For a rider enjoying the most successful season of his career, the wins in 2010 haven’t come easy for Fly V Australia’s Ben Day.
After crushing the Tour de Beauce’s 20km stage 4 time trial Friday to take the leader’s jersey, the 31-year-old TT specialist from Brisbane clinched his third stage race victory of the season on Sunday, finishing 57 seconds ahead of his V Australia teammate Darren Rolfe.
UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis rider Marc de Maar, winner of two stages, finished third overall, 1:04 back.
It was a poignant win for Day, who met his wife, Isabelle, at the Tour de Beauce in 2007, when he topped the general classification riding with Navigators Insurance and she worked for the race’s logistics detail.
Sunday’s win made Day only the second repeat winner at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Beauce, Canada’s UCI 2.2 stage race, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. The other two-time winner is Levi Leipheimer, who won in 1998 and 1999. Other overall winners include Jonathan Vaughters (1997), Michael Rogers (2002), and Day’s Fly V Australia team director Henk Vogels (2001).
Day dedicated the win to his wife and her family, who were in attendance at the race’s final, rainy stage in St. George — won by Hector Gonzalez Baeza (Heraklio-Murcia) from a nine-man breakaway.
“It’s really emotional to win in front of them,” Day said Sunday afternoon. “They are great people in our lives and this is a special race for us. We’re staying at the hotel where we stayed the night after we were married in January. And to be able to do my job in front of family … as an Aussie that travels all the time, all over the world, it’s something I rarely get to do. To come to this race and pull it off is something I’m really proud of.”
Though he started the season off with overall wins at San Dimas and Redlands, Day’s 2010 season has also involved a disproportionate amount of obstacles. The discovery of an intestinal tapeworm left him weak and disabled at the SRAM Tour of the Gila in early May. At the Amgen Tour of California, Day and HTC-Columbia’s Mark Renshaw nearly stayed clear for the stage win in Bakersfield; the following stage Day crashed heavily in the feed zone and abandoned with a concussion. Vogels and team doctor Jonathan Edwards had to force Day from his bike when he was not able to correctly answer simple questions.
“After California I was pretty down,” Day said. “I was getting over landing on my head, and still getting over the tapeworm. I took a lot of time off. For two weeks after California I was just done. I would go out training with the boys, but I just had no good sensations, so I just took it easy. Finally I went out, had a few drinks to relax, and put in a good week just before Beauce.”
Throughout the season Day and his wife have also been mired in bureaucratic red tape as they have sorted out permanent residency issues with U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration (They share a home in Boulder, Colorado.).
Day knew his form — and luck — was coming around when he won the time trial up Vail Mountain Pass at the June 6 Teva Mountain Games, 43 seconds ahead of Burke Swindlehurst (teamgive.org-BlackBottoms). On June 12 Day won the 35.4km UCI 1.2 Chrono Gatineau time trial, 1:15 ahead of second-place finisher Ryan Roth, and 2:38 ahead of de Maar.
“I knew if I could get to the time trial at Beauce within spitting distance of de Maar, I had a good shot at the win,” Day said.
However even after he’d taken the TT stage win and the race lead, the curveballs continued. On Sunday’s final stage, a circuit race in St. George marred by lightning and torrential downpours, Day broke the rails of his saddle early, and then the team lost one of its key riders, Darren Lill, to an asthma attack.
“We had a few obstacles,” Day said. “That didn’t help. Today was proof in point of what can go wrong, yet we’ve come home with success. We managed those situations very well. The boys were unflappable. They looked after me all week, keeping me out of the wind and stress-free, even during the first few days.”
The fight against UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis
After de Maar took the overall lead by taking the summit finish at Mont Megantic, Day retook the lead Friday by winning the 20km stage 4 time trial. Day’s winning time of 25:02 was a full 61 seconds faster than second-placed Bahati Foundation rider Nathan O’Neill, also a Beauce overall winner, in 2005. Rolfe finished third on the stage, putting three Australians on the stage podium, and putting V Australia into first and second overall.
