Race Report: Valley of the Sun Stage Race

The weather for the time trial was in the mid 70’s and sunny, the only typical Phoenix weather we had all weekend. The TT course was an out and back 14.2 mile course which had a slightly uphill first leg followed by a pretty strong headwind on the way back. The key would be to balance the efforts to not suffer too much coming home.

The SDBC Cat 2’s had a strong group of guys including Chris Besaw, Jonathan Deguzman, Kevin Festini, Kenyon Ralph, Ben Rathkamp, and Christian De Groot. Kevin had an unfortunate flat during his TT. The rest of the guys ended up putting out solid times.

Chris was in GC contention, sitting in 10th place, 50 seconds back. So the team was focused on using the road race to make up time. The road race consisted of 16 mile laps, for 95 miles of total race distance, which were pretty flat overall with a small gradual hill leading into the finish.

On the drive over to the course, it started raining. We knew we were in for a hard day. The race started out at a pretty chill pace, with a few people trying attacks, but nothing substantial developing. The SDBC team had the top 10 GC leaders marked and knew we couldn’t let any dangerous breaks form with those riders.

JD guided Chris around the peloton for the first 4 laps, shielding him from wind and making sure he was well positioned in the field. During the 3rd lap a small split in the field occurred during the cross wind section. The entire SDBC team went to the front to drive the race in hopes some of the GC riders were caught up. Eventually the field came mostly back together, but matches were certainly burned by the other teams.

JD ended up getting a flat sometime in the 4th lap and turned back to the pace car to grab a wheel. Adam Schepps from Breakaway Training, a really strong rider also from San Diego who was sitting in 8th place, got a flat soon after. JD saw that Adam would have to wait for the pace car due to multiple riders needing assistance. He gave Adam his wheel, which would prove to play an important role later in the race.

Ben, Kenyon, Kevin, and Christian spent the next few laps controlling the front and responding to anyone who attacked the field. No major moves gained traction, but on the climb on the second to last lap, the time seemed prime for movement. Kevin brought Chris to the front and Chris saw there was a small break up the road and attacked to bridge up. He was joined by a few others and eventually was able to catch the others up the road. There were no GC riders in the break, aside from Schepps. Chris knew if he could make it stick, he would have a shot at making up some time.

The break consisted of about 10 riders, and there was a small break of 3 a short distance up the road as well. The break had a good gap after the descent, and it seemed that it had a chance to succeed. There were quite a few riders who were not contributing to the effort and slowing the break down. Eventually Chris attacked the group to attempt to bridge up to the group of 3 up the road.

No one was able to respond, and Chris caught the front of the race and sat in a few rotations to recover. The second break was baring down on the new group of 4. Chris attacked on the flat section before the climb to see if anyone would respond. No one seemed to have the legs. Chris continued to ride away from the chasing groups, while Schepps was keeping things disorganized.

Chris continued to hold his power all the way to the line for a solo win. The time gaps were large enough to put him in the GC lead by 18 seconds heading into the crit the next day.

Leading into the crit, the team knew who we had to watch, especially the guy in second, as there was a 10 second time bonus for winning the stage. The plan was to have riders at the front the whole race so we could respond if necessary. If possible, we would set JD up in a good position to contest a field sprint. The weather seemed like it may be alright for the race. But as we were staging, it began to rain, adding an additional variable to the mix.

There weren’t too many dangerous situations out on the course. JD noticed Chris was sitting pretty far back in the field, so he brought him up to the front, just as the second place GC rider had opened up a small gap. Kevin was sitting right on his wheel, covering the move. JD put in a big effort to close the gap down and Chris was able to finish the deal and bring the break back in.

The last 4 laps were fast, but no breaks formed leading to a big field sprint, meaning the SDBC team had clinched the cat 2 Valley of the Sun GC.

Overall, it was a great weekend racing with a great group of guys who worked seamlessly together to take the victory. Big shout out to all the SDBC sponsors: UC Cyclery, Specialized, Spinergy Wheels, as well as our title sponsor Emerald Textiles who support our team!

By Chris Besaw, Team SDBC/Emerald Textiles p/b UC Cyclery

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