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Tour de Georgia - Nathan O'Neill answers our questions
By Staff
Date: 4/19/2007
Tour de Georgia - Nathan O'Neill answers our questions

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

Nathan O'Neill at the Tour de Georgia
Photo 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 riders?

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 goes sometimes.

Lyne: Have you ever seen such a gap in any domestic race before?

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 guessing...

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 break.

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 finish.

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 night.

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 momentum

Doug Ollerenshaw finished second on Stage 1
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

Tim Johnson with the Most Aggressive Rider for Stage 3
Photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

King of the Mountain (KOM) Jeff Louder
Photo 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 Lamoureux

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