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Health Net Takes on the Time Trial
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 2/22/2006
Health Net Takes on the Time Trial
 

San Jose, CA – Nathan O’Neill of the Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis had been targeting this stage for weeks. “I knew it would be decisive for the overall classification,” he said.

The seven-time and current Australian national time trial champion also knew the 17-mile Stage 3 individual time trial would be an opportunity to make a run at the top of the general classification. He made the most of that opportunity, placing 5th in today’s time trial with a time of 36:55.74, to move up from 18th to 5th overall.

Stage winner Floyd Landis (Phonak) flew through the course to a time of 35:58.91 – the only rider to break the 36-minute barrier – to assume the overall race lead from George Hincapie. David Zabriskie (CSC), winner of an individual time trial at the Giro d’Italia, finished second at 36:24.53. He was followed by his teammate, 2004 Olympic time trial bronze medalist Bobby Julich at 36:33.59. Hincapie came in just 2.7 seconds ahead of O’Neill for 4th place.

“I had a pretty good ride today,” O’Neill said. “Given the level of talent here, it was about where I expected to be. It would’ve been a bit of a surprise to do better, but a disappointment to come in farther down. I’m never satisfied with fifth place, but taking everything into consideration, it was good.”

The 17-mile course was an undulating affair, starting off almost immediately out of the start house with a winding, 300-foot climb in the first 2 km. It was followed by a second, more gradual climb that gained about 300 feet as well. But the final 12 km of the course was almost dead flat, but into a steady headwind coming from the northwest.

“The last 12 km was a bit rough because of the wind,” said Hayden Roulston, who also posted a strong time of 37:06.66 to finish 8th on the day, and move to 22nd overall. O’Neill agreed, describing the course as “honest.”

“The wind was definitely a factor,” O’Neill commented. “The first part of the course was about power. With a block headwind for the last 12 km, the last part was about aerodynamics. I think my time in the wind tunnel in January helped out a bit today. It showed me some things I suspected and gave me more evidence of some small things that I needed to change. But those small changes, with a second here, a second there, add up after a while.”

Thursday’s stage will be the longest of the tour at 130 miles from Monterey to San Luis Obispo, and while it may not change things on the overall, there should be plenty of fireworks. With Levi Leipheimer dropping down to 6th overall after his 9th place finish in the ITT, he now sits only two seconds behind O’Neill on GC. “I’m sure he’d like to finish top-five in his home state tour,” O’Neill said. “It’s definitely going to be on tomorrow. CSC will try to light it up, but I expect Phonak to take a lot of responsibility with Floyd in the lead. The race isn’t over, but it’s definitely getting narrowed down.”

Notes

Scott Thornton of the San Jose Sharks ripped through the course before the pros went off in a time of 48 minutes flat. “I don’t think my time is going to hold up for too long,” he said afterward. In fact, it held up for well over an hour.

“I didn’t get much of a warm-up in, so that first hill on Bailey Road was a bit tough,” he said. “It took me until the last stretch coming up Santa Teresa to really get my legs cleared out and start feeling good.

“But I’m just happy to have the opportunity to ride the course in Health Net Presented by Maxxis kit on this amazing Cannondale time trial bike. I had a great time today. And I got to meet Paul Sherwin and Bob Roll!”

Following his ride, he signed autographs at the Health Net booth in the race expo along Santa Teresa Road and visited with Health Net VIPs. He was also interviewed by the crew from ESPN2 for the race broadcast.

A crew from Fox Sports Net Bay Area filmed the entire event, including him getting fitted on the bike following Tuesday’s stage in San Jose, for their half-hour magazine show, SharkByte. The segment is expected to air four to five times prior to Sharks broadcasts on FSNBA over the next couple months. Look for the air times to be posted next week.


Stage 3 Results

1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 35.58.91
2 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.25.62
3 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.34.98
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.55.04
5 Nathan O'Neill (Aus) Health Net p/b Maxxis 0.56.83
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 1.02.28
7 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel 1.02.84
8 Hayden Roulston (NZl) Health Net p/b Maxxis 1.07.75
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 1.16.06
10 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.22.73

General classification

1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 7.56.36
2 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.29
3 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.34
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.45
5 Nathan O'Neill (Aus) Health Net p/b Maxxis 1.08
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 1.10
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.29
8 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 1.49
9 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC 1.55
10 Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery Channel 1.58

Also
22 Hayden Roulston (NZL) Health Net p/b Maxxis 4.31


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