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Navigators Tour of California Report Stage 3 & 4
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 2/24/2006
Navigators Tour of California Report Stage 3 & 4
 

Navigators Tour of California Report Stage 3 & 4
"Trading pulls evenly...they took no pleasure from the deep  blue of the Pacific Ocean. When the race radio announced that whales had been sighted...Chadwick's only reaction was to flick his elbow and call for Gusev to come through for his pull." By Chris G. Baldwin


Tour of California (UCI 2.1): Stage-3 ITT
By Chris G. Baldwin

Valeriy Kobzarenko came in all smiles from his time-trial today, shouting to anyone who would listen that he had rolled in at 36:08.

"If I'm not mistaken, that's my time," said the 29-year old Ukrainian, his head wet from the sweat of 17-miles on an oak-lined county road south of San Jose. His teammates Mark Walters and David Ben Brooks looked at him skeptically and began smiling. "Then that's the fastest time of the day," said Walters.
"Like I said, if I'm not mistaken, that's what I saw when I crossed the line," protested Kobzarenko.

"When your eyes were crossed and you couldn't see straight from the pain?" said Brooks, half teasing.
"Maybe it was an eight," Kobzarenko admitted reluctantly. "Hard to tell. But I rode outside of myself today, I know that. I felt great."

It was actually a nine that he saw coming across the finish line, leaving him in 54th place on the day and 36th overall with a 39:08. He smiled shyly and laughed afterwards at his own misinterpretation, gladly joking with his teammates about needing glasses and poor vision and sweat in his eyes. Kobzarenko's time trial was fifth best among the seven other Navigators Wednesday, led by the tremendous 38:17 effort of Phil Zajicek, who now lies 2:32 off of Floyd Landis' overall lead.

However, Zajicek by no means out of contention, and is still less than 90 seconds from 5th place and surrounded by the meatiest bulk of competition.

The Tour of California is now beginning to look exceptionally interesting, and tomorrow's killer stage from Monterey to San Luis Obispo will be both scenic and epic.

Irish National Champion David O'Loughlin started from the elevated ramp on Bailey road just outside an IBM office complex in the middle of a hilly cow pasture. A bull chewed grass in the shade of a scrubby oak and paid no attention to the hullabaloo about him. When he tired of chewing, the bull lay down in the shade and remained indifferent to O'Loughlin.

What the bull refused to see was first David's two-minute man coming back and then the-minute man, Australian Scott Davis, being caught out on the road. Davis stubbornly tried to drag race O'Loughlin at first, drawing to the left and matching stroke for stroke along the mildly hilly course. When that looked bleak, Davis ducked behind O'Loughlin to draft and store up energy for an attack, as if this were a road race. Ultimately the T-Mobile rider was penalized for each of the 46 seconds he sat in David's wake.

"It was a hard enough time trial, two hills at the start," said O'Loughlin. "Hard to get into a rhythm straight away. I had the right equipment, maybe I could have used a deep-dish rim on the front wheel to fight the wind on the last stretch. I rode 54-44 chain rings and used the 44 on the first uphill and just spun it up. That was better than grinding it on the climb. On the flat I was down 54x12, 13, 11. I went all out, but I still was a little flat, so we'll see."
O'Loughlin finished in 39:17, 54th on the day, placing him in 51st overall in the Tour of California.

 Ben Brooks was content to sit in the sun and soak up the warmth of February in California after his individual effort. Not within realistic striking distance of a high placement on general classification, the Australian instead chose to preserve his strength for tomorrow's long stage along the scenic central coast.
"It wasn't too bad for me. I didn't have to go full gas, so it was just a matter of finding a rhythm and finishing within the time limit. I just rode a standard 53x39 with an 11-23 in the back and stayed somewhere in the middle of the bloc, just ticking the legs over.

Today for guys who aren't in the overall I guess it's in a way a kind of recovery day. It's only 40 minutes and it's not full out, so for lower guys it's a bit of a day off. For the guys on our team out of the G.C., tomorrow's a bit of an opportunity to get in a breakaway now that we're out of the overall. We have a bit of freedom, so I have a feeling that's what we'll be trying to do," said Brooks.

Brooks finished 5:28 seconds behind the leader in 107th. The energy he saved today will be needed in great portions tomorrow, and because he is in 83rd place overall and more than 15 minutes back, he poses no conceptual threat to the top-20 riders in the race. Therefore Brooks, along with a legion of other riders, will seek instead to animate the twisty roads of Big Sur on Thursday.

The athletes will pass cedar groves on their left and the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean on their right. February is the time of the year when gray whales are at their peak migration to Mexico and the lagoons around Baja California. The whales are shepherding their newly-born away from frigid feeding waters near Alaska and the dangerous jaws of predatory great white sharks along the way.

Brooks, O'Loughlin, Kobzarenko and the rest of the Navigators will perhaps find much in common with their southbound traveling companions, keeping Zajicek, Chadwick and young Lagutin safe and sound in the protective pod of the peloton.

