By Margot Callahan
Reigning USPRO champion Mark McCormack (Colavita Olive Oil) put in a strong performance Sunday to win the 137-mile opening stage of the Tour of Connecticut.
The stage began with a 117-mile opening loop around scenic Litchfield County, with the start and finish in Torrington. The day threatened rain, but instead provided beautiful sunshine for the 120 cyclists at the start.
After just five miles, a nine-man break went away and forged a 4.5-mile lead on the field by mile 20. Olympic champion Marty Nothstein (Navigators) won the first and second sprints of the day just before the break was caught at mile 42.
Dominique Perras (Team Ofoto) and Todd Herriott (Colavita) broke away on the very steep climb out of Sharon, opening up a two-minute gap. The two held off the 50-strong pack that was shattered on the 4km Carter Road climb, with grades reaching 22 percent. Perras took the King of the Mountain (KOM) in Kent, and remained away until Mike Jones (Health Net) bridged the two-minute gap alone by mile 87. The three men kept the two-minute lead constant into Torrington, when Perras was seized by cramps; he was forced to pull off the road and dive into a convenience store for something to drink on the 2-mile finishing circuits. He finished the race in 25th and claimed the best climber’s jersey for the day.
Back in the action, Harriot and Jones, pursued by the Naviagators, having chased for more than 40 miles, saw their lead drop to 20 seconds with six laps remaining of the 10-lap finishing circuit in Torrington.
One lap later, they were caught, and Colavita sent Argentinian Juan Jose Haedo on the attack. Burke Swindlehurst (Navigators) followed, continuing the Navigator-Colavita battle in company with Melito Heredia (Toga Bikes). They in turn were caught by McCormack (Colavita), who made the decisive break with Mark Walters (Navigators) and Shawn Milne (Fiordifrutta) before leaving them behind with three laps to go for the solo win.
Milne won the Chanler Lewis Best Amateur Jersey for the stage, repaying his teammates for all the hard work they had done for him early in the race.