Bisbee, AZ - The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis wrapped up a successful weekend at La Vuelta de Bisbee today with a solid performance all around by the team.
After an opening two days that saw Rory Sutherland take two stage wins and Roman Kilun finish 2nd in the first road stage of the race and slot in at 2nd overall, the team was keen to try and move Kilun to the top step ahead of race leader Darren Lill (Fly V).
However, Fly V was equally motivated to protect that lead. And with the vast majority of the field over 10 minutes back after the break Kilun and Lill were in for Saturday's road stage was let go, the team of the race leader determined that the best way to protect that lead was to let a break get away on the final 84.4-mile Tombstone Road Race, which culminated with the climb up Mule Pass.
Which was exactly what happened. A 10-rider break got off the front, with UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis well represented by Max Jenkins and Marc de Maar. Fly V also placed David Tanner and Charles Dionne in the move. And while they never opened a gap that approached the 10-minute mark as happened on Saturday, it became apparent that the break would contain the stage winner.
De Maar and Jenkins did their best to shake their rivals, including an attack by both rider the first time up Mule Pass that saw the duo, with David Tanner along for the ride, open a gap over the summit.
"The climb was hard, but not selective enough to really get rid of Tanner or Dionne," said Team directeur sportif Gord Fraser.
Behind the trio, the remainder of the break regrouped and chased down the front group. Coming back up Mule Pass to the finish line, both UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis riders tried attacking in hopes of springing each other for the stage win, but some miscommunication left them open to counterattacks.
"The guys rode really aggressively and executed well," Fraser said. "They just misplayed it a bit."
The race for the overall
Behind the break, Sutherland and Morgan Schmitt were trying their best to set up Kilun to dislodge Lill, but the South African climber proved he was up to the task and held onto the race lead in the end.
"Twenty-three seconds was a lot of time to make up today, and the climbs weren't really hard enough to shake things up," Kilun said.
Going up the climb the first time, Schmitt attacked and Sutherland and Kilun bridged up to him but Lill worked his way up to the small group and held on, crossing the line with Kilun.
Kilun put himself in position to challenge for the overall title after joining an eight-rider break in Saturday morning's 90-mile Sulphur Springs Road Race.
"With Roman the top placed rider in the break, sitting three seconds up on Lill going into the stage, and having the benefit of the yellow jersey on Sutherland as leverage to sit on the break and conserve, we decided that we'd let the break go," Fraser said.
With the top two teams in the race content with the move, the front group worked well together to steadily open up a gap that reached nearly 11 minutes on the main field.
"I didn't expect things to go the way they did," Kilun said. "I saw Darren attacking and I just followed his wheel. A few more guys came across and then the gap got out to over four minutes and that was it."
With the winning move established, Kilun started looking at ways to pull off the stage win. "Darren played it smart," he said. "With about 20 km to go he stopped working and got on my wheel. Coming into one of the rollers, we were in a good crosswind section so I tried an attack there. I got rid of everyone but Lill and one other guy, who kept attacking. With 10 km to go, we decided to ride together until the final climb and sort things out then."
Kilun attacked several times on the climb back up to the finish in Bisbee but he couldn't shake the diminutive Lill, who countered Kilun's last attack with about 5 km to go over the top of one of the rollers and opened a gap that hovered between five and 10 seconds for much of the climb.
"I actually thought that might be good as he wasn't just sitting on my wheel any more," Kilun said. "I figured I could sit at five seconds back and then just reel him in on the climb."
Kilun closed the gap several times, but each time Lill edged back out. Finally, Lill put in one last little push that saw him come to the line with a nine-second gap for the win, with Kilun taking 2nd.
Sutherland punches the clock - twice
The more powerful Kilun was looking to Saturday afternoon's 7.2-mile time trial as an opportunity to take back lost time on Lill. But the normally harsh, windy conditions that greet competitors on this time trial - and caused major problems for Lill in 2009 - were mostly absent for the time trial, providing an alternately cross-tail and cross-head wind for the trip out and back, but not in significant enough force to inhibit the smaller Lill. As a result, Lill held his own in the time trial, adding another two seconds to his lead over Kilun.
"The time trial was good," Kilun said. "I did a decent ride but Darren was good, too. I'm just glad the team gave me the opportunity to go for the overall win."
Sutherland once again demonstrated his rising form by winning the time trial by a convincing 0:16 margin over Fly V's Phil Zajicek, a gap nearly identical to the one by which he beat Zajicek in the opening prologue on Friday.
Photos: Jonathan Devich, Epic Images