Crosswinds caused havoc and shook up the general classification in the men’s peloton on the Cannon Falls Road Race, stage 3 of the North Star Grand Prix on Thursday. Two teams, Optum and Jamis-Hagens Berman, took advantage to force a split and stacked a select lead group that made it to the finish line. Canadian Ryan Anderson (Optum) took the stage win and the yellow leader’s jersey from his teammate Tom Zirbel. Luis Amaran (Jamis-Hagens Berman) was second and Heath Blackgrove (Boneshaker D1 Racing), third.
“I don’t think I ever went behind and I found myself in all the front splits. And then with 60 kilometers into the race we had the whole team together, it was blowing pretty good through the first feed zone and we just decided to try to split up the race there. Jamis was sitting right with us so the two of us really committed and that caused the big split of the day and then we rolled it.” Anderson said.
“I think it’s exciting.” he commented on the yellow jersey. “This is our home race for us, our big sponsors are from the Minneapolis area so it feels good to do well here and be in yellow and we look to continue. I think Jesse [Anthony] made up some time today so I think we’re in good position to see how things play out in the next days.”
Anderson has a 16 second lead on Amaran with Blackgrove down one further second. Four riders each from Optum and Jamis-Hagens Berman are now in the top 10 of the general classification, separated by one minute and one second. Team SmartStop lost their GC hopes with Eric Marcotte’s early crash and Travis McCabe fading from the lead group.
Amaran was expecting the winds to be a factor but was surprised to see the resulting shake-up. “On a day like this when it’s so windy, it’s something that I could expect but what we didn’t expect is that it would be pretty much only two teams in the group but we were ready for it.” he stated via a translation from his teammate Ian Crane.
The winds ramped up the nerves in the peloton at the start of the 97-mile road race causing a few early crashes with riders using the gutter to try and move up and stay at the front of the peloton. The field had to be neutralized after an early gravel section but the aggressive racing resumed six miles into the stage. Attacks flew at the front, some riders trying to escape, others going for King of the Hills points but nothing was sticking.
One such crash involved the reigning US National Road Champion Marcotte, who was second in the general classification going into the stage. Marcotte was never able to catch back on to the front of the race and finished 37 minutes down.
Team Optum put the hammer down, stringing out the field as they turned left on CR 30, 21 miles into the stage. Soon four echelons were formed under pressure from the crosswinds and the pace. Re-shuffling and re-grouping formed a front group of around 50 riders when Stefano Barberi (California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) made his move. Behind the rest of the field shattered into numerous small groups.
“I just rolled to the front, we made a turn and the wind was just super strong from the left so I just rode to the front, ‘alright pedal kind of hard now’, so I started riding. They just let me go and then about one kilometer later, I look back and just see Optum on the front just riding super hard and I just waited. They caught us and that ended up being the main break of 13 guys.” Barberi explained.
The 13 riders in the select lead group were Anderson and his teammates Jesse Anthony, Will Routley, Alex Candelario and Zirbel, Amaran and his teammates Crane, Ben Jacques-Maynes and JJ Haedo McCabe, Gerry Druyts (Team 3M), Barberi and Blackgrove.
Rotation was well established in the lead group with each rider taking their pulls, pushing the gap up to two minutes and 50 seconds with 30 miles to go. Then McCabe let a small gap open after the feed zone, a gap that grew and he ultimately finished in the first chase group, over four minutes down.
The 12 riders left in the front continued to rotate through, increasing the gap. Anderson explained his team’s strategy at that point in the race. “We were talking to the guys and we wanted to keep our group together as much as possible until the circuits, we wanted to keep as many guys on the team in contention on the GC as possible and I think we did a good job on that today.”
The first attack in the lead group came as they entered the first of four small 2.1-mile finishing circuits in Cannon Falls. Once again, Barberi made the first move. “As soon as we hit the circuits, I knew that guys were going to start attacking and I can’t sprint so I knew I had to try to cause a split and I put in the first attack right when we got into the circuit, made it the first full lap on my own. I looked back and I saw Amaran and Ryan Anderson and Blackgrove trying to come up to me and a split to the rest of the group so I waited for those guys.”
Anderson, Barberi, Blackgrove and Amaran were off to battle the stage win and get those time bonus seconds awarded to top three on the stage. With his teammates behind, including the yellow jersey, Anderson sat on the group waiting to launch his sprint on the final climb to the finish.
Amaran was focused on winning the stage. “The strategy is always to win the stage. It was good to try and get some seconds as well to try and move up in the overall but unfortunately it wasn’t the case with Ryan being a little bit further up in the GC.”
Meanwhile, the second group on the road also started their finishing circuits while the remainder of the field was stopped. With half a lap to go, Barberi attacked once again on the final lap but his acceleration was impeded as they were catching and passing the other group on the circuits.
For his efforts, Barberi was awarded the Penn Cycle Most Aggressive Rider jersey. His teammate Ben Wolfe regained the white TRIA Orthopedic Center Best Young Rider jersey while Blackgrove picked up the Sports Beans King of the Hills jersey. Coulton Hartrich (SeaSucker / Guttenplan Coaching) remains in the North Star Top Amateur jersey while Crane keeps the Xcel Energy Sprinter jersey.
Racing continues on Friday with the evening criterium in the Minneapolis’ dynamic Uptown area, a neighborhood of trendy shops, bars and restaurants located just south of downtown near the chain of Minneapolis lakes.