Gilbert surprises with a sprint win ahead of Pinfold, Hushovd

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Cyclingnews.com

September 13, Stage 7: Kansas City – Kansas City 114.9km

By:
Kirsten Robbins and Peter Hymas
September 13, 22:27,
 

 

Martin Gilbert (Planet Energy) sprints to a stage win in Missouri.Martin Gilbert (Planet Energy) sprints to a stage win in Missouri.

Canada’s Martin Gilbert saved the best for last at the Tour of Missouri, ending a week of sprinting frustration with a resounding victory in the concluding Kansas City circuit race. The 26-year-old Gilbert, competing in his final race of 2009, outkicked compatriot Andrew Pinfold (OUCH-Maxxis) and sprint leader Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) after 114.9 kilometres of spirited racing.

The victory was all the more sweet for first-year UCI Continental Team Planet Energy, which received a last-minute invite to the Tour of Missouri and delivered the team’s biggest win of the season on the seven-day stage race’s concluding sprint.

“I think all week we had a few opportunities in the sprints, but the team and myself made a lot of mistakes,” said Martin. “Today we took it differently, way from the back, and used the momentum of the hill. I think we made no mistakes today and we put it together so it was pretty nice for my team.

“For sure, a first year team needs to put it together and get some results to make sure the organiser wants to invite us [again],” he added. “All week we worked hard and [today] we showed everybody that we can sprint against those guys and maybe beat them. I think the team getting in the Tour [of Missouri] by the back door, we were not supposed to be here, we wanted to take it.

While Gilbert celebrated a landmark victory for his Planet Energy team on Sunday, David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) likewise attained a new career highlight in winning the Tour of Missouri general classification. In Zabriskie’s nine years as a professional he’s never won the overall title of a stage race until today, but he knew that he’d have to be on this toes throughout the Kansas City stage’s entirety.

Zabriskie’s Garmin-Slipstream squad endured a tough day of racing the previous day in Zabriskie’s first stage in yellow. It knew that the final stage would be equally as challenging with Team Saxo Bank’s Gustav Larsson lying only 30 seconds behind overall.

“As far as my team, those guys are going to get some big hugs from me tonight,” said Zabriskie. “I really, really appreciate what they did for me. The last two days is why they call it a team sport and that’s how you win races.

“I wasn’t surprised by all the attacks,” he added. “We knew that was how it was going to go. Steven Cozza said before the race, ‘Ok guys, in your heads just get ready for 115 kilometres of hell’. That was pretty much how it went and that’s what we were prepared for.”

Garmin-Slipstream had already lost Tour of Missouri defending champion Christian Vande Velde on stage two and team-mate Will Frischkorn abandoned on the opening lap, leaving Zabriskie with five team-mates to help defend the yellow jersey. On the penultimate lap Zabriskie had lost two more team-mates, Mike Friedman and Jason Donald, but the Utah native kept his cool throughout the stage.

“I’ve learned not to freak out,” he said. “I tried to stay calm and rely on the team and they pulled through.”

Zabriskie’s victory caps off a good year of racing for the Utah native and his team. “This year has gone very well for me,” said Zabriskie. “I was second in California and that was a big goal of mine to do well there. I know it wasn’t a win but Levi [Leipheimer] was on fire so I was pleased.

“I went to Europe and I got another podium finish at the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon,” he added. “From there it was getting through the Giro [d'Italia] and supporting the team at the Tour [de France]. Now I’m here with a win so I think it’s been a very successful year for the team.

General classification runner-up, Sweden’s Larsson, was poised to challenge Zabriskie’s race lead but his Saxo Bank team could not crack Garmin-Slipstream on either of the Tour of Missouri’s final two stages. “For us the strategy was to put pressure on Garmin to see if we could make them tired and isolate Dave and make him tired,” said Larsson. “I think we did pretty good at making them tired but it wasn’t enough obviously.

“This was a really nice race with very good and stiff competition, big teams and good riders,” he added. “As far as the GC, almost everything did come down to the time trial so that was important and I tried to stay in contact for the other stages. Today I tried a little bit to attack at the end but I couldn’t go and I wasn’t strong enough to go away from Dave.”

Down to the wire in Kansas City

While stage race finales are frequently processional events, capped off by a final display of speed by the peloton’s sprinters, Missouri’s final general classification was hardly decided entering the seventh and final stage. The challenging 16.4-kilometre downtown circuit in Kansas City featured a stiff tandem of climbs on Kessler Road and Summit Street, separated by 3.6 kilometres, which were traversed seven times.

