Working all day in a breakaway paid off for Fly V Australia’s Phil Zajicek, who grabbed the overall win at the Tucson Bicycle Classic by a single second over Jonathan Chodroff (Jelly Belly-Kenda). Eric Marcotte (Pista Palace) won the stage from the break, and slotted into third overall.
After the pro men’s field was neutralized on stage 2, Zajicek went into the third and final day of TBC 11 seconds down on Chodroff. Wind and punchy racing made for a hard day on the hilly circuit, which the pro men tackled eight times.
Although some of his Fly V Australia teammates were racing in California this weekend, Zajicek opted to stick around his hometown to race Tucson as an individual.
“It was aggressive racing from the start and after two laps I got off with six others,” Zajicek said. “I was feeling great from the start and rode hard to keep the gap to the chasing field. The gap hovered between 20-30 seconds the majority of the race; on the final lap I was left on the front alone to ride to the finish.”
Behind in the field, Chodroff found himself in a similar situation. As with Zajicek, Chodroff was racing as a one-man team. When Zajicek’s move went, Chodroff found himself a little too far back in the field.
“Flying solo, it’s difficult to cover every move,” he said. “So for the rest of the race it was me and Mike Mathis, who was in third GC, on the front drilling it.”
Besides their GC interests, Mathis and Chodroff shared a history, too — they both had raced for Empire Cycling out of New York City. They were assisted in the chase periodically by two other East Coasters from BikeReg — Alistar Ratcliff and Thom Coupe, the latter of whom is rooming with Chodroff while the Jelly Belly rider is staying in Arizona over the winter.
“We were gradually bringing the gap down,” Chodroff said. “They rang the bell one lap too early. We were supposed to do nine laps; we did eight. That was unfortunate, but that’s bike racing.”
Up ahead in the break, Zajicek had his head down all the way to the line.
“Crossing the line I knew it would be close,” Zajicek said.
Indeed, it was close — Zajicek crossed the line exactly 12 seconds ahead of Chodroff’s group to take the overall win.
“It was a bit heartbreaking to lose by one second,” Chodroff said. “But if I’m going to lose to someone, Phil’s a really good guy, and a great racer. And everyone said Phil busted his ass in the break today. A very hard-earned and well-deserved win.”
Tucson wasn’t Chodroff’s first experience defending a leader’s jersey by himself. He faced a similar situation this year in Arizona’s other big stage race, Valley of the Sun. In that Phoenix race, he won opening time trial and successfully defended his lead to the three-day race’s conclusion.
With Jelly Belly skipping the San Dimas Stage Race, Chodroff will formally open his 2010 season at the Redlands Bicycle Classic before hopping a plane to the Tour of Thailand.
“We fly out directly after Redlands, out of LA that night,” said Chodroff, adding that he and his teammates might use their Compex muscle stimulators for the 18-hour flight.
In the women’s race, Rebecca Much entered the final day seven seconds down on Susannah Gordon.
“I just kept thinking that if I can win this stage I can win the overall,” she said.
And that’s exactly what she did, securing a 10-second time bonus with her winning sprint.
“I haven’t won a sprint in a long time,” said Much, who was second in the opening time trial and the day 2 road race. “There was another time bonus sprint on the line about half-way through the race, and I used that one as practice to make sure I got it right for the finish.”
Gordon was second and Tayler Wiles third on GC.
“Tucson is a really good race,” Much said. “It’s well run, and everyone raced well. It was good preparation for San Dimas and Redlands. I’m really excited about those races.”