July 30/03 11:44 am - The International
Posted by Editoress on 07/30/03
The International - Tour de `Toona Altoona, Pennsylvania
Courtesy Navigators Cycling Team
The "Blue Knob" stage of this year's Tour de Toona was completed earlier today and as expected it was a key stage in the event. The 98-Mile contest from Johnstown to Altoona included 45-miles of climbing in the first half of the course, then gave the riders another gut-wrenching climb up the 2,700-feet Blue Knob that began at mile marker 70. With Navigators' Chris Baldwin in the Yellow Jersey, the other teams wasted no time getting riders up the road to keep the pressure on, within the first few miles.
Tim Johnson (Saturn), Doug Ollerenshaw (Broadmark) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Sierra Nevada) escaped in time to hit the first climb at mile 2. The trio worked together on the 5-mile ascent and had a 3-minute gap at the top, over the main peloton. In between, Navigators' Mark Walters and Doug Ziewacz (7-Up) were trying to bridge, but gave up shortly after the crest, as they couldn't get across.
Over the next 65-miles, the Navigators squad controlled the peloton over the seemingly never-ending hills, battling cross winds and keeping the escapees within striking distance. By the time the main field reached the base of the infamous climb the gap was at 4:30.
As the riders made their way up the long and steep climb, the breakaway was now one rider; Johnson, followed by a rapidly exploding peloton. At the top, it was Johnson first, with Nathan O'Neill (Saturn) about 1-minute back and the front chase group at another 1-minute. Racing over the final 20-miles of the course there was a regrouping of the chasers, but O'Neil and Johnson continued with their breakaway.
Approaching the final run-in to the finish, Johnson was dropped after being up front most of the day, and came back to the group, hard. O'Neill continued alone and was able to hold off the chasing peloton by 14-seconds at the line.
Scottie Weiss (West Virginia) placed 2nd and Chris Horner (Saturn) took the final podium spot and bonus seconds. The 20-second time bonus puts O'Neill on top of the leader board heading into stage-4, with Chris Baldwin about 22-seconds behind.