The 2010 U.S. road season had a little bit of everything. There were little known domestics like Andrew Talansky battling top international pros at the Tour of the Gila. Caleb Fairly broke through with a win at the Tour of the Battenkill in horrendous conditions. Neither ride made the six top moments in U.S. racing, so which ones did?
We took a look at the best (and worst) of U.S. racing this year with VeloNews‘ North American Male Rider of the Year, Ben Day (Fly V Australia).
6. De Maar wins stage; Sutherland takes jersey at Three Lakes Sno-Park
The peloton topped out on the volcanic McKenzie Pass climb largely intact in the opening stage of Oregon’s Cascade Classic. The remnants of a late breakaway were erased 10km from the finish and David Tanner (Fly V Australia) set out on a suicide attack on the long climb to the finish at the Three Lakes Sno-Park.
As Tanner faded in the steep final kilometer, Rory Sutherland jumped out of an elite chase group, drawing Tanner’s teammate Darren Lill and his own man, Marc de Maar. De Maar played the pursuit perfectly, countering Lill just before catching Sutherland, and freed himself 500 meters from the finish. He went on to win solo.
“It was pretty obvious that we were the strongest two guys of the field,” de Maar said at the finish. “So, Rory went, I waited a little bit, let the others suffer and close the gap and I got them with a k to go.”
Sutherland jumped Lill at the top of the climb for second and took the leader’s jersey from overnight leader Jesse Sergeant (Trek-Livestrong), who was dropped low on the climb. Sutherland went on to take the final overall three days later.
“The idea was to drop as many of the real time trialists as we can so that we get a bit of a buffer for the next few days,” Sutherland told VeloNews. “Today was one of the harder days in the U.S. I think.”
De Maar and Sutherland used the one-two punch well all season, but never so effectively as in the finale when they rode away with the Cascade Classic.
Ben Day’s take:
Day rode into form at Cascade after three weeks of interrupted training as he finalized his green card over the course of forced trips to Canada and Australia.
“That day was a matter of limiting my losse s… that particular day was quite painful.”
“Those boys took the opportunity and Marc and Rory raced really well together this year.”
5. Thomas Rabou climbs to ATOC jersey while mom battles cancer
Thomas Rabou was a little known Dutch climber when he joined Team Type 1 for the 2010 season. Midway through the queen stage of the Tour of California, he was living a dream in the day’s long breakaway.
“It was a really special moment for me because yeah, you watch the Tour the last years and you see Andy Schleck,” Rabou told VeloNews. “You watch him on television and think, ‘Yeah, I would like to do that,’ and then one day, one year later, on this day you are on the breakaway with him. So, that’s a really cool moment. It’s like a dream come true, you know?”
Rabou entered the day three points behind Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) in the climbers’ competition, which Rabou had led earlier in the week. He worked hard in the break and took top points at all but one of seven KOM points over the 135-mile test that finished in Big Bear Lake. By the time he outsprinted Garmin’s Matt Wilson for the day’s final prime, Rabou had built an insurmountable lead.
That night he talked with VeloNews about the dream he was living and the importance of his ride in light of his mother’s battle with cancer in Holland. Rabou dedicated his jersey to her.
“I have one goal: I want to be in the breakaway in the KOM jersey,” said Rabou. “I want to show this jersey on television. That would be really cool, so I will attack my balls off Sunday and try to be in the break.”
Rabou did just that in the race’s final stage, making a pair of early breakaways before fading over the final laps of the Thousand Oaks circuit. His red climber’s jersey was secure, however, and Rabou walked away with the first major jersey of his career.
Ben Day’s take:
Day’s own mother fought a bout with cancer recently and he knows well the weight that can put on a rider’s mind.
“To deal with a situation like that can’t have been easy.”
“It’s really special that he was able to dedicate that performance to his mom. That morning I was presented the Breakaway from Cancer most aggressive rider’s jersey from the day before and that was something I was able to dedicate to my mom, too.”
4. Abbott comes out on top of furious nationals road race
The women’s national championship road race — particularly the final 25km — was the most brutal of the domestic season in 2010. When a mid-race breakaway evaporated on the final lap, Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia) attacked hard on a quarter-mile climb leading into the feed zone. Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12) marked the acceleration and brought on a 10km onslaught of constant counter attacking that Carmen Small (Colavita-Baci) called “a blur.”
When the 26-rider peloton arrived to the 15-plus-degree base of the Archie Briggs climb, Stevens, Small, Evans and her teammate Mara Abbott, Alison Starnes (Tibco) and Janelle Holcomb (Alto Velo) jumped away from the field. Stevens and Abbott hit each other with everything they had over a series of painful accelerations on the 2.5km climb and only Small and Evans could hold on.
Evans was the strongest sprinter in the foursome, which opened Abbott up to go on the attack. “It gave me so much freedom, so we got to the top and I knew that the best thing I could do to help our team win was to attack and attack and attack because that’s where my area of strength came,” Abbott told VeloNews. “Also, if that didn’t work out, it coincidentally played directly into Shelley’s strength and so, I mean, it was perfect.”
