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Darren Lill:  “I definitely went as hard and fast as I could". (Foto by Mark Adkinson)
Darren Lill: “I definitely went as hard and fast as I could". (Foto by Mark Adkinson)

Podium finish for BMC’s Darren Lill at Mt Hood

19. May 2008

Downtown Hood River Criterium

Having taken the race lead after winning the second stage of the Mt Hood Cycling Classic, Darren Lill faced an individual time trial and the road race finishing atop Mt Hood itself before the race would come to a close with the Downtown Hood River Criterium on Sunday. 

With only 1 second separating Lill and the second placed rider, a lot of racing would have to happen before the final winner could be declared.

A tough, beautiful time trial

Friday the race organizers had in store a challenging, beautiful 18.5 mile time trial course for the competitors.  BMC had an excellent day, placing riders in 3rd, 4th, and 11th, Lill, McKissick and Garcia, respectively.  “I definitely went as hard and fast as I could, so well done to anyone who took that course faster,” Lill responded after his race.  “Darren definitely went for it,” Jonathan Garcia said.  “Both he and Ian absolutely blitzed the course.”  Darren’s time, however, was not fast enough to keep from losing the lead to Health-Net’s Rory Sutherland.  “You know, you can always look back and re-ride time trials and say to yourself I could have been faster there or there,” Lill said.  “But at the end of the day, Rory just did an amazing ride and he deserves the victory.”  By the end of Friday, BMC had the best placed team, but Lill had dropped from first to third.  Spirits were high, though in the BMC camp since Saturday would almost certainly act as the decisive stage of the week.   “The time trial will definitely be a factor in the overall standings,” Jonathan said, “but Saturday’s stage is when everything will shake out and the race will be decided.  There will be maybe ten guys at the end of the day able to win the stage, and Darren will be there.”

Mt Hood looms in distance

Acknowledged as one of the hardest climbs in America, there is little wonder that Lill and his team mates had every hope they could improve their place on the GC with this stage.  “My plan for the day was to move up on the GC,” Lill explained.  “Since there were two guys ahead of me, I knew I just had to drop them.”  With a dangerous break up the road, Lill’s team mates threw all their energies into helping bring the break back.  “A group escaped as expected, but with 12km remaining they still had something like 3 minutes on the peloton, so the guys had to help bring it back, otherwise I may have even lost my 3rd place.”  Sacrificing their own positions, McKissick, Garcia and the rest of the BMC group worked hard to bring the breakaway within safe reach of the riders battling for the overall lead.  “The guys worked hard and really helped me out there,” Lill said.  “The race split up quite a bit; at the hardest point with 3 km to go I attacked, and was able to drop Ben Jacques-Maynes who was in second place ahead of me, but Rory was able to hang on.”  Lill, riding tempo to the finish, picked off most of the hangers-on from the main breakaway.  “I road as hard as I could and paced myself up all the way,” Lill recounted.  “I knew Rory was hanging on, but I wanted to get as much time on Ben; I didn’t quite catch the entire break and at the finish line, Rory and a few other guys from the disintegrating break came around me, but I wasn’t concerned about that.”  Though Darren wasn’t able to regain the top spot, he did gain enough time to move into second place on the GC.  “It’s a bit of a shame, as Sunday’s race won’t be selective enough to gain back the time I need,” Darren said, “but second isn’t bad, and I’ll have to be satisfied with that for this year.” 

Staying safe in the final criterium

Sunday’s finale would bring the sprinters back to center stage after three very tough days of racing.  “Yesterday on Mt Hood, Ian and I were covering so many attacks, we burnt a lot of matches,” Jonathan Garcia reported.  “So we really didn’t have that much left for today’s stage.”  “It was an uneventful day, but as the course wasn’t really built to gain back time, it was uneventful in a good way,” Lill reasoned.  The team can certainly be satisfied with their week’s takings.  “Actually, the week went really well,” Garcia concluded.  “It was great training for all of us, and with Darren finishing so well, we can be really satisfied even if we were pretty quiet in Sunday’s criterium.”  With the whole BMC team riding so strongly, the team management will have their hands full once the Tour of Switzerland shortlist needs to be finalized.