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By Mark Morical, Special to VeloNews
Mike Creed got by with a little help from his friends on Saturday. And they weren’t all on his team.
With just three U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor teammates, Creed got some assistance from TIAA-CREF riders during the stage 5 circuit race to hang on to the overall lead at the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon. The two teams struck a deal to help keep Creed in first place and TIAA-CREF’s Dan Bowman in eighth place.
The plan worked, as the stage ended in a sprint finish that had little effect on GC – Charles Dionne (Webcor) outsprinted Ben Brooks (Jelly Belly-Aramark) in 2:58:48 with Michael Sayers (Health Net) third. Louder crossed fifth, while Creed hit the line in ninth.
“There was no money changing hands and no promises changing hands,” said the 23-year-old Creed. “I take it as a compliment that these guys were willing to help me solely because they’re my friends. There’s not a lot of guys in the race that have that. There’s not a lot of guys who could call on anybody outside their teammates to help them out. I take it as a big compliment that I can.”
After Friday night’s criterium, Creed said that if he were to lose his lead, he would go down swinging. It never came to that.
“I never really had to take the gloves off today,” Creed said. “I just held my position and let people know I was feeling good. I never panicked. We never really got in a tough situation. I just constantly reminded myself to calm down and everything would get taken care of.
“I really want this (the overall win). Like I said, if I was going to lose this, there was going to be piss, blood and tears on the side of the road.”
With only Sunday’s Old Mill District Criterium remaining, Creed remains the overall leader in 11:00:38. Jeff Louder (Navigators) is second overall, 30 seconds back, with Sayers third at 35 seconds back.
Dionne was feeling a little bit better after Saturday’s racing was over, too. After learning that he was not selected for the Canadian Olympic cycling team bound for Athens, the disappointed sprinter could take a little comfort from his sprint victory on Saturday.
“I’ve been demoralized a little bit, so it’s good for the morale,” Dionne said.
Dionne was delivered to the finish by teammate Chris Horner, who went to the front with one lap remaining of six on the 81.6-mile course to chase a three-man break comprising Chris Baldwin (Navigators), Troy White (Sierra Nevada) and John Paul Hunt (Village Peddler).
Baldwin, White, Hunt, with Kirk O’Bee (Navigators), led for much of the stage, gaining as much as 1:28 on the rest of the pack. But none of them were in the hunt for the overall win, and they were caught by the peloton with a little less than a mile remaining.
“With one lap to go, we decided that the gap was too big, so Chris put the whole team in front, and I just told him that I felt so-so,” Dionne said. “I knew I had to get up there. We caught (Baldwin) just before the hill and I followed Horner’s wheel, and when I saw 200 meters to go, I just went as hard as I could.”
When Horner felt Dionne blow by him 10 meters before the finish, he slowed down and threw his hands in the air, satisfied with Webcor’s stage win.
“I was trying to lead out Dionne to the finish,” said Horner, who finished fourth. “He pulled out an incredible acceleration. He came by everyone like we were standing still. As soon as he did I just turned the key off. You’re just happy to see your teammate come through and win.”
Meanwhile, Postal’s Antonio Cruz is keeping an eye out for his teammate, Creed, as they head into today’s Old Mill District Criterium.
“it’s never over until it’s over,” Cruz said. “I’m just trying more than anything to keep him relaxed and not try to go with every acceleration He needs to have that energy stored up to take care of the serious business. Everything else, that’s why we’re there.”
T-Mobile’s Bruckner ‘psyched’ by win
In the four-lap women’s race, Kimberly Bruckner (T-Mobile) knew she couldn’t hold her nearly two-minute lead on the rest of the field, not with a full lap to go.
Still, with an assist from her teammates, she managed to hold off a chase led by rivals Webcor and Quark to win the 58-mile race in 2:26:02. And even better, teammates Lynn Gaggioli and Kristin Armstrong rounded out the podium, finishing second and third in the field sprint at nine seconds back.
“I’m psyched,” Bruckner said. “I didn’t know if I was going to feel good today or not, but the team set it up perfectly because Kim (Anderson) and Amber (Neben) were attacking the two girls that were off early. Kristin (Armstrong) attacked our second time up the climb and I was supposed to counter her, and I did, and it worked.
“I thought I’d be off for a while and set it up for the other girls, but the gap got bigger than I expected.
The original plan was to set up Gaggioli for the win, but once Bruckner had such a solid gap, Gaggioli helped to hold off the chase group.
“The goal was (for a T- Mobile rider) to win no matter who it was,” Gaggioli said. “But the real goal is to win the overall.”
That’s not out of reach. Overall leader Christine Thorburn (Webcor) took fourth in the bunch sprint, and holds a slim nine-second lead on Gaggioli heading into Sunday’s crit. Lyne Bessette (Quark) finished seventh and fell to fourth place overall, 35 seconds back. Meanwhile, Bruckner moved into third on GC, 28 seconds behind Thorburn.
Thorburn was extremely pleased with her teammates, who helped her close the gap on Bruckner on the final lap. With her big lead, Bruckner was the virtual leader on the course during much of the stage.
“I had a lot of help,” Thorburn said. “I was a little tired. I think everybody’s tired. I had tons of help from my teammates Cat Malone and Bettina Hold. They pulled as hard as they could until they were done. Quark helped us out on the last lap because Bessette didn’t want to lose her GC position to Kimberly.”
Thorburn was thankful that Bessette’s Quark team made that final chase. If not, Webcor may have struggled to catch Bruckner.
“Kimberly’s a fantastic rider, and I’m really happy for her,” Thorburn said. “There was a long time during the race where she was GC leader on the road. That’s what racing’s about. If nobody gave us help, I didn’t think we could pull it back, but fortunately, Bessette had something to lose, too.
Thorburn hopes to cement her lead on Sunday, but she knows nine seconds isn’t much of a gap.
“I can’t say I have it locked up because Lynn (Gaggioli) is such a good crit rider,” Thorburn said.
As for Gaggiolo, she’s hopeful, too.
“I think I have a chance,” she said. “We’ll see what happens.”