Nathan O'Neill of Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis
gives us a view of the field into what happened in the Tour de
Georgia Stage 3 when the GC classification was turned upside down, and provides an insight into his team's plan moving forwards.
by Lyne Lamoureux
O'Neill at the Tour de Georgia
c. Lyne Lamoureux
In Stage 3, Rome to Chattanooga, the field let a group of thirteen riders get away and the break
managed to amass an insurmountable gap by the time they finished,
introducing new and somewhat unknown names as contenders for the overall classification. Many pre-race favorites - Nathan O'Neill and Ryder Hesjedal included, are now over 29 minutes back, and new plans must be made.
Lyne: What happened today?
Nathan: Well, there was a break early, we had kind of
figured there was going to be an early break. I think everybody, well
at least from the major teams, sort of hoped that it would be
somewhat of a smaller number of guys. Of course, it was pretty hectic
early as there were a lot of attacks where everybody wanted to be in
the break so before too much longer we had 13 guys dangling off the
front, and you know there was probably a mistake to let that group
get a little time and it did and then, for one reason or another,
everyone kind of sat up and let it roll.
And then it started going out, at the first KOM and they had 30 or
40 seconds ... 45, 50 seconds over the top, and after that, Lotto
were ordered to get on the front and ride which they did. And they
rode so hard in fact that they put everybody in the red zone, they
completely blew themselves apart doing it. They almost brought it
back, but it was a windy road, slightly downhill and then ... it is
really hard to bring something back because basically they are going
to go just as fast. Then it turned out that Lotto completely blew
their own doors off trying to bring it back, they brought it back to
about 30 seconds when the last Lotto guy just called it a day. In my
opinion, had they gone with a little less ferocity, they might have
gotten more help from some of the other teams not in the move. Like
Tinkoff said after the fat, that they would have worked had not
started like they did and other teams were in the same boat. It could
have been played differently I guess but that's bike racing.
Lyne: Can you elaborate on the cooperation in the
field for the chase?
Nathan: Other teams would have helped, they just couldn't
get there, we were riding 60 k/hr, they had everybody in a big single
file for 15 to 20 kms, By the time they backed it down, everyone was
out. It just wasn't the best way to go about doing things.
Lyne Why did Lotto charge so ferociously? Was it inexperienced
Nathan: Whatever it was, I think that the director was
pretty angry that they missed the move and he told his guys to go and
chase. You know it is kind of like what you do with an amateur team.
When I was on the national team, if you missed the move, you had to
chase. You never do that again.. It doesn't really work out at the
pro level, but they are pros and they do what they are told.
Lyne: What was the mood in the peloton ?
Nathan: It got to a point where it was kind of comical,
everyone was thinking that maybe the break will just disintegrate,
and we'd be in the situations where we'd have ones and twos but they
rode pretty smartly, they stayed together for as long as possible.
Back in the field, we had pretty much resigned ourselves, after 12 or
14 minutes, we'd pretty resigned ourselves that we were not going to
see them again and given the fact that there was no organized chase
going on, it was like a century ride. Yeah, tt felt like we were really
riding a century some of the times, kind of lame, but that is how it
Lyne: Have you ever seen such a gap in any domestic race
Nathan: Not in a domestic race. The funny thing is that it
is because it is a new stage. When you incorporate a new stage in a
race like this, you're going to get different results. It just proves
that over the past we've always had the same stages or similar
compilations of the same stages. And so everybody knows pretty much
how it's going to go down, working on the same terrain, same climbs,
same sets, history kind of dictates how the race is going to pan out,
everybody knows what to expect. When you see a new stage like this,
it feels like half the field doesn't know how to race or they know
how to race but they just don't know how to read the race. It keeps
it exciting, it's good, it's how racing should be. I think it is a
great win you get really unknown brand new into the mix, keeps you
Lyne: We were all guessing...
