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Pic, Fraser take Joe Martin openers

Tina Pic (Colavita) and Health Net’s Gord Fraser won their opening stages at the Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Friday, the opener in a growing three-day event with a healthy fan base and an increasing prize list. In a hard fought up-hill sprint to the line, Gord Fraser (Health Net-Maxxis) won the 110-mile men’s road race, beating Ivan Stevic (Toyota-United) and Alex Candelario (Jelly Belly) to the line. Fraser’s win came thanks to the help of his Health Net-Maxxis teammates Scott Moninger and Nathan O’Neill, who worked to chase down a dangerous break of four riders that

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By Ian Dille, VeloNews correspondent

Fraser charges ahead of Stevic for the win

Fraser charges ahead of Stevic for the win

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Tina Pic (Colavita) and Health Net’s Gord Fraser won their opening stages at the Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Friday, the opener in a growing three-day event with a healthy fan base and an increasing prize list.

In a hard fought up-hill sprint to the line, Gord Fraser (Health Net-Maxxis) won the 110-mile men’s road race, beating Ivan Stevic (Toyota-United) and Alex Candelario (Jelly Belly) to the line.

Fraser’s win came thanks to the help of his Health Net-Maxxis teammates Scott Moninger and Nathan O’Neill, who worked to chase down a dangerous break of four riders that had escaped on the descent of Mount Gaylor, the day’s main obstacle at 73-miles.

Toyota DS Frankie Andreu lectures the troops before the start

Toyota DS Frankie Andreu lectures the troops before the start

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

In the break were Jose Garcia (Toyota-United), Frank Pipp (Target Training), Jason Donald (Team Einstein’s), and Brian Jensen (Jelly Belly). The break managed only a hard fought lead of 30-seconds before the field swallowed them only 2-miles from the finish.

The final break, initially a group of eight containing O’Neill and Stevic, emerged from a main pack scaled down to only about 40-racers by the intense pace up the 10-mile Mount Gaylor climb.

Leading up to the Mount Gaylor ascent, Jelly Belly, Priority Health, and the Health Net-Maxxis teams, did the bulk of the work to bring down the lead of an early, five man breakaway.

That break – initiated by Bruno Langlois (AEG-Toshiba-Jetfuel) only few miles from the start and later joined by Jonathan Kersha (Columbia Bike Club), Gordon McCauley (Monex), Russell Langley (Rite Aid), and Derek Wilkerson (Toyota-United) – cruised to a gap of nearly five minutes as the field rode a steady tempo, enjoying the scenic, Ozark countryside.

Stevic gives it a go

Stevic gives it a go

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

But on the grinding, gradual pitches of Gaylor, the break disintegrated and everyone who was able to remain in the field was again in contention for victory.

In the final, furious kilometers toward the finish in downtown Fayetteville an attack by Stevic’s teammate, Sean Sullivan, helped set Fraser up for the win.

“Sean Sullivan put in a big attack with one kilometer to go and got a gap on us. Caleb Manion (Jelly Belly) went after him and I got on Caleb’s wheel,” Fraser said.

“Caleb got stuck because he didn’t make the junction, but lucky for me, and everybody, he continued to chase Sullivan down and kept him close enough.”

First out of the final turn, Fraser was able to pass Sullivan and hold off Stevic for the win.

“Up-hill sprints really aren’t the best for me, but I was able to muscle it,” Fraser said of the climb that rose 150-feet over three quarters of a mile. “I was in slow motion by the end. I knew if I could just hold it to the line, I’d have it.”

The men’s racing continues tomorrow with a 92-mile road race in the morning followed by 2.5-mile uphill time trial later that afternoon.

“I’m just keeping the leaders jersey warm for my teammates,” Fraser said when asked about his chances in Saturday’s time-trial.

Women
Tina Pic (Colavita-Cooking Light) and Laura Van Gilder (Lipton) survived the speedy lead out of their own teammates to finish first and second respectively in the women’s 64-mile road, stage one road race.

“The lead out was just amazing,” said Pic of the pace set by her teammate Sue Polmar-Komar and Kori Seehafer (Lipton).

“We were like ‘hey were getting dropped back here,’” Pic joked.

Seehafer and Polmar-Komar went on to finish fourth and fifth after trading blows at the front of the field up the finishing hill.

Dotsie Baush (Colavita-Cooking Light) came in third.

Bausch and Seehafer also played dominant roles in the races main action during the ascent of Mount Gaylor. After following an attack by Erine Willock (Webcor-Platinum) the pair escaped with Rachel Heal (Victory Brewing) to form a break that the strongest teams were happy to let go.

But with a lead of only thirty seconds on the wide-open descent back to Fayetteville, the break was still within sight. Diet Cheerwine took the initiative to chase it down with the help of Katherine Bates (Nurenberg).

“Diet Cheerwine was awesome,” said Pic. “They’re a young, up and coming team and they did a great job.”

With three stages remaining, including a hilly, technical criterium on Sunday, the women’s race is still wide open.

“We only have four riders here, so we plan on riding a cautious, strategic race,” said Van Gilder of her team’s chances against the much larger Colavita-Cooking Light and Victory Brewing squads.

Watching the men's race finish

Watching the men’s race finish

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Men
1. Gordon Fraser (Health Net-Maxxis), 4:21:37
2. Ivan Stevic (Toyota-United Pro)
3. Alex Candelario (Jelly Belly)
4. Edward King (Priority Health)
5. Scott Moninger (Health Net-Maxxis)
6. Aaron Tuckerman (Team Rubicon-Gleukos)
7. Chad Cagle (Mercy Cycling)
8. Predrag Prokic (AEG-TOSHIBA-JetNetwork)
9. Justin England (Toyota-United Pro)
10. Chris Wherry (Toyota-United Pro)Women
1. Tina Pic (Colavita-Cooking Light), 2:40:41
2. Laura Vangilder (Team Lipton)
3. Dotsie Bausch (Colavita-Cooking Light)
4. Kori Seehafer (Team Lipton)
5. Sue Palmer-Komar (Colavita-Cooking Light), at 0:09
6. Erinne Willock (Webcor-Platinum)
7. Rachel Heal (Victory Brewing Team)
8. Katherine Bates (Nurenberg)
9. Alison Powers (Rio Grande/Sports Garage)
10. Sarah Bambeger (Cheerwine)

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