Perfect meant that at 1.5km, Abbott let off her final attack on a brief roller and was able to push to a quick 15-second advantage. From there, the soon-to-be Giro Donne champion put her head down and time trialed in for her second elite national title, three seconds ahead of Evans.
Abbott fought to hold back tears six months after a tough divorce from the HTC program. “When you first start out, people always only are saying you can and they never say you can’t. And once you hit you reach a certain level, people say you can’t and it’s kind of scary to hear. Like, you don’t believe it all the time, but it’s kind of scary to hear,” she told VeloNews at the finish. “And so when you have people saying you can’t, or people counting you off or people thinking you’re done, to be able to come back and win it, knowing all of these things, and win it consciously and win it with a team like this, it means the world.”
A week later, Abbott slipped into her stars-and-stripes jersey at the start of the Giro, and became the first American since Andy Hampsten in 1988 to win an Italian grand tour.
3. Sagan takes queen stage for second California win
If American race fans hadn’t taken notice of Liquigas-Doimo’s Peter Sagan when he won two stages and the points competition at Paris-Nice, they certainly did during the Tour of California. Race organizers billed it as a day for the climbers and with more than 12,000 feet of vertical over 135 miles, the Big Bear stage at the Tour of California was nearly that. An early break formed with Andy Schleck and Jacob Fugalsang (Saxo Bank) and KOM leader Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) among its members.
Young sprint leader Peter Sagan sat comfortably within a formation of bright green Liquigas-Doimo jerseys just off the front of the thinning field. Sagan had won the day before in Bakersfield, charging out of the peloton near the end of the final, agonizingly steep finish circuit. His team was confident that the breakout rider of 2010 could deliver on the race’s biggest stage.
When the break was caught 25km from the finish, Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) and Matt Wilson (Gamin-Transitions) struck out on their own. The pair wound around Big Bear Lake and only a hard chase from the HTC-Columbia team of overall leader Michael Rogers could bring them back inside 1km to go. The most mountainous stage in the race’s history was set to go to a bunch sprint.
A hard lead-out from the HTC camp brought Sagan to the final sprint in fourth wheel and he surged away from Rogers and Rory Sutherland 200 meters from the line. The stage win kept Sagan in the best young rider jersey, which he secured with a solid time trial the next day.
“Yesterday (in Bakersfield) was hard because of the final climbs there on the circuit, but today was even harder, because obviously a lot more climbing,” Sagan said after the stage. “For me to arrive in a small group like that is always good. I had to work a little harder on the climbs, but I stayed with them and that’s where I’m going to win.”
Ben Day’s take:
Day crashed out with a head injury during the queen stage a day after nearly taking the Bakersfield stage himself.
“(Sagan)’s a super talented guy … He’s a neo-professional and already doing things in races like Paris-Nice”
“He’s just a very, very talented bike rider and we’re going to hear more and more about him in the future. I think he’s going to turn out to be one of the most incredible classics riders ever. I think it’s a privilege to be watching someone at the beginning of their career who’s going to be playing a part for a long time to come.”
2. Jai Crawford tops Levi Leipheimer for stage win at Snowbird
Sunday August 22 was the hardest of the National Racing Calendar in 2010 and Aussie Jai Crawford owned it.
A day after Crawford finished second in the fourth stage criterium in Park City, his Fly V Australia team hatched a plan for the queen stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and the riders executed it to perfection. The field, battered by heavy winds over the first half of the day, arrived to the lower reaches of the nine-mile, 2,800 vertical-foot Alpine Loop climb less than a minute behind an 18-rider breakaway. When the gap shrank to less than 30 seconds, Crawford jumped across to the leaders with Marc de Maar.
Yellow jersey Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) didn’t react and the break held off the chase to the base of the finish climb of Little Cottonwood Canyon. De Maar was the last rider to maintain contact with Crawford when he surged at the base of the climb to the ski resort at Snowbird. From there, the diminutive climber fought through swirling head and crosswinds on the 10-mile, 3,000-foot slog.
Behind Crawford, second overall Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Bicycles) pulled Leipheimer and Alex Hagman (On The Rivet) away from the field. “I knew Levi was coming,” said Crawford at the finish. “There was nothing I could do about it except ride as hard as I could.”
When Leipheimer rode onto Crawford’s wheel, he was alone, having deposited his companions lower in the canyon. The catch came just a few hundred meters from the line. In a gentlemanly gesture, the GC winner stayed in the wheel as Crawford pressed across the line for the stage win, his jersey flying in the wind. “I think the bottom line is that he deserved the stage win more than anybody,” said Leipheimer.
The win – his first in the U.S. – came on Crawford’s last day of U.S. racing in 2010 and was a major breakthrough for the 27-year-old.
Ben Day’s take:
Day missed out on the Tour of Utah with a blood infection that hospitalized him in August.
“I was pretty much bed-ridden for a month.”
“There are a lot of talented bike riders out there that for whatever reason aren’t able to shine as much as their talent portrays. So I’m really excited that he was able to do something on a big stage where everybody was watching and took notice and he really pulled out a good one.”
1. Ben King soloes to road race title
With his 40-mile solo winning effort in the road race at nationals, Ben King earned the VeloNews North American Ride of the Year in our January 2011 awards issue. Below is the recap of his performance from that issue: