June 12, 2005 (Red Wing, Minn.) — Maybe a day later helps puts things in perspective.Or maybe it was just the stage win talking. A day after losing the leader’s jersey in a wreck in the last three laps of the Minneapolis Downtown Classic, Health Net/Maxxis’ John Lieswyn was far less critical of race leader Shawn Milne of Navigator Insurance after the fourth stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. In fact, he was downright complimentary.
“I’ve got to hand it to Shawn,” he said, describing how Milne organized a chase in the last four laps of the circuit at the Red Wing Road Race to catch Brian Jensen of HRRC/Saddlewood Bikesource Specialized and Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home’s Jonathan Page to limit any time loss to the riders who were 1:41 and 1:49 down on the overall standings. “He and his team defended pretty well,” he continued. “They had heart and rode well.”
Milne and Lieswyn finished 1 minute, 31 seconds down to stage winner Gord Fraser, Lieswyn’s teammate, but more importantly they lost no time to Page or Jensen, the highest placed riders who made the final selection in a race that saw more than half the field fall in attrition.
And for Fraser and Lieswyn, the stage win — the second of the stage and sixth going back three weeks –healed some wounds left from the wreck of Friday night’s crit.
“This goes a little way to making us feel better,” Fraser said after beating Advantage Benefit/Endeavor Cycling Team’s Karl Menzies and Jelly Belly’s Danny Pate to the line.
What made Fraser happy, though, left Menzies and Pate complaining about the Canadian national champion’s tactics. “Gord sat on for 50K,” Menzies said. “Then he attacks in the last kilometer. It’s a little disappointing.”
“It’s kind of lame,” Pate said after pulling the two other riders around the 4-mile circuit much of the last two laps. “It’s how it goes.”
Pate, Menzies, and Fraser led the field into the finishing circuit of six laps after 78 miles on the road. However, to say the field followed was a bit of a misnomer, as high winds that stayed after thunderstorms that had rolled through before the start whittled the field down to a select group of only about 35 riders from the 112 who started. The rest of the field was stopped at the entrance to the circuit and given prorated times.
It was a day that Navigator’s director Ray Cipollini said was pretty straight-forward. “It all comes down to the strongest guys,” he said.
This Saturday, those guys also came from the strongest teams — Health Net, Jelly Belly, Navigator, Colavita Olive Oil and Advantage Benefit’s. Only 21 miles into the race, those teams took to the front and formed an echelon that blew the race apart, chasing down a break of three who had built a 2-minute advantage in less than five miles.
The chase of 14 included all four Health Net riders (Fraser, Lieswyn, Tyler Farrar, and Greg Henderson), five Jelly Bellys (Pate, Dave McCook, Mariano Fredrick, Brice Jones, Dave McCook, and Matty Rice), two Advantage Benefits (Menzies and Brent Bookwalter), two Navigators (Milne and Chris Baldwin), and Page of Colavita.
In the back, chases started to form, but few riders were able to hang on the strong head- and crosswinds. By the 40-mile mark, less than 40 riders remained in front of the race caravan.
“That was one of the hardest races I have done in a long time,” Lieswyn said afterwards, noting that he was not surprise by the carnage left behind. “Absolutely vicious race,” Milne said.
But with the big teams represented, and the top two in the GC in the pack, there was little reason to work hard other than to stay ahead of other riders. By the end of the feed zone, the lead group started to splinter as Fraser went on some attacks but Lieswyn, marked by Milne, would drop back.
“I told Gord with 30 miles to go, “˜It’s all you,’” said Lieswyn, who complained of muscle soreness in his groin from Friday’s wreck. “I couldn’t put any pressure on my left groin muscle. I was almost crying.That didn’t make him too happy, because he wasn’t feeling too great, either.”
“I was just trying to set something up for John,” Fraser said of his day’s efforts. While the lead group shuffled with some chasers, the final winning break did not come until 26 miles from the finish and was initiated by Menzies. “I was just trying to keep up the pace for my teammates,” he said. “It wasn’t planned or anything.”
When Fraser and Pate joined, he said he knew they had a break that could hold. While Page and Jensen chased for the rest of the race, they never pulled closer than 25 seconds, and when Milne realized the gap that was opening between him and Lieswyn and Page and Jensen, the latter two’s time by themselves was over.
Milne gave credit to his team for getting him through the tough stage. “I was getting nervous,” the rookie rider said. “I am new at this tactic stuff.”
With one more day left, though, on a crit course that includes one of the toughest climbs on the National Racing Calendar circuit, Milne said Sunday maybe more about stamina than tactics.
“More or less it is going to be to pace myself,” he said of Sunday’s strategy.
Results will be posted when they are made available.
Stage 4 Results
1 Gord Fraser (Health Net presented by Maxxis) 4.04.15
2 Karl Menzies (Advantage Benefits/Endeavour Cycling Team)
3 Danny Pate (Jelly Belly-Pool Gel)
4 Brian Jensen (HRRC / Saddlewood Bikesource Specialized) 1.31
5 Jonathon Page (Colavita Olive Oil – Sutter)
6 John Lieswyn (Health Net presented by Maxxis)
7 Shawn Milne (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team)
8 Aaron Olson (Colavita Olive Oil – Sutter) 1.37
9 Tyler Farrar (Health Net presented by Maxxis) 2.51
10 Emile Abraham (Monex)
GC after Stage 4
1 Shawn Milne (Navigators Insurance Cycling Team) 8.36.44
2 John Lieswyn (Health Net presented by Maxxis) 0.27
3 Aaron Olson (Colavita Olive Oil – Sutter) 1.22
4 Brian Jensen (HRRC / Saddlewood Bikesource Specialized) 1.45
5 Danny Pate (Jelly Belly-Pool Gel) 1.47
6 Jonathon Page (Colavita Olive Oil – Sutter) 1.50
7 Karl Menzies (Advantage Benefits/Endeavour Cycling Team) 2.01
8 Jake Rytlewski (Advantage Benefits/Endeavour Cycling Team) 3.16
9 Tyler Farrar (Health Net presented by Maxxis) 3.42
10 Kevin Miller (Jet Fuel Coffee-Sympatico/MSN.ca) 3.56