Going into today’s stage it was a bit of an unknown. Last night at our team meeting we were thinking today may be a tough day and a possible GC day. The day was set with 109 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing. We started on an island which was a bit odd but kinda rad at the same. The first 10 miles we left the island and rode across the causeway which could’ve been quite hectic depending on the wind but fortunately this morning the wind wasn’t much of a factor so it was just fast. The legs were a bit tired this morning so since I wasn’t looking to get in the move and there was no wind issue I simply sat at the back and just tried to start riding into it and opening up the legs. It took about 40 minutes and 22 miles for the break to finally stick and when it did it consisted of 6 guys and 2 from our team, Ty Magner and Dion Smith. Once the break went we slowed down a bit and took a nature break, but we were pretty quickly back to racing. UHC kept the pace pretty quick and the break pretty close with maybe getting only 2 minutes. We were starting to think with the break that close that the first climb might be tough with guys possibly trying to attack and bridge on the climb. The first climb was coming at 40 miles into the stage which was a Cat 2 climb at 5k long. With maybe about 5 miles before the climb started, the pace dropped a bit and the break started to get more time. The climb was a bit nervous since we didn’t know if guys would be attacking or not, but about half way up it seemed pretty mellow. Once we got to 1k, I started to sag the climb and drop back and work on conserving and saving energy. Once we crested the climb we descended to do a loop down by the lake we rode around the first stage. We hit the next climb which was a cat 3 about 65 miles into the stage and it was only about 4k but we had a pretty large headwind. I stayed pretty far back in the bunch up the climb to really work on saving and conserving energy. I knew nothing was going to happen with attacks or missing any splits with such a shallow grade so I found a nice spot towards the back and just worries about staying hydrated and doing the least work possible. Once we hit the top of the climb we had a pretty quick highway descent. I started moving up towards the side as we were reaching speeds up to 50 mph and all of a sudden to the left of me there was a large crash in the middle of the field. It was a pretty scary moment and fortunately I didn’t get caught up, but we did have Joe go down but not bad. This crash though would take out Busche from Trek Factory who was a GC favorite for the race.
Once we hit the bottom of the descent we actually rode on the highway for a few exits and started heading towards town where we would race on 2 circuits of about 10k with a steep 2.5 km climb each lap. We were going full gas at this point racing to the circuits and once we finally came into the circuits we saw the climb looking straight at us. It was basically a dead straight climb that just got steeper and steeper towards the top. The break started falling apart on the climb and once we hit the climb the field started to come apart as well. There were a few attacks but I knew everything would just get chased down so I just worried about staying in good position and saving it for the next lap. On top of the climb it leveled out and did some up and down before we hit the descent. There was a stellar headwind on top and lots of attacking and counter attacking. A group of about 5 guys were able to get a gap on what was left of the field and start the next and final lap. The break was all back in the field besides one rider who was solo in front of the 5 riders, Joey Rosskopf. Once we hit the next lap we got led into the climb and Bardiani took over the pace. With a little over half way up I put in an attack and bridged up to the 5 riders who were starting to fall apart and went by them and went after the last couple leaders.
At this point I was off the front which was pretty cool and looked back and saw about 5 riders coming up to me. At about the 200 meter to go to the KOM line they caught me and now there were 6 of us. Over the top we had our small group and then another small group coming behind. We started attacking each other and not doing the sensible thing of just working together. The head wind made it more difficult since if you opened a gap you had to shut it down real quick then another attack would follow. With about 1 km before the descent the larger group of about 25 riders caught us. At this point I knew it was going to be a small sprint finish, so I just fell to the back and started working on conserving for the remainder of the stage.
As we ripped down the descent around 2 km my teammate; Dion Smith, who was in the break all day launched an attack and got a gap. It looked as though he might pull it off but unfortunately he got caught maybe 5 meters from the line and had to settle for 5th. I rolled in mid pack on same time. Thats two days in a row the team almost pulled off a win.
The legs felt good and I was happy with how I felt at the end. I’m just taking this race day by day in seeing how I will feel for the weekend with this being the first big race at this level that I have done.
Strava Data from Stage 3
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Hincapie Racing Team and is also is the owner of Fast Tours Cycling.