After UCI officials demanded he raise the nose of his saddle immediately before the start, de Maar (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) finished the stage 21st, 1:57 behind Day, and dropped to fourth overall, at 1:18. UCI commissaries deemed the nose of de Maar’s saddle too low — despite the same commissaries having approved the same position less than a week earlier at Chrono Gatineau. De Maar insisted that he has raced in the same position for five years, including at three grand tours, with no issues from officials.
“It is unbelievable that to me that just before the start they tell me the seat needs to be about 10 cm higher,” de Maar said. “The saddle is legal and I’ve already ridden this position for five years. I thought very seriously about not starting the stage. I don’t think I would’ve won (the time trial), but I do think I would’ve had a better performance than I did.”
A pair of young Americans had impressive rides during that time trial — Holowesko Partners’ 23-year-old Caleb Fairly, winner of the one-day UCI race Tour of the Battenkill in April, finished fifth on the stage, 1:18 behind Day; UHC’s 25-year-old Morgan Schmitt, who won a stage and wore the leader’s jersey at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic earlier this month, finished sixth on the stage, 1:23 off Day’s time, and slotted into fifth overall.
Day acknowledged that de Maar was his biggest threat throughout the week, particularly after he caught the shattered break and soloed to win stage 3, a 155km stage with 1800 meters of climbing that finished atop Mont Megantic.
“De Maar clearly has a lot of form, and he’s been climbing very well,” Day said. “He’s been complaining all week that he has bad legs, but I think what we saw at Megantic showed that he was a liar.”
After de Maar’s time trial fiasco, the Dutch rider had two opportunities to regain time on Day with the support of a split UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis squad — several key teammates were racing in support of Rory Sutherland at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
De Maar proved again on Saturday that he was one of the strongest men in the race, taking a convincing stage 5 victory over a 139km circuit in Quebec City that served as a dress rehearsal for the Grande Prix Cycliste de Quebec Pro Tour race in September.
On the final time up the finishing climb, de Maar took leave of the front group to earn a second solo stage win of the tour, four seconds ahead of Javier Megias (Team Type 1). Schmitt finished third on the stage, and both UHC men moved up one spot on GC, into third and fourth respectively.
On Sunday’s wet circuits in St. George UnitedHealthcare threw everything it had at Fly V Australia in an effort to dislodge Day and move de Maar and Schmitt up the overall standings. When a dangerous nine-rider break escaped, including SpiderTech’s Ryan Roth, the best placed rider on GC in the move at ninth overall, it posed two choices for UHC director Gord Fraser.
“We could share the work with Fly V to ensure Roth didn’t leapfrog onto the overall podium, and then hope for a field sprint (with Andrew Pinfold),” Fraser said, “or we could let (Fly V Australia) burn matches, and hit them with attacks in the final few laps and take a shot of winning the overall. We chose the latter.”
With three laps to go, UHC’s Chris Baldwin launched a series of attacks that pecked away at Fly V’s workers, with Day and Rolfe losing the services of four helpers by the final lap.
On the last lap, de Maar put in numerous attacks, but Day was up to the challenge each time. “At that point, we knew our bid for the overall was over,” Fraser said. “Despite having Morgan, Chris and Marc chasing, we left it a bit too late to catch the break. Still, I’m very proud of the team’s willingness to sacrifice the battle today to win the war.”
Day had praise and respect for the fight UHC showed.
“Those guys are seasoned professionals,” he said. “They know the game. They came up against a strong Fly V team. Marc did a great ride (in Quebec City) to take the stage win, and at Megantic he was very fast. He used his specialties where he could, and I used mine where I could.”
Day’s victory sealed a successful week for the Fly V Australia win, which took home first and second overall, the team classification, and a stage 2 win for sprinter David Tanner.
“All the boys did such a great job, they were incredible,” Day said. “You had to have a strong team to win this race, every day was so hard. If I was isolated for too long on any of these stages I would have been killed.”
- 1. Benjamin Day Fly V Australia
- 2. Darren Rolfe Fly V Australia at 00:57
- 3. Marc De Maar UnitedHealthcare at 01:04
- 4. Morgan Schmitt UnitedHealthcare at 01:14
- 5. Valeriy Kobzarenko Team Type 1 at 01:14