson feels coming out of the starting blocks as to whether he will take a chance on keeping the KOM jersey.  “Tomorrow is not an enormously hard climbing day, but the Trinity climb is significant, and we’ll just have to see how Jackson feels after today,” Gavin said.

Positive results from today inspire confidence for tomorrow 

“We’re not especially a sprinting team, and this is a very strong sprinting field, so we will approach tomorrow very much like today,” Gavin predicted.   “We will be aggressive and be represented in the breaks.”  Showing evidence of his good form and sky-high confidence, Alexander Moos took a flyer on the last circuit of the stage.  Though he was swallowed up by the hard-charging sprinters’ teams, it was a good sign for the team that their General Classification ambitions were also on track.  “We need to make sure our climbers, Moos, Jeff Louder and Darren Lill stay out of trouble and in contention tomorrow,” Gavin reported.  “We want them to focus on the stages which highlight their strengths. Aside from that, we will always have our eyes open for opportunities like today.”  With the BMC jersey having been one of the most represented in the day’s action, having another day like today would certainly be an encouraging result.