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Brent Bookwalter rides very strongly in stage 5. Foto: Tim De Waele
Brent Bookwalter rides very strongly in stage 5. Foto: Tim De Waele

Brent Bookwalter rides very strongly in stage 5 while BMC consolidates GC

13. July 2008

After surviving the gruelling double stage from the day before, the riders were faced with Saturday’s Stage 5 Cascade Lakes Road Race which would find them racing up a 2,200 ft climb to the summit finish at the Mt. Bachelor ski area.

Being a course for strong climbers, Saturday’s road race would almost certainly play an important role in shaking out the general classification in anticipation of the final decisive stage to come on Sunday.

The stage unfolds according to plan

“It was another good stage for the team,” Gavin Chilcott was happy to report.  “We went in with a plan, and actually ended up getting the break we wanted to have.” A group of riders all of whom were far enough down the classification to not pose an immediate threat to the leaders, managed to slip away from the peloton.  Included in the break were BMC’s Ian McKissick and Brent Bookwalter.  “The day went pretty well along the lines of our ‘best case scenario’ plans,” Bookwalter said.  “The team rode amazingly as a whole and with Ian and myself in the break, we were focused more on keeping our position on the GC strong than on winning the stage.”  Both Bookwalter and McKissick have been climbing strongly this week, and Bookwalter, along with Slipstream’s Blake Caldwell, was among the best placed riders in the escape group.  “With Brent and Ian in the break, that gave us something really to work with,” Chilcott said.  “Ian rode very strongly and was a big engine for the break to give Brent as much help as possible for the final climb.”  “As I was tied with Blake Caldwell on time, the main objective was not to let him get away and grab any more time on me,” Bookwalter explained.  “We wanted to enter the climb with as much time as possible on the main bunch, so Ian drove it really hard to the base and up the first part of the climb.”  The break never gained more than 2 minutes advantage on the pack, but it was enough to give the group a hope to survive to the finish line.  “The break quickly became a 2 man battle between Slipstream’s Caldwell, and Brent,” Chilcott said.  “On the climb, Caldwell attacked, and Brent chased him alone.  Caldwell gained at most 15 seconds on Brent, and by the finish line, Brent had closed that down to 1 or 2 seconds.”  Bookwalter, who started the day in 13th position, will certainly move up the classification board, strengthening BMC’s overall position in the team standings.  “Blake attacked with maybe 5 km to go, so it was up to me to close down that move,” Bookwalter said.  “With about 500 meters left, as I was coming up behind Blake, some of the guys who followed me up the climb, jumped around both Blake and me, and won the stage.  That was good for us, though since they ate up the time bonuses too.”

Further down the mountain, the GC race unfolds

“A lot of gaps formed on the final run up to the finish line,” Chilcott said.  “Darren and Jeff were in the group with the other favourites, including Levi and the riders nearest to Jeff on the GC.”   With the time gaps for podium positions being quite small, Toyota United worked hard softening up the leaders to benefit their GC candidate, Chris Baldwin.  “Toyota was riding hard and put a lot of guys in difficulty,” Darren Lill explained.  “I saw Baldwin was looking strong, but I was feeling really well too, so I attacked hard, and dropped everyone but Levi.”  Lill’s move shook off Baldwin and several other riders including Rock Racings Santiago Botero.  “Levi and I worked together pretty well, though I may have gone a bit too deep with my attack, and Levi ended up doing maybe two-thirds of the work while I was doing my best to contribute one-third!” Lill confessed.  

“Darren rode incredibly strongly and matched Levi stroke for stroke,” Chilcott reported.  “Close behind them Jeff rode with riders like Chris Baldwin and Matt Wilson; they lost no more than 15 seconds to Levi, so our place on the GC should be even more positive at the end of the day.”  With one stage to go and Leipheimer showing no weaknesses, BMC and the rest of the peloton will have their work cut out for them.  “The other teams will probably look to us to control the stage tomorrow, since we have three riders in the top 10,” Lill predicted.   “Levi is definitely strong; after all he could be racing right now to win the Tour de France.  So we will be looking for opportunities, but it will also be a day of consolidating our gains thus far.”