October 11/07 6:32 am - Vuelta A Chihuahua: Stage 4 report and brief results
Posted by Editoress on 10/11/07
Vuelta A Chihuahua Mexico
Account written by Symmetrics Fuelled by FarmPure's director Kevin Field of yesterday's epic stage 4
The Pre Race Plan
After stage 3, we realized that Cam Evans, Will Routley and Pinner may not be able to climb with the best climbers here. However, Kabush is climbing well. In stage 3 it was more about position issues with Geoff that kept him out of the action on Stage 3's big Cat. 1 climb.
We wanted numbers up the road at the finish, so we figured out best chance was to have three guys going for the early move. And then we'd hope they would hang on over stage 4's HC and Cat 1 climbs to be joined by the main group of contenders later in the stage. And we were counting on Christian to continue to be able to climb with the best.
How It Happened
Right from the gun on stage 4 Will Frischkorn from Slipstream attacked. Our Will followed shortly after with a rider from Relax. Next up came a rider from the on-form Canel's team from Mexico and a Saunier Duval. This looked like a good move. Canel's had won two earlier stages by putting riders in stage long moves so we thought this break would roll.
Behind Tecos was riding tempo and we figured they would be happy to let this group go out to 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the Spanish team Fuerte Ventura and the Portuguese team Liberty Seguros missed the break. Whenever Tecos eased their tempo these teams would attack. So Tecos was forced to ride quite hard. Still Fuerte Ventura and Liberty were desperately trying to send guys across. The gap to the 5 leaders went up to almost 4mins, but never more. Perhaps too big to close in a chase group, but not enough for us to feel comfortable that the break would make it over the HC and Cat. 1 climbs.
As we dropped down the first major decent of the stage the scenery opened up and it was amazing. We dropped nearly 1000m in elevation in about 10km-12kms. The roads were fantastic, the scenery of the canyons was incredible. Geoff Brown who has done 25 Grand Tours said today's stage was exactly like a major mountain stage in any grand tour. the roads were super technical whether you were going up or going down. And that is about all they seemed to do up or down.
Dan Bouwman from Kelly was unfortunate to get a flat about 3/4 way down the major descent of the stage. His GC hopes were gone. At the time of his puncture the officials were barraging riders who had just got dropped before starting the decent. There was no caravan. We were the only car behind the main field as we had just gone up for a feed and made it ahead of the barrage. We drove down the decent switch back after switch back at 80km/h +, Tokyo drifting around every bend.
As soon as the decent ended, the HC climb began. It seemed like there was not a meter of flat between the descent and the climb. Pinner was our first guy to lose contact on the HC climb. But he held on as long as Danny Pate from Slipstream actually.
We kept Cam and Kabush in the main group with Christian, and at this point Will was still up the road in the break. But the break lost a lot of time on the HC climb. The descent off the HC was short, but just as epic as the first descent. and then right away we were on the 15km Cat. 1 climb.
Will's group got caught as we made the climb. And the main group - which at this point was down to about 40 guys - began to shatter again. All teams were losing guys at this point. Will was our first guy to come back after his break got caught. When he was caught he tried to follow some accelerations from Ladino, and paid. Next we saw Cam coming back and finally Geoff. Going over the summit of the Cat 1 with about 50km to go in the stage Christian was alone. But he was riding awesome. Only about 24-30 riders made over the Cat1. together. Slipstream and Tecos were the teams with the best numbers with 3 and 4 riders respectively. All the European teams made it with two riders. And Canel's had 2. At this point Canel's sent a solo rider out on the attack. This would stabilize the race for the remainder of the stage. Next, something totally unexpected happened. Ladino (from Tecos, and the race leader) cracked. He looked like he got super bad cramps. He was gone. Tecos send Fausto Esperanza back for Ladino and the Saunier and Relax riders now started to ride hard in the front.
Christian rode smart. We got him a final feed with 23k to go and he just rode the group to the end. The Canel's rider got caught with about 10km to go. We were expecting the stage to finish with 2 hard but short hills in succession, with the final hill being an uphill finish. Well the 2nd to last hill never seemed to come and before we knew it we were heading into Creel and our left had turn with 3km to go and the final climb to the finish.
Somewhere around here Aldape from Canel's attacked... we missed this. And Christian's group started the climb. with 1km to go, the Liberty's riders attacked hard, for two reasons to win the stage and to put their u23 rider into the lead in that classification. But Christian marked this attack, then he countered that move. He was heading to the line solo 2nd place on the road. But just approaching the line the Mancebo (Relax) and Mejias (Saunier) came past. They also passed Aldape. And on the line the 5 riders were given same time, with Christian 5th.
We are now looking quite good heading into the final stages. Christian is in 3rd on GC equal time with Mancebo and Mejias. If time does not separate these riders cumulative points from stage finishes will. The rider with the lowest cumulative sum of stage finish pts will win.
So, its important for Christian Meier, the 132lb climber who HATES sprinting, to become a sprinter. We've put him in the room with Pinner, hoping the sprinting mentality will permeate into his head via osmosis while they sleep. Maybe this tour Christian will finally get his SRM over 1000watts? (NB: Christian has never in his life see his digits go over 1000w... kind of an amazing little trivia snippet for all the data geeks out there. while Pinner hits high 1500w when he sprints.)
We are excited for the final stages, and expect stage 5 to be particularly aggressive. Its hard to plan for what's to come. But the loose game plan is essentially the same as s4. Only this time we will keep Cam back with Christian and send the other guys out in the early moves. At the finish it will be critical for Christian to finish as high as possible... and hopefully that will mean taking seconds, or at a minimum putting placings between him and Mancebo/Mejias...
Stage 4 (October 10th): Guachochi to Creel, 157.3 km
1. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Relax Gam Fuenlab, 4:14:53
2. Antonio Aldape (Mex) Canel's Turbo, at 0:10
3. Javier Mejias (Esp) Saunier Duval Pro
4. Francisco Mancebo (Esp) Relax Gam Fuenlab
5. Christian Meier (Can) Symmetrics Cycling Team, all s.t.
1. Javier Mejias (Esp) Saunier Duval Pro, 14:18:58
2. Francisco Mancebo (Esp) Relax Gam Fuenlab
3. Christian Meier (Can) Symmetrics Cycling Team
4. Antonio Aldape (Mex) Canel's Turbo, all s.t.
5. Vitor Rodrigues (Por) Liberty Seguros at 0:05