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Keni Hanson takes Nature Valley Grand Prix stage 5; Scott Zwizanski holds lead

Ken Hanson celebrates his win. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | <a href=A day after taking second in a criterium, Team Type 1’s Ken Hanson sprinted to victory at the end of the hilly stage 5 road race of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. His teammate Alexey Shmidt took second with a bike throw over Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare), whose 6-second bonus moved him to just 3 seconds behind race leader Scott Zwizanski with one stage remaining.

“I can only do so much against the sprinters,” Sutherland said. “But at the end of 150K, when other guys have been doing crits all year, I can sprint a lot better than I can against the sprinters in a criterium. Kelly did a great job of riding on the front all day. And again my guys got on the front with three laps to go. Hilton gave up all his chance to win today, so did Jake and so did Karl for me. That shows the team spirit.”

After four stages in Minnesota, stage 5 sent riders into Wisconsin for the first big hills of the event.

A breakaway of seven riders went clear about 10 miles into the 95-mile stage. The break included former USPRO criterium champion Brad Huff (Jelly Belly), who used his snap to take enough King of the Hill (yes, hill — there are no mountains here) points to capture the climber’s jersey.

“I know, I don’t have climbing credentials behind my name,” Huff said. “But the guys in the break weren’t super motivated, so I went for it.”

The other breakaway riders included Soren Petersen (Hagens Berman), Daniel Holt (Team Type 1), Bernard Sulzberger (Fly V Australia), Travis Burandt (Hotel San Jose), Phil Gaimon (Kenda) and Nick Frey (Jamis).

The break built a maximum advantage of 2:30, with Kelly Benefit Strategies driving the peloton behind. As the race entered the finishing circuits in Menomie for four short laps, Kelly had trimmed the advantage down to 10 seconds.

When the break was caught, a counter went with Kelly’s Zach Bell — who sits third on general classification, Trek-Livestrong’s Nathan Brown, Kenda’s Gaimon and Gabe Verala, an amateur racer who qualified to race on the composite Nature Valley Pro Ride team.

As that group’s chances slimmed, Bell attacked alone, and UnitedHealthcare drove hard to reel him in as the race hit the final lap.

“Props to Kelly,” said UnitedHealthcare director Mike Tamayo. “They rode a great race again today, just like they did last night. [Kelly director] Jonas [Carney] and I were just talking about it. It’s been good, hard racing between the two teams. I dig it.”

Despite having the leader’s jersey, Carney said Kelly’s plan was to stay on the offensive.

“We wanted to put Zach or David Veilleux up the road and make UHC chase, since we have first, third and fourth on GC,” Carney said. “We wanted to use those cards and make them burn some matches. But Zach ended up alone, and he’s not going to hold off their train. He needed four or five guys.”

With Bell caught, UnitedHealthcare kept the pressure on to keep Sutherland in position up front. In the last kilometer Team Type 1’s Shawn Milne and Davide Frattini took a hard dig and pulled in front of UnitedHealthercare with Hanson in tow.

“It worked out well, but we ran out of steam on the uphill before the last corner,” Hanson said. “That’s when Karl Menzies jumped with Rory. I was able to get on Rory’s wheel and kinda take a breather. Then I waited, picked a smooth line on the lefthand side and then just put my head down and went for it as hard as I could.”

Hanson had a health gap across the line. Sutherland, desperate for bonus seconds, threw his bike at the line for second, but Shmidt wasn’t about to sit up when it counted, and he made it a one-two for Team Type 1.

After two criteriums with nearly a minute of bonus time on the line a piece, Sunday’s concluding criterium is a straightforward affair. There are no bonuses, and no funny math; just the first guy across the line wins.

“All the guys on the Kelly Benefit Strategies team are going to be doing everything they can tonight to recover to be as fresh as possible for the slugfest up and down that hill tomorrow,” said Zwizanski. “It’s as simple as that. There’s no bonus seconds. Just a plain old race, which is good.”

Good for Kelly, perhaps, as Zwizanski just has to mark Sutherland, who last year came from behind to take the overall win on the final day from Bissell’s Tom Zirbel with an attack in the final meters. The Stillwater Criterium feature an 18-percent climb right before the finish, and the pro men will tackle it 20 times.

“Just one more day and we can walk away with it,” said Kelly director Carney. “But it’s going to be a real tough one tomorrow.”

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