Nathan: I was really trying to guess how many minutes they
were going to take, you know, I thought 20 minutes would be solid,
but 29! But there are a lot of people in the same situation,
basically all favorites are out of the race, out of the GC. I don't
think anybody can deny that. I think that the guys that were in the
break were not known favorites for the overall. But now they are, and
they have a chance to shine, so good for everybody that was in the
Lyne: Were the downhill sketchy?
Nathan: Coming off Fouche gap, the first KOM, is a little
gnarly, narrow, with some tight little twists and stuff, you have to
be careful. Thank god it didn't rain today, as it would have been
pretty gnarly. And coming of the second KOM of the plateau, is the
same kind a things, a few little twists and turns on that one, but on
wider roads. Interesting stuff. You have to know how to handle your
bike, obviously a couple of guys dropped and fell.
Lyne: Before today's stage, Health Net had 4 guys within 1 min
22 seconds including yourself and Ryder. Now you have Jeff at 3sec &
Tim at 2.51. What is the new plan?
Nathan: Pretty simple really. Jeff is our best chance to be
on the podium come Sunday, so it is up to him to put in a good TT
tomorrow. Hopefully, he'll move himself up a little bit in the number
3 spot and then we are just going to try and hold him there or maybe
elevate him a little bit. We'll just have to see. The back up plan is
that he also has the KOM jersey, and he's got a few points lead
there, and that is something that we can really focus on as well. We
have two cards to play with the one guy, he had a pretty good day
today and he didn't do too much even he was pretty active at the
Lyne: Any plans to let loose and go for it on Brasstown?
Nathan: The danger doing that is you can take somebody else
with you and you can really hurt Jeff's chances. We have to be kind
of careful, I can't really say too much because I don't know which
it's going to go down. We really have to be careful on that one,
we'll see after tomorrow, we'll have to see the GC after tomorrow
Lyne: Who are the major GC threats?
Nathan: I think that Canada from Saunier-Duval, he is a
pretty good one to watch. And Brakjovic, he is obviously another one
to watch. We have those 2 guys at the top of the table I would think.
I would expect Brakjovic to move up a little bit tomorrow probably
and maybe Canada can hang on to it. It is still tight. I can't
predict what is going to happen.
Lyne: What is the mood on the team?
Nathan: It's good. It's kind of gained momentum all week,
we had a slow start of the season and now we've ramped it up a little
bit. Talking about momentum, we put Doug Ollerenshaw on the podium
on the first day and we had second, fourth and fifth that day. Then
every day we've had something going on. Everybody feels strong and is
doing good. Today, even though things blew wide open and Ryder and I
lost our chances for the overall at least, Jeff stepped into the
equation, so every day there is always something to be psyched about.
I think the mood is good.
Lyne: If you read your crystal ball, will we have another
shakeup on Friday on Brasstown?
Nathan: Well, traditionally, Brasstown always shakes things
up, but I don't know if it will shake things up to the extent that it
has in the past. Just simply because, seriously you have to look at
the guys in the top 5 right now and the overall winner of the race is
going to come from one of the guys in the top 5. Only the top 5
really matters at this point in time.
Lyne: Finally, how are you feeling ? Have you fully
recovered from your accident?
Nathan: I feel good, I feel surprisingly good in this race.
I haven't raced in 4 months it seems like, and I've been training
really well, I've had some interruptions. But all in all, I'm in
pretty good shape. I think that a lot of guys need to have a lot of
racing to be good in a race like this but obviously I can train
adequately and still be in a good shape. Hopefully, it will go well
tomorrow. I feel good.
Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis gaining
Doug Ollerenshaw finished second on Stage 1
c. Lyne Lamoureux
Tim Johnson with the Most Aggressive Rider for Stage 3
c. Lyne Lamoureux
King of the Mountain (KOM) Jeff Louder
c. Lyne Lamoureux
Thank you Nathan for taking the time to answer our questions as to
what happened on very surprising Stage 3 at the Tour de Georgia.
All photos copyright by Lyne