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Tri-peaks Challenge - NE

Russellville, Arkansas, May 17-20, 2007

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Stage 2 - May 18: Road race, 105 miles

Jones pips a win

Stage two of the Tri Peaks Challenge was just that - a challenge over ten miles of a mid-stage climb to Fort Douglas. As difficult as the climb was it was not enough to split the field and the 100 mile stage ended with Brice Jones (Jelly Belly) winning the down hill sprint over Karl Menzies (Health Net) and Ivan Stevic (Toyota-United).

The general classification remained intact after yesterday's stage with Team Rubicon's Aaron Tuckerman in the lead over Menzies and Toyota-United's Chris Baldwin in third place. However, the time gaps between Tuckerman and Menzies has been reduced to just four second.

Menzies commented on the epic stage, stating its tactics were quite uneventful even though the race itself was fantastic. "There were a lot of attacks in the first 30 kilometres before the climb but nothing actually got away," Menzies said. "We [Health Net] took control of the race and in the beginning and Team Rubicon helped us in the rotation."

Tuckerman's Team Rubicon realised that Health Net had the strength, in terms of both legs and numbers, to stay in control of the race and sat back ready to cover moves that threatened their lead. The green machine organised itself on the front of the field for the duration of the climb and thereafter to the finish. "Toyota didn't have to do anything in the bunch today so we took control," Menzies explained, "They were impressive yesterday and did all the work because we knew we were never going to out climb them."

Toyota started a string of attacks with five kilometres to the finish but all attempts were swallowed by the blazing pace of the peloton in anticipation of a sprint finish, which ultimately set up Jelly Belly for the win. "All our guys worked all day and we only had two guys left for the finish," Menzies said. "There was as slight grade up for one kilometre and then a down hill to the line. Frank Pip led me but Brice [Jones] came around me."

The gaps between the GC leaders will create a furious criterium during stage three tomorrow but it could all change drastically when the riders hit Mt. Nebo for the Tri Peaks finale.

Rais takes two

The women's race played out almost identical to the men's race with what had the potential to be a break away course ended in another speedy field sprint. Yesterday's winner, Amber Rais (Webcor Builders), again showed her strength by snagging victory from Rochelle Gilmore (Menikini-Specialized), who is visiting from the European peloton, while Alex Wrubleski (Colavita/Sutter Home) took third place.

Rais proved her all round ability in the first two stages of the Tri Peaks Challenge, after winning stage one's up-hill grind and stage two's blast of speed to the finish line. The race leader commented on the sprint finish. "It came down to a field sprint and we had a loose plan for a lead out," Rais explained. "It got mucked up and with a three kilometers to go when Catherine Cheatley (Cheerwine) attacked with her teammate Chrissy on her wheel. It got swarmed and I was just jockeyed for position and I managed to take Rochelle Gilmore by surprise."

The women started the race at the base of the Fort Douglas climb. In defense of its leader, Webcor used its two remaining riders, Rachael Heal and Katheryn Curi, to set a high tempo that only 12 riders could handle. The riders who withstood the effort were Chrissy Ruiter, Betina Hold, Brooke Ourada and Leigh Hobson from Cheerwine Alex Wrubleski, Andrea Dvorak and Tiffany Cromwell from Colavita/Sutter Home and the Webcor Builders trio.

Once over the climb attacks began and the front split increased their speed with reluctance from Cheerwine. Runner up on the general classification Chrissy Ruiter (Cheerwine) explained her team's strategy after the climb as a means of saving one of its strongest riders. "The other teams were keeping the tempo high but we wanted to wait for Catherine Cheatley, who was off behind us after the climb," Ruiter said. "So we wanted to wait for her and not drive the front group because we felt that she was a good addition for us to have in the group."

Sue Haywood (Volkswagen-Trek) launched herself in a surprise attack with five kilometres to go. Menikini-Specilized drove the pace in the group to bring back the lone star for its sprinter Rochelle Gilmore. The squad's effort saw the demise of Haywood's solo move.

The sprint started with one kilometre to go over a small rise before the road turned down the finish line. Ruiter commented on the bunch running out of gears before the finish. "There was a little riser coming to the end and it swarmed there where Amber attacked on the right and it was down hill into the finish," she explained. "She got a good enough gap that no one could spin any faster to come around on the down hill."

Results

Pro men

1 Brice Jones (Jelly Belly)
2 Karl Menzies (Health Net)
3 Ivan Stevic (Toyota-United)

Pro women

1 Amber Rais (Webcor Builders)
2 Rochelle Gilmore (Menikini)
3 Alex Wrubleski (Colavita/Sutter Home)