By Alan Fischer
There is something about La Vuelta de Bisbee’s Sulphur Springs Road Race that agrees with Darren Lill.
The Fly V Australia rider won Saturday morning’s 90-mile stage and took over the race leader’s yellow jersey, just as he did a year earlier.
A seven-rider break pulled away to allow Lill to leave the main field nine minutes and 35 seconds in arrears on a day of heavy winds.
Corey Carlson (Team Rio Grande) got things rolling with a solo break on the descent of Mule Pass leaving Bisbee. Six others joined him about 16 miles into the race: Lill, Christian Helmig (Metro VW), Chris Aten (Bicycle Haus), Jared Gilyard (RideClean), Ian Holt (Team Rio Grande) and Roman Kilun (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis).
The break, rotating like a well-oiled machine, continued to put time into the field. The gap was just over two minutes at the KOM sprint at 20 miles, 6:25 at the first feed zone with 43 miles covered, and 11:24 at the second feed zone at 68 miles.
“Everyone in the break did a really good job,” said Lill, who holds the GC lead by 11 seconds over Kilun.
The pack, policed by Fly V and UnitedHealthcare, rolled along complacently. At one point while facing a strong headwind, the field slowed to a crawl, with some riders stopping for a nature break and getting back on with no problem, said Alan Schmitz (Whitman College).
Battling a strong head wind as the race headed back to Bisbee, the break began to shed riders following attacks by Gilyard and others.
With about eight miles to go, Holt attacked the remaining riders as Lill and Kilun, the virtual yellow jersey on the road by three seconds over Lill, looked at each other.
“It was a really good move on his part,” said Kilun, who himself attacked with about three miles remaining, Lill bridged up and blew past, and that was the bike race.
“It was like an individual pursuit for 5K to go,” Kilun said of his unsuccessful effort to catch Lill.
Kilun trailed Lill by nine seconds at the finish, with Helmig third at 24 seconds, Holt fourth at 31 seconds and Gilyard fifth at 35 seconds.
La Vuelta continues Saturday afternoon with the Warren Time Trial, a 7.2-mile rolling event that traditionally sees riders buffeted by gale-force winds.
At last year’s La Vuelta Lill lost the race lead in the time trial, but recaptured it in Sunday’s 84-mile Tombstone Road Race.
“I’ve got bad memories of this time trial,” said Lill, who is returning to racing following a broken wrist this spring. “But I feel good and Sunday should turn out all right if I lose the jersey in the time trial.”