Race leader Zabriskie led second place’s Larsson by only 30 seconds. Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling) held a tenuous grip on the general classification’s third place position, leading Marco Pinotti (Columbia-HTC) by a slender one second.

Unfortunately for Zirbel, his desire to finish off Missouri on the podium was dashed on the opening lap when the peloton arrived en masse at the first intermediate sprint line at kilometre 14.4. Pinotti, with the assistance of the stars and stripes clad team-mate George Hincapie, crossed the line first and picked up a three-second time bonus.

Hincapie claimed the second place bonus while Zirbel’s team-mate Ben Jacques-Maynes finished third. With the time bonus, Pinotti swapped general classification positions with Zirbel and would retain his newly won third place position through to the stage finish.

The next order of business on the stage was to determine the mountain’s classification winner, a two-man race throughout the Tour. Moises Aldape Chavez (Team Type 1) entered the final stage with a 13-point lead over Chris Anker Sorensen (Team Saxo Bank), but with four KOM opportunities today 24 points were still up for grabs. The first two KOM sprints took place on the third lap at kilometre 35.7 and 39.3 and Team Type I and Saxo Bank went head-to-head for both opportunities.

A three-man break consisting of Lars Bak (Saxo Bank), Frank Mathias (BMC)and Darren Lill (Team Type 1) crossed the first KOM line in that order while Aldape and team-mate Matt Wilson took the remaining two points positions seconds later at the head of the peloton. The field arrived at the second, and more difficult, KOM line together and Aldape crested the summit first to add an additional six points to his tally. Anker Sorensen finished third, but now found himself mathematically eliminated from the mountains classification race.

When the dust settled after the KOM battle, three riders escaped late in the third lap and held a 35-second lead when they crossed the finish line to see four laps to go. The leading trio of Gregory Rast (Astana), Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Nicki Sorensen (Team Saxo Bank) would soon be joined by two more Saxo Bank riders, Chris Anker Sorensen and Jason McCartney, to form a leading quintet as they finished their fourth circuit.

During the fifth circuit Michael Barry (Columbia-HTC) bridged to the five escapees as they saw the five kilometre to go banner for the third KOM sprint on the sixth lap. Initially Jones was extremely nervous about the company of Anker Sorensen, but soon received some good news from the team car regarding the KOM competition.

“Thankfully we knew before [Chris Anker] Sorensen made it across that we mathematically won the [KOM] jersey,” said Jones. “I didn’t find that out until after he’d been there for a few minutes and the news calmed me down. When he first came I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, now what’.

“In the end it was just trying to make it to the end of the stage,” he said. “Those guys had some horsepower, those two Saxo Bank guys came across and then Michael Barry came across. I thought we had a chance.”

The lithe Jones, a fine climber in his own right, took top honours at the third KOM from Anker Sorensen to cap off another fine climbing performance from the Team Type 1 squad.

Barry won the fourth and final KOM and then went on the attack heading into the final lap, detonating the once cohesive break in the process. Rast cracked and was absorbed by the field, while the remaining four of Anker Sorensen, Nicki Sorensen, Jason McCartney and Chris Jones managed to claw their way back to Barry early in the final lap, with the field holding steady at 25 seconds.

Barry and McCartney again went on the attack leaving their three breakaway companions to be swept up by the peloton, which was prepping for yet another bunch finish. The leading duo were themselves caught on Summit Street as Aldape led the peloton over the KOM ascent, although no points were at stake any longer.

Inside of 10 kilometres remaining three-time time trial world champion Michael Rogers (Columbia-HTC) put in a strong solo attack and managed to put 10 seconds of distance between himself and the peloton. Rogers’ bid for victory came to a conclusion inside of five kilometres to go, at the impetus of the sprinters’ teams eager to finish off the Missouri with one last wild bunch finish.

As the peloton rocketed to the line on the predominantly downhill finishing boulevard, a pair of Canadians on North American Continental teams, Gilbert and Pinfold bested their ProTour rivals in yet another rollicking mass finish to a Missouri stage.

Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) on the way to his overall win.

Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) on the way to his overall win.

Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) on the way to his overall win.

Photo credit ©Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us

Garmin-Slipstream had a busy day ensuring its leader kept the yellow jersey to the end.

Garmin-Slipstream had a busy day ensuring its leader kept the yellow jersey to the end.Kansas City

Garmin-Slipstream had a busy day ensuring its leader kept the yellow jersey to the end.Kansas City

Photo credit ©Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us