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By Neal Rogers
Under gray skies that intermittently wet the course, Talgo America’s Susan Palmer-Komar won stage three of the women’s road stage race—however the real victory belonged to the women of Team Saturn.
Going into Friday’s Fort Ord Road Race, the Saturn women held the number two, three, and four spots on the general classification after Thursday’s time trial and criterium. Standing in their way was the 20-year-old cycling phenom from Quebec, Genevieve Jeanson (Rona), who had shown her strength by not just winning the time trial but setting a new course record—by a full minute. A fourth place in the crit’ was enough to secure her overall lead by a minute and a half.
The road course would deliver 57 hilly miles (three 19-mile laps) through wind and rain, and the action began early. Saturn attacked first, testing the waters to see who had come to race, but the move was immediately pulled back. However when Jeanson attacked on a first lap climb, the real commotion began.
Saturn’s Lyne Bessette, sitting third overall, followed Jeanson uphill, but found the pace tough to match and was called back to organize a chase with her teammates.
“I felt like crap the whole race,” Bessette revealed. “I was cramping all day, and I couldn’t keep the pace with Genevieve, so I dropped back.”
“Strength in numbers,” is the mantra of Saturn Women’s Team Director Gianna Roberge, and Friday the tactic paid off.
The Saturn organized chase included Bessette, teammates Kimberly Bruckner (2nd overall) and Judith Arndt (4th overall), as well as Jeanson’s Rona teammate Karen Bockel, Cannondale’s Kim Anderson, and Talgo’s Palmer-Komar, who started the day 7th overall, 4:27 down.
As Jeanson’s lead over the field grew to nearly one minute, the chasers rode (more-or-less) in a pace line, without the help of Bockel or Anderson, whose team interests dictated that they sit in and mark the chase. Slowly but surely, the Saturn women carried on, and Jeanson’s lead began to come down.
At nearly the halfway point of the course, the yellow leader’s jersey of a visibly fatigued Jeanson was caught, and once secured, quickly dropped. As the chasers became the leaders, Arndt stayed back with Jeanson, sacrificing her own chances for the stage or overall victory while weighing down Jeanson like a heavy suitcase.
“I’ve said it before, and it remains our philosophy,” emphasized Roberge, “It doesn’t matter which individual wins, as long as the team wins. Whenever—however—an opportunity presents itself—we’ll take every chance we can.”
Perhaps Jeanson had given too much during the previous day’s time trial, as her pedaling cadence slowed and the gap from her to the lead group swelled to one minute within ten minutes of her being caught.
The Saturn pair of Bessette and Buckner continued to drive the pace for the remainder of the race, and by the 10km to go banner, the gap had grown to over four minutes.
Into the final hill, Palmer-Komar and Bockel thanked the Saturn pair for the ride and, with more life in their legs, took to the still slick Laguna Seca raceway for the finish line.
On the final turn, Bockel, a first year pro, fell while only 20m ahead of Palmer-Komar, allowing her to easily take the stage.
Going into Saturday’s circuit race, Palmer-Komar sits two-minutes down on Bessette in the general classification.
“I know it��s not likely,” she smiled, “But I’m going to keep trying for the G.C.”
SEA OTTER CLASSIC ROAD STAGE RACE; Monterey, CA, March 21-24; Fort Ord Road Race; Women;
1. Susan Palmer-Komar; 2. Karen Bockel; 3. Lyne Bessette; 4. Kim Anderson; 5. Kimberly Bruckner