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McLane Pacific Classic Merced Grand Prix
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 3/4/2006
McLane Pacific Classic Merced Grand Prix

McLane Pacific Classic Merced Grand Prix
Mike Jones bested a 9 man breakaway at the finish with Jackson Stewart (Kodak Gallery/SN) as they escaped the capture at the finish... first blood as Healthnet gets a grip on the podium for the first day of McLane Classic weekend races.

What was expected to be a typical run to the finish for the field sprinters at the first day of a weekend of races at McClane Pacific Classic Downtown Grand Prix turned a surprise in today when a 9 man break escaped and stayed away to the last lap.. Another surprise was it wasn't the your expected sprinters Gord Fraser of Health Net and J.J.Haedo of Toyota/United pro fighting it out for the line honors.

Jackson Stewart leads the forming break at midway in the race photo c. Mark Adkison Phd.

Mike Jones (Health Net) won in a last lap counter attack to Jackson Stewarts explosive attack with two laps to go as the duo raced to the finish it was "So Pro" Jones running away to the line with Stewart hot on his wheel holding the charging peloton off for second.

"So Pro" Jones on his way home! photo c. Mark Adkison Phd.
Stewart, winner of the Adobe Most Agressive Rider prize in Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour, was part of a nine-rider breakaway that went clear just over halfway through the 40-mile race but still managed to stick, despite the cold temperatures and the flat, fast race's tendency towards a field sprint finish.

Nick Reistad leads the Artacho and McCormack photo c. Mark Adkison Phd.

The group included four pairs of teammates - Toyota-United's Ivan Stevic and Sean Sullivan, Jelly Belly's Nick Reistad and Caleb Mannion, Colavita-Sutter Home's Mark McCormack and Gustavo Artacho, and Health Net-Maxxis' Mike Jones and Kyle Gritters - leaving Stewart as the odd man out.

Stewart on the attack,  2 laps to go... photo c. Mark Adkison Phd.

Stewart  bided his time as the field closed in and the breakaway's pace began to sputter, and the Kodakgallery/SN rider launched an attack through the last two corners, Mike Jones was the only rider to hold Stewarts wheel and launched a counter attacked with one lap to go and Stewart held on for second place on the podium.

Behind Stewart, McCormack was the only other member of the breakaway to hold off the field sprinters as JJ Haedo and Gord Fraser swept up the break to finish 4th and 5th.
Tomorrows Foothill Road Race a 120 mile test of rolling hills over a closed circuit will see the resumption of the HealthNet -Toyota/United Pro rivalry as J.J Haedo defends his victory of last year and Gord Fraser of Health Net will shoot to reclaim the crown after finishing 2nd last year to Haedo who won in the last 500 metres with a blistering attack to the line. It will be a day for the hard men with rain expected during the race.
acknowledgements to Josh Kadish Cycling Team.
More Photos:
Podium: Mike Jones gets his Sierra Cobblestone Trophy
"So Pro" Last lap attack

Tony Cruse leads the chase of Toyota/United Pro
Jackson Stewart leads the break
Weary Break Tires
Break mid race
Kyle Gritters Health Net
Toyota/United on the chase

Health Net Report:
Gord Fraser’s winning streak at the McLane Pacific Downtown Criterium is over. But that’s okay because the man who ended it at four in a row was his Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis teammate, Mike Jones.

Jones first shattered, then left behind the remnants of a nine-rider break in the final lap and took a three-second win over Jackson Stewart (KodakGallery-Sierra Nevada) and Mark McCormick (Colavita-Sutter Home).
The race was unusual for a number of reasons, including the fact that this was the first time anyone could remember a break succeeding in the fast, flat 50-lap/40-mile race, which typically ends in a bunch sprint. Not only that, the nine-man break went a way before the mid-point of the race, a long time to be out there and not get swept up.

