Sutherland started the day three seconds behind Scott Zwizanksi (Kelly Benefit Strategies) on the overall. With no time bonuses on tap, Sutherland needed a four-second gap at the finish.
With four laps of the 20-lap contest remaining, Sutherland’s team massed at the front in the Stillwater Criterium and drove the pace, setting up Sutherland who attacked on the penultimate trip up the 18-percent climb that ends at the finish. Only Jamis’ Luis Amaran could stay with the Australian, who charged around the last lap before dropping Amaran on the final climb.
Last year, Sutherland came into the same stage a few seconds behind Bissell’s Tom Zirbel. He attacked Zirbel on the final climb and grabbed the jersey in the race’s final 50 meters.
“The plan was the same as last year,” Sutherland said. “We just wait, and we wait, and we wait, and let everybody else attack. I’ve got the confidence and the team to do a finish like that. Kelly did a phenomenal job the whole race. They didn’t do anything wrong. But either you follow or you can’t follow at the end.”
Zwizanski was disappointed at the finish. “I just didn’t have it the last two laps at the end. It really sucks,” he said. “My teammates worked awesome. I wouldn’t have been in the position to win without them. Unfortunately we didn’t quite have enough to bring it home at the end. It’s a huge disappointment. But you win some, you lose some, I guess.”
As the pro men lined up for the start, Chilkoot Hill stared the racers in the face. The 100-vertical-foot, 18-percent climb began just 150 meters beyond start. The race finished at the top, 20 laps and dozens of retired riders later. Some didn’t even make it up once, as a crash just past the start line took out a dozen guys. Most remounted.
Up ahead, a break went almost immediately, with Jeremy Vennell (Bissell), Anthony Colby (Jelly Belly) and Scott Stewart (Team Type 1). Behind, Kelly Benefit Strategies dutifully took up their post at the front of the peloton, the way the riders in green and yellow had done since Zwizanski took the jersey with the stage 1 time trial.
After 5 of the race’s 20 laps, three riders bridged up, including American Ben King (Trek-Livestrong) in the white Best Young Riders jersey, Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly) and Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia).
When the peloton closed in, Stewart took a solo flyer. The remainder of the break was reabsorbed, and Stewart soldiered on alone. With 12 laps to go, another three riders went clear: Mike Northey (Orbea-Rubicon), Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia) and Kiel Reijnen (Jelly Belly). After a lap the three caught Stewart.
At the race’s midpoint, Orbea’s Northey attacked and held off the field for three laps.
When Northey was caught, Luis Amaran (Jamis) jumped on the hill, marked by David Veileux (Kelly) and Sutherland. They had a small gap over the top of Chilhook, but were caught soon by the Kelly-led pack.
As the laps dwindled, Sutherland and Zwizanski rode shoulder-to-shoulder up the climb, regularly glancing at each other. Sutherland rode out of the saddle, but with a calm poker face.
“That’s a little trick I learned long ago — no matter how much you’re hurting, you’ve got to try and keep your face pretty normal,” Sutherland said.
On the backside of the course with 2.5 laps to go, UnitedHealthcare went to the front en masse and wound up the pace. Zwizanski and Amaran sat right behind.
By the end of the final stage, Kelly’s reserves were dwindling.
“I looked up and saw eight UnitedHealthcare guys and just four Kelly guys — rightfully, as they had been riding the front all race,” said UnitedHealthcare team director Mike Tamayo. “But at that point the advantage shifted to us, and the script was being written for what we were trying to do. It’s a hard course to defend on, so hats off to Kelly, they defended all week. There is no sitting in on this hill. Everybody has to give it, and give it every time.”
United kept the pace high through the start line at the base of the climb as the bell rang out one to go. UnitedHealthcare cocked the gun with team speed, and Sutherland pulled the trigger at the base of the climb. Only Amaran could follow.
When Sutherland punched out with one to go, only Kelly’s David Veilleux was able to chase when it mattered most, and even he was a few seconds adrift, followed only by two other riders. Zwizanski was another 2 seconds back at the top of the climb.
“I knew Rory was going to go, I just didn’t have the legs to follow,” said Zwizanski.
Sutherland and Amaran kept on the gas over the top and across the false flat around the back of the course. Descending back down to the start, it was clear Sutherland had well more than the 3 seconds he needed. To put the cherry on top, he punched it up the climb one last time, dropping Amaran and securing the double victory.
“It’s a good race to be in second place, nice and close, if you’ve got good legs and a good feeling,” Sutherland said about his position all week. “This is a great way to finish it.”
- 1. Rory Sutherland United Healthcare P/b Maxxis in 1:11:15
- 2. Luis Romero Amaran Jamis/Sutter Home P/b Colavita at 3s
- 3. David Veilleux Kelly Benefit Strategies at 6
- 4. Chris Winn Team Rio Grande at 7
- 5. Alejandro Borrajo Jamis/sutter Home P/b Colavita at 7
- 1. Rory Sutherland United Healthcare P/b Maxxis in 7:28:54
- 2. Scott Zwizanski Kelly Benefit Strategies at 6s
- 3. David Veilleux Kelly Benefit Strategies at 20
- 4. Luis Romero Amaran Jamis/Sutter Home P/b Colavita at 28
- 5. Bernard van Ulden Jelly Belly P/b Kenda at 38