Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Botero "Rocks" At Cascade Cycling Classic

With serious contenders in the field that include Astana’s Leipheimer and Chris Horner as well as Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream), the men’s race was fast from the start. Steven Cozza (Garmin-Slipstream) and Curtis Gunn (Successful Living) initiated the first of many short-lived breaks right after the start, and were joined by Ken Hanson (California Giant-Specialized) around mile 13. The peloton, largely driven by Garmin-Slipstream, kept them close, allowing no more than a 26-second gap before they closed in at mile 17.

Riders from teams such as Toyota-United, BMC, Ride Clean, and California Giant-Specialized tried launching attacks before a break of 12 finally succeeded around mile 38. It included Matt Cooke (Health Net-Maxxis); Caleb Manion (Toyota-United); Bissell teammates Ben Jacques-Maynes, Burke Swindlehurst, and Jeremy Vennell; BMC riders Jonathan Garcia and Brent Bookwalter; Team Type 1 teammates Glen Chadwick and Chris Jones; John Hunt (California Giant-Specialized); Justin Rose (, and Chad Beyer, an U23 National Team member.

Just before the KOM at mile 50, some shuffling occurred in the main break, with Cooke, Manion, and Rose falling off the pace. In the meantime, one by one, Botero, Louder, and Baldwin bridged up, keeping the break at 12 men.

By mile 62, the dozen riders had established their largest gap at 2:15, but the peloton began reeling them in, closing that to just under one minute by mile 67. The majority of the break worked well together, and for the remaining 15 miles, never let the gap get below 44 seconds.

As soon as the break hit the bottom of Pilot Butte, Botero, who won the KOM jersey at the Tour de France in 2000, powered away from his companions, and momentarily 21-year-old Beyer was able to hang onto his wheel. “I just blew up halfway up,” he gasped at the finish line.

In his fourth year with the U23 National Team in Belgium and home from Europe on a brief break, Beyer decided to do Cascade because it looked like “a really cool race with a good field.” He said he was surprised he could catch Botero’s wheel as he surged, and “Two seconds later, I was like, ‘I’m gonna blow up!’ I just tried to maintain a good pace the rest of the way up.”

Botero was out of his saddle almost the entire two kilometers up to the finish, looking back periodically to see if anyone was with him. Baldwin passed Beyer as he fell off Botero’s wheel, and seemed to nearly match Botero’s pace, but never quite reached him, and crossed the finish six seconds down, followed by Louder 14 seconds later.

Of the final climb, Louder explained, “It’s such an all-out effort. It’s basically just man-on-man, and the better man won.”

While Leipheimer was not part of the original break, he bridged to the escapees at the bottom of the climb and passed everyone, reaching Jones just before the finish. Jones crossed first, and they both received the same time, 25 seconds off Botero.

Asked if he was concerned about where Leipheimer was on the climb, Botero nodded with a smile, and said, “He’s so strong now, the best rider in the United States.” Referring to Astana’s lack of an invitation to the Tour de France, he continued, “It’s sad because I am 100 percent sure he could win the Tour. But I’m happy with him, Chris Horner, and Tom Danielson here – it makes the racing good.”

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