March 21, 2015 (Fontana City, California) – Canada’s Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain Factory) finished second behind winner Anton Cooper (Cannondale Factory Racing) from New Zealand in a hard fought battle that saw the two leaders duke it out. Manuel Fumic (Ger) Cannondale Factory Racing and teammate Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) finished together in third and fourth with Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Esp) Trek Factory Racing Team 5th. Max Plaxton (Can) Sho-Air/Cannondale claimed 8th.
US CUP Pro Series XCT Race Report
The men were scheduled to race six laps of the dusty and rocky course. The 120-strong field kicked up the fine dust on the trail as they strung out in a sprint for the base of the first climb. In a sign of his form, Cannondale’s Kiwi Anton Cooper took the hole shot for yet another strong start. Series leader Raphael Gagne (Rocky Mountain Bicycles) took over shortly afterward with Geoff Kabush (Scott 3 Rox) second wheel.
Hitting the pavement first was Gagne, followed by Kabush, Cooper, Fontana (both Cannondale Factory Racing), Wells (Specialized Factory Racing), Ettinger (Sho-Air/Cannondale) and Italian Andrea Tiberi (FRM Factory).
Fontana dabbed on a tricky spot, creating a gap to third place that didn’t last long enough to cause any major drama. Kabush would be the next to allow the early pace get the best of him, as he too hit the dirt. Six riders would come together toward the end of the first lap: Gagne, Cooper, Kabush, Wells, Stephen Ettinger (Sho-Air/Cannondale) and Fontana.
Tiberi, Fontana and teammate Manuel Fumic joined the lead group on the second time up the road climb, making a lead group of nine, chased by a courageous Max Plaxton (Sho-Air/Cannondale), who was battling a gruesome blister on his foot.
Cooper would be the first to put in a significant attack on the third lap. Gagne bridged back up, followed by Tiberi. On lap four, Tiberi dropped from this group as Cooper and Gagne pulled away on the rolling rocky section. The leaders showed no signs of tiring, as the fourth lap was the fastest to that point! The two leaders continued to pull away, followed by teammates Fumic and Fontana, with Tiberi, Wells and Mantecon each trying to chase back on.
The two leaders held their ground for the remainder of the race, with Fontana and Fumic solidifying their podium spots but content to let their young teammate fight it out for the win. Cooper’s decisive attack came midway through the last lap as he distanced himself on the final time up the asphalt climb. Cooper held and then extended his lead through the rolling and twisty singletrack to win by eleven seconds over Gagne, with Fumic and Fontana preceding Mantecon.
“What a way to finish off this first part of the season,” said Cooper at the finish. “And after last week, it’s great to come away with the win. Having Manny and Marco on the podium with me makes it even better. Now, I head home and start ramping up for the World Cup.”
“Good job to Anton. He’s a super-tough guy,” said Gagne at the finish. “I felt stronger today than last week, so I’m real happy with my race. The course was great, I really liked it.”
USA Cycling US Cup presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group series standings
After round two of the USA Cycling US Cup presented by Cannondale series, Cooper takes over the lead ahead of Gagne by virtue of the higher points on offer at the HC race, while Nash leads the womens’ series ahead of Batty.
The USA Cycling US Cup presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group series will continue with round 3, a UCI Category HC race, with a return to Bonelli Park in San Dimas , California on Saturday, April 11.
1. Anton Cooper (Nzl) Cannondale Factory Racing 1:27:54
2. Raphael Gagne (Can) Rocky Mountain Factory 0:11
3. Manuel Fumic (Ger) Cannondale Factory Racing 1:01
4. Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) Cannondale Factory Racing 1:02
5. Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Esp) Trek Factory Racing Team 1:52
6. Todd Wells (USA) Specialized Factory Racing 2:22
7. Andrea Tiberi (Ita) FRM 2:33
8. Max Plaxton (Can) Sho-Air/Cannondale 2:59
9. Adam Mork (Can) 3:14
10. Kohei Yamamoto (Jpn) Trek 3:18
Full results here.
Overall after 2 rounds
1. Anton Cooper (Nzl) Cannondale Factory Racing 75 pts
2. Raphael Gagne (Can) Rocky Mountain Factory 67
3. Manuel Fumic (Ger) Cannondale Factory Racing 49
4. Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (Esp) Trek Factory Racing Team 49
5. Max Plaxton (Can) Sho-Air/Cannondale 49
Full standings here.