Tour of California (UCI 2.1): Stage-4
By Chris G. Baldwin

Glen Chadwick rode the longest break of today's fourth stage of the Tour of California, pairing up with Discovery's Vladimir Gusev on a southbound escape down Highway One. In bright blue skies and only the lightest of winds they left a small and fading breakaway with 45 kilometers remaining in the race and tried mightily to hold them off until the end.

The 210-kilometers covered by all of the riders today made this the longest day of racing. For almost five hours the attacks and counterattacks came as each team tried to apply pressure on an undulating and twisty course with nothing but the ocean and Asia to the west.

The Navigators Insurance Cycling team is the only Continental Pro squad in America with an international racing calendar and an international lineup of riders. At the Tour of California the Navs have two Russians, two Aussies, a Canadian, a Ukrainian, the Irish national champion and one American.

It was 10 a.m. when the peloton left Monterey this morning. The dampness of this coastal city is remarkable, and most of the cyclists wore two or even three layers in spite of the cloudless sky. A southwest wind blew into their faces on the two parade laps through John Steinbeck's fabled Cannery Row, and the turnout of fans was as boisterous and alive as the characters in that famous novel.

After a neutral section the Navigators quickly assimilated into the bunch, rolling with a series of punches doled out by the other teams. With so much road ahead, energy was best conserved for the latter half.

Punch after punch was landed on the body of the race, and an endless number of attacks and counterattacks came in quick succession. It seemed as if the instructions emanating forth from each team car in the caravan was the same: Get in the break. If you aren't in the break, chase the break, then get in the next break.

And so the riders got into the break and chased the break and then got in the next break. By the 112th kilometer this had become tediously repetitive, though not without its merits. The group was softening up, the theoreticians were unfolding their midgame strategies, the duration of each break was longer and less frenetically attended to by a maturing peloton. Navigator Ben Brooks held his own in a short-lived break between kilometers 90 and 98 through a feed zone until a restless peloton led by Floyd Landis' Phonak closed it down.

"It was like that all day. That was my second break, and I felt pretty good in it. The plan yesterday was to save the legs for something opportune, but today there were too many GC guys getting into the breaks and that wouldn't let us stay away. I still feel good, so maybe tomorrow is the another chance for me to get into a breakaway and maybe get five or ten minutes," said Brooks.

The break that finally stuck was the one enjoined by Glen Chadwick, who refused to be cowed by the chasers and stayed away for more than 45 kilometers. His traveling companion was young Vladimir Gusev, and the two of them established, maintained, and even improved their gap from 45 seconds at first to almost two and a half minutes at its largest.

Trading pulls evenly and with ample strength, they took no pleasure from the deep cerulean blue of the Pacific Ocean. When race radio announced that whales had been sighted off the coast, Chadwick's only reaction was to flick his elbow and call for Gusev to come through for his pull.

Back in the field Phonak had relinquished the lion's share of chasing to other teams with stage win ambitions. Chadwick and Gusev, rolling along at 44 kilometers an hour, took advantage of every clean line on the road past Cayucos, their backs now to the ocean, as they turned inland towards San Luis Obispo and the finish.

The clearest objective for the two was a chicane off of Highway One and on to the city streets of this verdant college town. The zigzagging turn was technically difficult and remains almost impossible to describe. Starting on a curving slope up and to the left, the riders would have to crest the camber of a graded road to the right, then flip their weight across the top tubes of their bikes as the lanes changed back to the left at 90 degrees. Then a sharp left again, this time at an oblique 110 degrees, but banking again down and to the right. In sequence it was up right, down left, up left, down right.

For two riders this would be simple, and little to no time would be lost in execution. But for a pack of 120 intent on reeling in a break and then sprinting for the win, this turn would most definitely string out and cause even the most experienced of professionals to cease pedaling for the duration. A group would go that much slower through the turn, giving a break that much more time to get home for the victory.

Chadwick knew this, and no doubt Gusev was being told something similar on his radio. With the sprinters' teams now lining up at the front of the pack, a simple game of schoolyard chase was now underway. Who would get to the chicane first and be all-in-free to the finish?

"Me and the Discovery guy went up that hill and tried to get as big a gap as we could and tried to hold them off, but at the very last downhill they caught us at the top. That's the way cycling works, that's what the teams are supposed to do, just catch the break before the finish. We just went turn for turn, and I seemed to be going a bit stronger than Gusev on the climbs, but we both did a pretty even job. He's a strong guy, too. At the end of the day I feel a little bit knackered. Sore neck, sore legs. But it doesn't matter, tomorrow's another day," said a grimy but content Chadwick.

Caught with just two kilometers to go, Chadwick came in with the back of the peloton, losing a little bit of time as the hurly burly of the sprint pushed wide open the lanes of arrival. He came in with his head held high, a warrior with his shield and sword still firmly in hand.

Stage Result:
1 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Toyota-United Pro 4.41.02
2 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
3 André Korff (Ger) T-Mobile Team

Overall GC:
1 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 12:37.38
2 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.29
3 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.34
15 Phil Zajicek (USA) Navigators Insurance 2.32

 
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