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May 5/14 21:30 pm - Tour of the Gila: Team SmartStop report


Posted by Editoress on 05/5/14
 

Team SmartStop had everything thrown at them this week at the Tour of the Gila but this did not stop them from racing with everything they had to finish with two podiums, a handful of top tens and Rob Britton in third overall.

The final stage of the Tour of the Gila has been previously described as the toughest day of racing in the United States outside the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge. But being three men down was not going to stop Team SmartStop from conquering the Gila Monster.

The first break went on the first KOM climb of the stage and Michael Torckler and Cameron Cogburn both made sure they were a part of that break. From here United HealthCare set a good tempo on the group before Jamis Hagens-Berman took back control and split the main group down to roughly 30 people.

From here Matt Cooke (Jamis Hagens-Berman) attacked and split the group further to only 15 riders, in there Team SmartStop had Michael, Rob and Flavio De Luna. The group kept Cooke at a distance of only 30 seconds as they didn't want to chase him back too quickly causing a bit of cat and mouse coming into the finishing kilometres.

Rob Britton and Flavio De Luna both had amazing rides to finish second and fourth respectively on the stage, with teammates Travis McCabe, Cameron Cogburn and Michael Torckler putting in massive efforts in the beginning of the stage to get the pair into a good position for the final big climbs.

Rob gained a six second time bonus from finishing second on the stage and there was a time gap in place between him and first place, which helped to move him up into third position overall.

"To finish third overall is a tremendous result for the team," said Director Michael Creed.

Rob was underestimated all week as a rider who could be in contention for the top spot at the Tour of the Gila, but has definitely proved himself on Team SmartStop as this is his second top three finish in a UCI race in 2014. Michael said: "He was underestimated and underutilized on other programs, and that's unfortunate for him but he is helping us and I hope that we can pay him back."

Saturday afternoon's Criterium brought out the crowds to downtown Silver City to watch some fast and exciting racing.

In an unprecedented move that has never happened before at the Tour of the Gila, Zach Bell along with Ben Day (United HealthCare), Bjorn Selander (Optum p./b Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Luis Romero Amaran (Jamis Hagens-Berman) broke away from the peloton and lapped the field.

With more than ten laps to go, the four riders starting setting up for sprint finishes as they would be the only riders in contention for the podium. Sitting on Travis McCabe's wheel, Zach looked to be in a good position for a decent lead out and a chance to take the step on top of the Gila podium.

But with two laps to go, Zach's bike came into contact with another bike going through the first left hand corner from the start/finish line and he hit the deck hard.

After getting assessed by the medical staff and taken to the Gila Regional Hospital, it was confirmed that Zach had broken his collarbone in the crash. It was not the way anyone wanted the race to end for the team captain who had been racing on great form for the whole 2014 season to date.

So despite a broken collarbone, a hematoma, a concussion and endless road rash, Team SmartStop has had an extremely successful Tour of the Gila putting someone in the top five of each category and finishing on the overall podium.

"It was really good, I think we referred to the last race as bittersweet but again it was bittersweet," said Michael, "to be four seconds off the GC you would be a fool to not look at what you could have done differently."

"Also with the real center piece of this team breaking his collarbone during what was all but a guaranteed UCI stage win and losing Berry and Julian in the first stage crash, it has been a tough week."

When asked what made this team different from others in the domestic peloton, Michael said: "We are not a top heavy team, we are just a heavy team. At the start of the stage race we had six guys who could have taken a top spot on the GC, after stage one we started talking about who we would ride for."

 

Stage 5 results

 

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