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Tour of Elk Grove - NE
Illinois, USA, August 1-3, 2008
Stage 1 - August 2: Citi mens stage 2, 150km
Clarke takes over with win at Elk Grove
By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Elk Grove Village, Illinois
The Tour of Elk Grove added a road race to the three stage menu in its third year, though like the other stages the parcours was flat with a steady diet of turns. After 150km of racing the group was down to thirty riders entering the technical finishing circuit, which itself played a role in the finish. The Kelly Benefits Strategies-Medifast lead-out crashed in final 90-degree turn at 600 metres, sending riders across the deck. But Hilton Clarke (Toyota-United) kept a keen eye on the situation and took a line around the wreck, enabling the fast Aussie sprinter to jump on the wheel of David Vellieux (Kelly Benefits Strategies-Medifast) and come around him for the win.
"My team was great, what can I say about them!" said Clarke. "When we were at 20km to go before the circuits I made the call and said, 'Boys, you are on the front!' No one else was going to take control, Rock Racing was the only other team helping, so I told our guys if we control it we will win it."
The team put Hilton's younger brother Johnny on the front as well as Ben Day and sprinter Ivan Dominquez to work for their two best GC riders – the elder Clarke and Canadian Dominque Rollin. The team had control up until a half-lap to go when Kelly Benefits took over with their well organized lead-out. But in the final turn, Alex Candelario lost control and slid out, taking many riders with him.
"I was doing a little two wheel drifting and that curb came up a little too quickly!" he said. "I was second off of Lacombe and we were trying to lead Vellieux out for the 20 second time bonus." The result was most of the leading riders down and the field held up, except for Clarke and Vellieux.
"I was the first one behind Kelly Benefits," said Clarke. "To tell you the truth but those guys always ride dangerous in the last corners of races. They are watching everyone else and not watching the corner. Alex crashed and I had a box seat watching it, so I took the corner hard and got through but no one else could see and they all crashed. They had an absolutely brilliant lead out but they were too busy watching us and not the corner."
One of those involved in the crash was Astana's Chris Horner who did finish the race, but clearly holding his arm. Horner was taken to an area hospital where he was shown to have a broken collarbone.
Though the main field was given the same time, due to the 3km rule, Clarke takes over the race lead with the 26 bonus seconds he earned on the road and with the stage win.
How it unfolded
The racing on the main seven-mile loop was a little unconventional, as the terrain was almost completely flat and with a lot of hard turns. As well, the entire starting peloton was only 57 riders. All these elements ended up making the racing fast and aggressive from the first kilometre.
"There was no big hill but there is enough money on the line that with a small field like this the racing was always on and aggressive," said Candelario.
The first three laps were filled with small attacks from various teams as race leader Tom Zirbel sat near the rear, relying on his team to patrol the front. But the relentless attacking eventually snapped the field, and a major separation occurred. The rest was a group of 30 nearly two minutes ahead of two groups, with all the overall favorites in the third group waiting for Zirbel to react.
"I was in the back and watching Zirbel and Horner, knowing they would have to get across at some point, so we got a free ride," said Candelario. "They had left a huge gap back and Horner was playing off Zirbel the whole time. I don't think [Zirbel] is used to having the GC lead so much. He might have missed some moves and Horner was taking advantage of that."
"Mid-race I was with Zirbel, Horner and the last riders on the road," said Clarke. "At one point I said to myself I am going to abandon, and then I won the race! It's amazing."
"Everyone was watching the top riders and it ended up with me, Zirbel, Candelario and Horner out the back, until Horner just hit it. It was unbelievable what he did, he closed a two minute gap by snapping his fingers and we were back in the group!"
When the Zirbel/Horner group rejoined the leading group it was a total of 35 riders with a second group unable to rejoin two minutes back.
This situation stabilized as the race headed back to Elk Grove and the finishing circuits where Toyota-United played their cards perfectly, putting Hilton Clarke across the line first and into the race lead. With only a criterium left, and Clarke a veritable professor or crit racing, it will take a lot to unseat him. But as Clarke said, anything can happen in criterium racing.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Mark Zalewski/Cyclingnews.com
1 Hilton Clarke (Toyota) 4.00.11 (37.471 km/h) 2 David Veilleux (Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast) 3 Nic Sanderson (Jelly Belly) 4 Charles Dionne (SuccesFul Living) 5 Francois Parisien (Team Race Pro) 6 Chad Hartley (Jittery Joe's) 7 Daniel Holloway (Garmin Chipotle) 8 Matt Wilson (Team Type 1) 9 Freddie Rodriguez (Rock Racing) 10 Tom Zirbel (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) 11 Micheal Grabinger (Successful Living P/B Parkpre) 12 Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) 0.05 13 Ryan Roth (Team Race Pro) 14 Brian Jensen (Successful Living) 15 Cesar Grajales (Rock Racing) 16 Jake Rytlewski (Rite Aid Pro pb Shebell & Shebell) 17 Mark Walter (Team Race Pro) 18 Richard Harper (Team Inferno Pro Cyling) 19 Garrett Peltonen (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) 20 Bradley White (SuccessfulLiving presented by) 21 Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) 22 Buck Miller (Team Race Pro) 23 Daniel Timmerman (Team Race Pro) 24 Graham Howard (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) 25 Bernard Van Ulden (Jelly Belly) 26 Reid Mumford (Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast) 27 Hayden Godfrey (Team Inferno Pro Cycling) 28 Matt Winstead (Team Inferno Pro Cycling) 29 Keven LaCombe (Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast) 30 Dominique Rollin (Toyota) 31 Ivan Doninguez (Toyota) 32 Ben Day (Toyota) 33 Johny Clarke (Toyota) 34 Chris Horner (Astana) 35 Alex Candelario (Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast) 36 Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) 8.34 37 Jake Keough (Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast) 38 Joe Cooper (Team Inferno Pro Cycling) 39 Henk Vogels (Toyota) 40 Benjamin Kneller (Jittery Joe's) 41 Stephan Kincaid (Rite Aid Pro pb Shebell & Shebell) 42 Matty Rice (Jelly Belly) 43 Mark Batty (Team Race Pro) 44 Chuck Coyle (Successful Living pb Parkpre) 45 Bryce Mead (Jelly Belly) 46 Richard England (Bissell Pro Cycling Team) 39.00 47 Brian Buchholz (Kelly Benefits Strategies/Medifast) 41.00 48 Nick Reistad (Jelly Belly) 45.00 49 Steven Howard (Bissell Pro Cycling Team)