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By Mark Morical, Special to VeloNews
Kirk O’Bee and his Navigators teammates sat back and waited for the finish. They weren’t going to work hard if they didn’t have to.
O’Bee and Navigators let Health Net-Maxxis do most of the work throughout Friday night’s Twilight Criterium in downtown Bend. Then O’Bee broke from the pack with one lap to go and stayed ahead to win the criterium, the fourth stage of the Cascade Cycling Classic, by 10 meters over second-place Remi McManus of Subway and third-place Gord Fraser of Health Net-Maxxis.
Rain poured down throughout the race as O’Bee patiently waited for his chance behind the Health Net-Maxxis riders.
“Once they (Health Net-Maxxis) set the tempo, I just had to sit behind them,” O’Bee said. “That’s the best place to be. Let them do all the work. It just worked out. We didn’t have to expend too much energy and we stayed safe.”
That was not a simple task, as riders took it easy on the corners of the slick, rain-soaked course, which despite the weather was lined by thousands of cycling enthusiasts and curious spectators.
“The only freaky thing is you go through a turn 20, 30, 40 times, and all of a sudden, you take a bad turn and you can go down,” O’Bee said. “There’s always chances you’re taking. That’s racing – racing in the rain.”
For most of the criterium, Chris Wherry, Doug Ollerenshaw and Tyler Farrar were in front for Health Net, trying to set up Fraser for the victory. Fraser, who won the CCC’s first stage Wednesday, was the defending Twilight Criterium champion.
But this time it was not meant to be as O’Bee took the lead with one lap to go and never looked back.
The criterium had no effect on the overall men’s standings, as race leader Scott Moninger of Health Net played it safe to maintain the overall lead.
Earlier Friday, Moninger finished fourth in the 6.6-mile Tumalo Time Trial to overtake Navigators’ Cesar Grajales for the yellow leader’s jersey after starting the day in third overall, 35 seconds behind. Nathan O’Neill of Navigators won the time trial in 13 minutes, 26 seconds. Moninger finished in 14:10, 46 seconds better than Grajales.
Moninger now has an 11-second lead on Grajales and a 13-second lead on Grajales’ teammate Jeff Louder. Chris Baldwin, also of Navigators, is 19 seconds back. Baldwin was second in the time trial (13:49) and Louder was third (14:06).
Moninger won the Cascade Lakes Road Race on Thursday and has won the overall title at the Cascade Classic three times (1999-2001).
“Against other GC and climber types like Grajales, I certainly hold my own (in time trials),” Moninger said. “I had a little more in the gas tank this morning than some guys.
“I was certainly aiming for the overall lead. I had a really nice warm-up and really was focusing. It would have been nice to get on the podium, but the top two guys are world-class time trialists (O’Neill and Baldwin).”
Health Net has been nearly unstoppable as a team this year, and Moninger expressed confidence that he and his team would hold onto the lead.
“We’re all veterans of this race and we’ve certainly spent a lot of time racing together,” Moninger said. “We have that on our side. We’ve been in this position many, many times, trying to hold onto a lead.”
O’Neill, the Australian national time-trial champion, said he felt some pressure from his Navigators teammates to win the time trial on Friday. As his country’s champion, he wore the green and yellow national champion’s jersey during the stage.
“There was an expectation for me to win the stage, especially from my team,” O’Neill said. “It’s always good to deliver. I’m usually pretty handy against the clock. This kind of course suits me.
“Wearing the (national time-trial champion) jersey in a race motivates you as well. It puts some responsibility on your shoulders.”
Saturday’s stage of the men’s Cascade Cycling Classic is the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race, an 82-mile stage that starts at 12:30 p.m.