Chris Wherry gives us the low-down on Toyota-United Pro Cycling
Team strategy and competitors before the 2007 Tour de Georgia
by Lyne Lamoureux
We caught up with Chris Wherry, from Toyota-United Pro Cycling
Team before the start of the Tour de Georgia where he shared his
thoughts on the strategy and the players in the upcoming stage race.
Toyota-United’s eight-man squad for this year’s Tour de
Georgia consists of Chris Baldwin, Ivan Dominguez, Justin England,
Caleb Manion, Ivan Stevic, Burke Swindlehurst, Henk Vogels and Chris
Lyne: What is the strategy for your team?
Chris: Obviously Discovery has Tom and Levi, and you know
personally I don't have my top form right now so I think we will
definitely look to Chris Baldwin & Justin England for our GC
guys. But our main focus is a little bit like Tour of California, you
know when you have some super heavy hitters coming over from Europe,
well.... obviously we have aspirations of winning the race and we
have aspirations of doing well in the GC , but we are also pretty
realistic in the fact that one of our best chances to what we call
having a successful race is just to get a stage win, and that is
really important to our team. We know that Justin is riding well, we
know Chris is riding well, so we'll try to get those guys to conserve
energy in the first couple of days and the rest of the guys will look
after Henk & Ivan. Henk is going really well, and going better &
better and he's actually won this first stage before, Henk has, so he
knows what it is like You know with Ivan racing really well right
now, with the two of them riding together we'll just try and get them
to the finish.
Lyne: Tell me about your main competition in the sprint, JJ
Chris: JJ Haedo is obviously the no one threat as he won a
big race in Europe about a week ago, and so, it will be fun to see
former teammates going head to head in the sprints. We know how he
races very well, and he knows how we race very well so we're just
going to have to surprise him.
Lyne: Is that a plus or a minus that JJ used to be on the team?
Chris: I don't know, you can just call it a draw. Because
we know JJ very well, and JJ knows us very well, so it's not too big
of an advantage to either one of us right now.
Lyne: What about your other competitors for the sprint?
Chris: You never know, Freddie is obviously quick and
Zanini is here and he's not slow, he is a good rider. Discovery is
going to really focus on overall GC so they won't be going for too
many stages however George's form is unknown. He is coming back to
his first race so who knows, if George is there he is going to be
fresh and excited because he hasn't raced in awhile. So we'll see
what happens with him.
Lyne: What is your role overall?
Chris: I keep it all together, I had a decent ride at
Redlands, I'm still not 100% as far as my form is concerned, but it's
coming so I can surprise myself and I can surprise the team and have
some good days in the mountain and really help Chris & Justin if
need be. One of my goals in the start of the year was to come here
with good form here and try to win a stage and maybe have a good ride
overall. I don't think I'm exactly in the position I want to be for
that right now, but we still have a really good strong team so I feel
I can step back and help the guys more that I can go for my own
aspirations. But I am in a unique position because I can help Ivan in
the sprint and I can help Chris on a climb. It's very valuable to
have a rider like that on a team someone who can do everything, it
makes it for a hard stage race for me because I get called for duty
on every single stage but that's fine and I love it and it's good.
It's between Henk and I, as we sort of share responsibility of team
captain and we come together on the road and take care of each other
and make the call and see what happens.
Lyne: Tell me a bit more about your other teammates
Chris: We have a great team right now, everybody is riding
really well, so Burke is one guy that you probably haven't seen with
us a whole lot but he trains very well at home, he came from altitude
and he looks super skinny, fit and ready to go, Burke is a great
climber and he is going to be able to assist Justin & Chris more
than anybody in the climbs. Caleb has had great stage finishes here,
he's been 2nd & 3rd a couple of times I think.
And you know Stevic is always cagey and he's such a personality.
Ivan knows he has good form and we know he has good form. Racing at
sea level, racing in humidity and racing in this part of the country
tends to really suit him well, I don't know why but it just does. He
doesn't like long climbs but he likes stuff that is up & down all
day long. He's really good at it and so Ivan can one a stage here, he
is one of those guys that if he is in the right breakaway, and it
stuck, he's very very experienced as far as being able to attack
small groups, I think he is super dangerous in that situation so you
know with Stevic & Caleb who are both really good at these kinds
of races, as far as up & down all day long, and they are both
very quick out of small groups so we'll race for a breakaway for
those guys but you know Henk & myself are going to try to look
after Ivan D the most and we'll save Burke, Chris and those guys for
Lyne: What do you know about the first two stages?
Chris: The first 2 days are really important to us as I
think we have a good chance with Ivan to possibly win a stage in
either one of those.
Stage 1, Peachtree City to Macon - is a known finish: it is a hard
finish, it is fatiguing finish after a 150 kilometers
Stage 2, Thomaston to Rome - in that stage, a small group always
gets away but then it gets pulled back by the finish, and those
circuits in Rome are tough. And it's even harder for a small group to
stay away there because the field is charging fast from behind and
Ivan was second there one year to Lance which is kind of weird but
... so he knows the stage and he knows it really well. He's got 2
good possibilities in the next 2 days, I think we're going to focus
on that to start with and then we just move on from there and then we
just get into the mountains where Ivan just sits back & relaxes
and just tries to make it home.
Lyne: What is your strategy for the first two stages?
Chris: I think our team is going to play it safe and make
sure that we have representation in the breakaway. I think that if
any group gets any advantage then Discovery is going to jump in the
front, and then CSC is going to jump in the front, and we may even
help them if we really want to bring it back for a field sprint
because we are pretty confident that we have one of the fastest guys
in the race.
