Sutherland takes Bisbee prologue

UnitedHealthcare's Rory Sutherland takes the prologue at La Vuelta de Bisbee.

Rory Sutherland takes the prologue. Photo: Mason Ibas
Rory Sutherland takes the prologue. Photo: Mason Ibas

By Alan Fischer

Rory Sutherland took top honors and the yellow leader’s jersey in Friday’s prologue time trial at La Vuelta de Bisbee.

Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis), posted a time of 6 minutes, 5 seconds, for the 1.9-mile climb, which gained 468 feet in elevation.

Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) placed second at 14 seconds and Maxim Jenkins (UnitedHealthcare) was third at 16 seconds.

“It went well,” said Sutherland, who used a 50-tooth chainring the entire way and stayed in his aero-bar tuck until the final 400 meters, the steepest part of the climb. “It’s definitely a power climb.

“I’m happy with my effort. It opened up my lungs.”

The effort was lung-opening for most of the riders, based on the rampant coughing afterwards.

“Everyone is hacking. That’s a good sign,” said United Healthcare director Gord Fraser.

Zajicek, who placed second overall at La Vuelta last year, rode a 53-tooth chainring up the grade, scaling back to a 21 cog in the rear for the steep 400 meters.

“I went a little too hard,” he said. “I was over-excited at the start but I finished strong.”

The racers faced breezy and unseasonably cold temperatures for the late-afternoon time trial start. The mountains surrounding Bisbee received a dusting of snow Friday morning.

“I was expecting warmer weather. I must say,” said Darren Lill of Fly V Australia.

The climb was cut by about a mile after the top portion of the course containing the steepest switchbacks was deleted because the road was washed out.

“I would have preferred to go all the way to the top,” said Lill, winner of the overall title here in 2009. “It was definitely a power climb.”

Chilly temperatures are expected when La Vuelta continues Saturday with the morning 90-mile Sulphur Springs Road Race and the afternoon 7.2-mile Warren Time Trial.

The race concludes Sunday with the 84-mile Tombstone Road Race. Riders will climb both sides of Mule Pass, which reaches 5,930 feet in elevation.