As they pedaled side by side during the 2006 Giro d’Italia, American Pat McCarty and Dutchman Marc de Maar probably would not have guessed that four years later they would both taste success at a national-level stage race at Mt. Hood, Oregon.
McCarty, who served stints riding with U.S. Postal Service, Phonak, Garmin-Chipotle and OUCH-Maxxis but is riding unattached this year for Matrix-Richardson Bike Mart, crossed the finish line alone Saturday to win the penultimate and queen stage of the 2010 Indie Hops Mt. Hood Cycling Classic.
De Maar, who raced for years with the Rabobank Continental Pro team and is now with UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis, crossed the finish line 35 seconds later, fourth on the stage, his yellow race leader’s jersey all but secured with only Sunday’s 90-minute downtown criterium remaining.
The two riders couldn’t have started the stage in more different positions. De Maar began the day in the race leader’s jersey, supported by the strongest team in the race. McCarty began the stage almost three minutes down on GC in 13th place and with no team support.
However each man knew he needed to have a strong performance on the 92-mile Wy-East Road Race in order to consider his trip to Oregon a success.
The stage 4 win was McCarty’s first win in years, and de Maar’s fourth-place finish brought the Dutch rider closer to what will likely be his first stage-race win on U.S. soil. De Maar began the stage with a 14-second lead over 2009 winner Paul Mach (Bissell), and ended the day with a 44-second lead over Team Type 1’s Mike Creed, who, like McCarty, is racing without team support.
McCarty won the stage from a seven-man breakaway that didn’t develop until 83 miles into the stage controlled heavily by UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis as well as Cal Giant, which was intent on amassing KOM points along the first two of three categorized climbs — the third coming after a 35-mile grind up 4500 feet of elevation to the Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort for the finish.
As he had done several times throughout the day, Nathaniel English (Echelon Gran Fondo-Z Team) attacked at the stage’s third feed zone at mile 83. And as he had also done several times throughout the stage, Bissell’s Rob Britton counterattacked.
Britton’s move drew out Morgan Schmitt (United Healthcare-Maxxis), while Marcel Aarden (Total Restoration), Marsh Cooper (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Alister Ratcliff (BikeReg.com-Cannondale) and McCarty also went clear to form the day’s first and only real breakaway. However Britton and Schmitt sat seventh and eighth on GC, separated by only 10 seconds, and were intent on marking each other in defense of their team leaders.
“Rob Britton and Morgan Schmitt were just anchors, they weren’t letting us go anywhere,” McCarty said. “Finally English attacked, and I went with him, and then Aarden came up to us, and it was perfect.”
On the final climb up to Mt. Hood Meadows the trio opened a maximum advantage of 1:30 over a dwindling chase group, and with 5km remaining, English, who began the day fifth on GC, 1:10 behind de Maar, became the virtual race leader.
De Maar admitted that because the race was run without two-way radios, he wasn’t aware that English was the leader on the road until his director Gord Fraser informed him inside 3km to go.
“I hadn’t known that until Gord told me on the final climb, and by that time I was already full gas,” de Maar said. “I have to admit, I was only paying attention to Creed and Mach, I wasn’t aware of English.”
Baldwin confirmed that the UHC riders at the front of the chase thought Schmitt was the highest placed rider in the move. “We thought Morgan was the leader on the road, and we thought we had it under control,” Baldwin said. “And we had a lot of confidence in Marc. He showed at the Tour of California what a phenomenal climber he is. I knew if we had this thing within a minute (at the bottom of the final climb), he would have no problem collecting the remnants of the breakaway.”
Once informed, De Maar, and Creed, who sat fourth overall, 44 seconds behind de Maar, accelerated to minimize the time difference to English while Mach lost contact.
“With about 4km to go Marc started going, and I saw that Mach (let a gap open up), so I said I’ll give it a try,” Creed said. “I hit out, put it in the big ring, and we got a pretty good gap. I asked Marc to pull through, and he said he couldn’t, and then with 2km to go he started swinging for the fences, and I was just hanging on.”
With English intent on keeping the gap as large as possible, McCarty was able to time his race-winning attack to perfection. He jumped with less than 2km remaining, and the stage win was his.
“I could tell from behind they made one hard effort to bring us back, and then that was it and then the gap went up,” McCarty said. “UnitedHealthcare was okay, but they were definitely hurting. I knew the best way to do it was not to wait for the end. Marc was strong enough I wasn’t going to beat him, and UnitedHealthcare was weak enough that a group like that could get away and stay away to the finish.”
Behind, Aarden and English trailed in 10 and 12 seconds later, while 35 seconds behind McCarty, de Maar sprinted across the line with Creed on his wheel.
“It’s kind of funny racing with Pat, because we’re both going pretty well right now,” Creed said. “And we’re not really on the same team but we’re riding together, and sometimes one guy puts out the other. I knew it was going to be a long car ride home if I chased him back.”
Mach finished 1:18 behind McCarty — he’d lost 66 seconds to English and 43 seconds to de Maar and Creed. Mach finished the day fourth overall, 14 seconds behind Creed and 10 seconds behind English, meaning the man who wears bib number 1 will not likely stand on the final overall podium in downtown Hood River Sunday.
“As a team I thought we put a lot of pressure on [UnitedHealthcare] early, but at the end there I just didn’t have the legs to stay with them,” Mach said. “I didn’t feel all that well at the end.”
De Maar questioned Bissell’s tactics, saying Mach’s team attacked at unusual times.
“I was a bit surprised that Mach didn’t come, I would have expected him to ride better than he did,” de Maar said. “But it’s kind of funny, they are on a professional team, but they rode like amateurs in the beginning of the race, attacking at stupid moments and down hills. I don’t know what they were thinking, but it was good for us.”
Creed agreed that the relationship between the top teams in the race was unusual. “Bissell and UnitedHealthcare were playing some pretty weird games,” he said. “It’s kind of hard because they are the only pro teams in the race. So it adds a different dynamic. But sometimes I think Bissell was throwing bombs when it would have been better to just hang back. Stuff was getting confused, with no radios, and only two pro teams, I don’t think anyone knew what to do.”
All that’s left for de Maar to secure his overall win is Sunday’s 90-minute criterium. And though final-stage criteriums aren’t often decisive on general classification, the technical downtown Hood River crit features a steep hill, two turns over 90 degrees, and rain in the forecast, meaning anything could happen.
- Women’s pro-1-2-3 race leader Molly S. Van Houweling (Metromint Cycling Team) is an assistant law professor at U.C. Berkeley, and worked as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Davis Souter.
- With only a criterium remaining, Cal Giant’s Jesse Moore secured the race’s KOM jersey.
- Best name in the men’s pro peloton: Cyrus Kangarloo of Total Restoration, who sits 14th overall.