I don't know what the weather conditions are going to be. It won't be super hot but warmer would be nice and we'll have to see about the wind. If it is super windy, it may shake things up a little bit.
For the first 2 stages, Discovery is not going to want to let any
GC contender get 2 to5 minutes at the start of this race and so they
are going to control it. I know that CSC is very confident in JJ as
they should be and there they are definitely try and control things
too, so we'll try to play off both those guys and not expand too much
energy. If we have to help in the end, then we'll help.
Lyne: Now tell me about the next stages, the 3 back-to-back
Chris: Stage 3, Rome to Chattanooga - it is going to be a
hard stage for sure, those 3 climbs near the finish, I don't know
them at all, I can't give you a whole lot of details on it, but it is
going to be a smaller group for sure. Those are the days that guys
like Caleb or Stevic are really dangerous. If we get to the finish
and Ivan & Henk possibly don't make it over the climbs that's
okay they need to just relax and save their energy and we'll just
work on Caleb and Stevic. We have a lot of firepower.
Stage 4 Chickamauga to Lookout Mountain Individual Time Trial –
the uphill TT will be a tough TT but Chris is one of the best in the
business so he is the man for the TT. That is the only stage we
really want him to focus on and everything else beyond that is a
bonus. If he rides well for the rest of the Tour then that's a great
ride for him. Justin is pretty focus on the TT, seeing it is pretty
hilly. He had a pretty good TT last year and loves Georgia.
Stage 5, Dalton to Brasstown Bald/Towns Co – Brasstown is a
hard day and that's Justin's day. He is probably one of the best pure
climbers in the country and I don't think he's really come to pure
form til this year. In Redlands, it was obvious that he's got some
great climbing legs and he's a little guy and he's a great pure
climber and so I expect him to go up the hill with the big boys...
the big little boys.
Lyne: What is the plan for the sprinters in your team for those
Chris: We try to get those guys to the finish within the time
limit with as little energy expenditure as possible. Get Ivan into
the gruppetto that we know will make the time cut and make sure he
has as easy a ride as possible. On those 2 days, I will be up front
helping the other guys and Henk will have to look after Ivan and make
sure he is getting to those finishes in doing okay. He'll be good,
the TT for those guys is all making the time cut, they need to ride
just hard enough to make it and try not to expend too much energy.
The next day hopefully, the mountain climbers and every body else in
the race is tired and they've conserved a little bit of energy.
Lyne: Finally, this leaves us with the last two stages:
Chris: Stage 6, Lake Lanier Islands to Stone Mountain Park
- Up & down a lot, hopefully Ivan can just get his way through
the mountains and recover as obviously this is a good stage for him
and he is a good power sprinter.
Stage 7, Atlanta Circuit Race - It is once again going to a
sprinters day. The team in the GC will probably control it, hopefully
they are going to control the last few stages and then we can maybe
assist them if we need to bring the group back into the finish if we
want to get a field sprint. But on a day like this, it could be a
good day for Ivan or for Henk. Henk is always good at the end of
stage races, he never gets too tired and still has some energy in the
finish, Henk can surprise some of the sprinters on races like that.
Lyne: Looking at the (tentative) start list, what are your
thoughts on some of the teams?
Chris: Discovery & CSC are probably the two big hitters here
and they are going to be going for the overall, however, CSC also has
JJ and they'll probably try to get a stage win out of JJ. With
Saunier-Duval, Simoni's form is unknown. Millar is an awesome time
trialist, if he does a good time trial that means he has good form
and he can go well up the mountains. He could be one of the surprise
guys as far as the overall goes.
Once again, with Tinkoff, you have some very very impressive guys,
Commesso is really quick. I spoke to Tyler last night and he said
that he is not at 100% form but he is interested in having a good
ride. Tyler is another guy going for the overall for sure. For
Healthnet-Maxxis, ONeill loves to hard a good ride here in Georgia
but obviously he was in a crash and we'll see what his form is. The
GC surprise could be Ryder, it seems that his form is coming.
One of the guys that might be a surprise in the sprint is going to
be Navigators' Ciaran Power, he has been riding awesome in Europe and
he is super strong right now, so I think that Ciaran is a guy that
we're going to have to look out for in the sprint. Lagutin has been
doing good as well, and those two guys are going to be the ones to
watch on that team.
I heard that Slipstream's Pate was riding well, he had just come
back before US Open race and I know he was tired and jet lagged and
it will be interesting to see if his form comes back. Moninger was
riding really well for BMC. Moninger is a guy who is going to hide
the entire race. You're only going to see him in the time trial and
up Brasstown. He'll just be tucked in, you won't be see him til the
base of Brasstown Bald.
Lyne: This is your second year with Toyota-United, has the
Chris: It has changed, it is actually better. As 80 % of
the team is returning riders and so the guys that are new to the team
are all guys that we know very well from racing with for years &
years. Henk is such a good personality that he slots into any team
very easily and everybody that knows Burke thinks he's a really funny
guy and he's gotten along really well with the team and Caleb is a
great guy too. So the camaraderie is the best on our team, often time
I look around at the other teams in the dining hall and their guys
are sitting there eating dinner, and our team is just cracking up,
having such a good time and that is how it should be. We love racing
with each other and having a good time and always having a good
laugh. We have the best team in my opinion cos the guys are great.
Ivan Stevic and Chris Wherry hamming it up at Redlands
c. Lyne Lamoureux
We'll catch up with Chris later this week to see if and how the
team strategy has changed.