Not long after the break formed, a wreck in the main field – which took down, among others, Health Net's sprinter Greg Henderson and Alex Candelario (Jelly Belly) – helped the front group extend its gap from 10 seconds out to 30 seconds. But since all the major teams were represented the peloton seemed content to let them stay away, for a while at least.

“The break was a 50-50 proposition for us,” said Health Net D.S. Jeff Corbett. "If it came to the line intact, Kyle had a good chance at the win. But we really didn’t want to try that. We wanted to try to shatter the break and see where the pieces fell. And if we didn’t like that, we’d bring it back for the sprint.”

With 12 laps to go and the break holding a :38 lead, Toyota went to the front with Tony Cruz driving for several laps. The gap immediately fell to :29. At six to go, Health Net took control of the peloton, and Mike Jones attacked the break. Almost immediately, four riders: Manion, Stevic, Artacho and Gritters were shed from the front group.

Health Net/Maxxis takes to the chase photo c Mark Adkison Phd.

“With six to go, we went to the front to close it down if needed,” said Jones’ teammate Tim Johnson. “But then we just let Jones do his thing.”
“When Jones attacked, the bunch split and we went to another 50-50 move, only smaller,” Corbett said. “I knew the freshest guy in the remainder of the break would be the one to win, so I told Jones not to do too much work.”
“I basically sat on Nick (Reistadt) for four and a half laps,” Jones explained. “I knew he had more to gain by working because I had the guys lined up behind me to bring it back if they needed to.”

“We were holding back the last lap,” Corbett said, “because we wanted to give Jones the chance.”
“When I went with one lap to go,” Jones said, “I think Jackson, Mark and Nick all hesitated just a bit and I took advantage of it.”

Coming out of the first turn on the final lap, it was Reistadt who reacted first, but he couldn’t quite close down the gap, which had opened to several bike lengths. From there, it was a time trial to the finish.
“Even with half a lap left, we still felt that we could bring it back if we needed to,” Corbett said. “It was a calculated gamble, but that’s what it always is.”
But when neither Stewart or McCormick could close down the gap either, the gamble paid off – with one of the biggest wins of Mike Jones’ career.

“The last half lap was hard,” Jones said. But after riding his heart out at the Amgen Tour of California and simply running into a string of bad luck, it was about time his hard work paid off.
After a tough week for the entire team at the Amgen Tour of California, Corbett spoke for everyone when he said, “It’s just good to get the first win out of the way.”
The team will go for its second win Sunday in race two of the McLane Pacific Cycling Classic, the Foothills Road Race
Despite going hard to the tarmac at a speed approaching 30 mph, Henderson escaped with road rash on his leg and arm and some bruising. Still, after the race, he said “I feel a bit wrecked.” However, he is expected to make the start of the road race Sunday.

Mike Jones interviewed by Dave Towles after the race. photo c. Mark Adkison Phd.

1 Mike Jones Health Net
2 Jackson Stewart Nevada Pro Cycling Team
3 Mark McCormack Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter HomesWinery

4 Juan Haedo toyota-united pro cycling team
5 Gordon Fraser Health Net
7 Mike Sayers Health Net
8 Ivan Dominguez toyota-united pro cycling team
9 Viktor REPINSKI Colavita Olive Oil- Sutter Home Winery
10 Tony Cruz toyota/united pro cycling team
11 Kyle WAMSLEY Colavita Olive Oil- Sutter Home Winery
12 Gustavo ARTACHO ColavitaOlive Oil- Sutter Home Winery
13 Pete Lopinto Nevada Pro Cycling Team
15 Jamiel DANESH RH Montano Velo
17 Dan Schmatz Nevada Pro Cycling Team
18 Dean LABERGE GS Lombardi Sports
19 Paul Che Helens
20 Rahsaan Bahati Tiaa- Cref 125
21 Josh Goodwin TEAM SUCESSFUL 98
22 Ivan Stevic toyota/united pro cycling team 116
24 Davide Frattini colavita olive oil sutter home 27
25 Robbie King Priority Health 87

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