Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) and Modesta Vzesniauskaite (Colavita-Baci) made it two in a row at the Joe Martin Stage Race Saturday. Cantwell, whose teammate Bernie Sulzberger took the stage 2 win, pulled off the bunch sprint ahead of Daniel Holloway (Bissell) and Aldo Ino Ilesic (Team Type 1).
Vzesniauskaite powered to her second consecutive stage win in another mass finish in front of Laura Van Gilder (DFT-Treads.com) and Erica Allar (Vera Bradley Foundation).
Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) and Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home) retained their overall leads after the penultimate stage.
Another hard one
The men rolled three laps, each with more than 1,500 vertical feet of climbing, on the 38km circuit south of Fayetteville for a total of 148km. The hot temperatures and wind that faced the peloton during the first two stages waned Saturday and the day was perfect for a ride through northwestern Arkansas.
While the air temperature fell off, the heat on the road did not. The action began early with teams hoping to make a GC-altering breakaway form, as it did Friday. The first hint of the day’s break emerged just before the first ascent of the main climb; a nine-mile, 500-vertical foot rise that opened the circuit each lap.
A group that included stage 1 winner Andrew Talansky and Sid Taberlay (both California Giant Berry Farms) and Corey Collier (OUCH-Bahati Foundation) rode away near the base of the climb and were joined a half lap later and the day’s move was made.
- Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies)
- Patrick Bevin (Rubicon-Orbea)
- Josh Dillon, (Bikereg.com-Cannondale)
- Evan Hyde (OUCH-Bahati Foundation)
- Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis)
- Taylor Sheldon (Holowesko Partners)
- Bernie Sulzberger (Fly V Australia)
“It was a good move and it went early,” said Collier. “We didn’t think it would go that early; we were just testing the water. We definitely wanted to be aggressive and be the animators of the race again. We were hoping for Bissell and some of those guys to be there and kind of shake it up like happened yesterday with a few of the GC guys.”
The group worked well together — although Sulzberger sat out a few turns until the gap neared two minutes — to quickly build a lead of three minutes in the second lap. The stage has a history of coming together in the 4km between the summit of the climb and the finish. The sprinters’ teams, as well as Amaran’s Jamis teammates were keen to see a bunch sprint. Bissell and Team Type 1 both missed the break and threw coal on the fire at the front of the chasing peloton.
By the time the break exited the circuit for the final run-in to Fayetteville, the gap was below 40 seconds. The surging peloton soaked the leaders up nine kilometers from the finish and the kick to the line was on.
Shawn Sullivan (Hotel San Jose) made an eleventh-hour attack inside five kilometers to go and when Ben Day (V Australia) pulled him back, the V Australia train took the front of the race. The team fought off efforts by UnitedHealthcare to swarm over the top and delivered Cantwell to the front with 220 meters to go.
Cantwell showed the hop he has all year and took the win over Holloway, who posted his best NRC-level result in the runner-up spot.
“It was a little bit tricky,” said Cantwell. “It was a little bit sketchy because everyone was there.”
“The plan from the start of the day was for the boys to lead me out into the sprint if it came down to any kind of sprint,” said Cantwell. “With 2k to go, Ben Day was there and Jay Thompson, Alessandro Bazzana, David Kemps. They just got on the front and did the perfect leadout for practice for the Tour of California.”
His team hammered from a long day on front, Amaran finished safely in the bunch to hold his lead headed into the final stage criterium Sunday.
Hurry up and wait
The women got off to an equally feverish pace to the men Saturday with attacks flying all the way to the base of the first climb. None of the moves stuck and the peloton basically called a time out for the middle 25 kilometers of the 111km race. Colavita and TIBCO-To The Top turned the burners back on, however, as the peloton rode onto the climb for the second of two lap. The two squads sent a succession of riders off the front of the bunch.
With GC threats like Rushlee Buchanan (Colavita) and Meredith Miller (TIBCO) jumping away, Vera Bradley Foundation was determined to draw the moves back and with 10km to go, the bunch resigned itself to a sprint finish. Colavita, TIBCO and Vera Bradley organized near the front in the closing kilometers and Colavita delivered Vzesniauskaite to the line first, overtaking Miller, who had jumped early, but was unable to hold on.
“I can’t believe it,” said Vzesniauskaite. “I eat, I drink, I don’t work and in the sprint I win. I’m good. I’m feeling good and I like America. I’m very good in the team and feeling good.”
Powers, who punched in for Allar’s leadout, finished in the bunch and will enter stage 4 in the lead, but not the leader’s jersey, as there is not one.
“The coolest part of the day was how awesome my team did today,” said Powers. “Every single person did something and did what they were supposed to and that was really neat. I was really proud of my team today.”
Up next: A technical crit affair
Sunday’s closing criterium has the ability to shake up the GC on the men’s and women’s sides. The 12-corner course features a punchy climb up Church Street to the start/finish and could very well spring a GC rider free of the group, particularly if the forecasted rain bears down on Fayetteville. The stage is the usual 60/90-minute affair for the women and men, but is anything but predictable.