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Mt Hood Cycling Classic

16. May 2008

Darren Lill wins Stage 2, takes the lead at Mt Hood

Though the BMC Racing Team decided not to send a full team to the Mt Hood Cycling Classic in Oregon, six determined team members attended the race together. The Mt Hood stage race boasts 35,000 vertical feet of climbing in six stages.  With a prologue, individual time trial, and the renowned Mt. Hood hill climb among the stages, this race would certainly challenge the riders with all the ingredients of a top-notch stage race.

BMC places three in prologue top ten

The race kicked off with a prologue on Tuesday in which BMC’s Jonathan Garcia placed an excellent 2nd, while Darren Lill and Ian McKissick also placed in the top ten, 6th and 10th respectively.   “I was really happy with my prologue,” Garcia said.  “BMC didn’t send a full team this year, but there are six of us here, all looking forward to a good week of racing.”  Since this race is not on the official BMC 2008 calendar, the guys have had to make all their own arrangements.  “We have had no problems with the accommodations,” Jonathan said.  “But it is good to do this on your own sometimes; it really makes you appreciate all the work the BMC staff does for us on a regular basis.”  Though the race organizers had to change some of the old course due to the large amount of snow remaining on some mountain roads, the weather for the race promises to be very warm and not too wet.  “We had a bit of rain for the prologue, but the rest of the week might soar into the 90s even,” Garcia said.

Lill obviously on form

Darren Lill, a new addition to the team this year, finished the Mt Hood stage race very well last year, winning the toughest stage up Mt Hood itself, en route to placing 10th overall.  In stage 1, though a stage designed to give the sprinters something to fight for before the heavy climbing starts, Darren Lill finished 8th in the mass sprint.  “I was just trying to keep out of trouble,” Lill said, “and the fact that it was slightly uphill meant I had a bit of an advantage.   I usually do pretty well in uphill sprints.”  Stage 1 was also good for the team as Garcia and Lill both nabbed two money primes.  “We were pretty happy with our big primes,” Garcia said.  “We tried not to burn too many more matches in stage 1 since Thursday’s stage 2 would be the first chance for the GC contenders to show themselves.”

Cooper Spur Circuit Race – contenders test their legs

Thursday’s Cooper Spur Circuit Race subjected the riders to 4.5 laps of an 18mile circuit with 1750 ft of climbing on each lap.   “The team rode very well today,” Darren Lill said after the stage.  “A break was off the front, but none of the BMC riders were in it.  Bissell did most of the work, but we put a few guys on the front to help too.”  Placing the finishing line at the top of the long, if not too steep climb certainly put an end to any sprinters hopes for victory.  “We rode about 5 times up this really long hill,” Lill explained.  “It wasn’t that steep but it was long, and after four times, I knew most of the guys would be pretty tired.  I had already decided that the place to attack would be within one kilometre to go.”  By attacking, Lill gained enough of a gap to win the stage, and take over the leader’s jersey with the help of the 10 second bonus on the line.  “When I attacked I just put my head down and prayed,” Lill said.  “I was afraid that I had gone a touch too early since I was getting pretty tired at the end.”  With several more stages left to race, including a time trial and the Mt Hood climb, the team will take the race one day at a time.  “All the other teams are here in force,” Lill explained.  “I’ve definitely improved my time trialling, and have done well on Mt Hood before, but I’m not too sure about the new course.”  With the pressure and motivation that the leader’s jersey will naturally give the whole team, expectations are cautiously high in the BMC camp.