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Nature Valley Grand Prix Stage 1 TT – Men’s Race Report

June 10, 2009

Bissell, OUCH-Maxxis Dominate Opening Time Trial of 2009 Nature Valley Grand Prix

By James Lockwood

While the order of the stages changed from 2008 for the start of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, beginning the five-day, six-stage race with the Saint Paul Time Trial did little to change the outcome of the stage. Bissel Pro Cycling dominated the standings, and Rory Sutherland came out of the stage in second place, followed by Peter Latham (Bissel Pro Cycling).

Unlike last year, though, Bissell hopes to use the momentum from the stage win and dominating presence in the top 10 to take home the overall classification this year.

“Last year, we did the same thing and didn’t finish too well,” said stage winner Tom Zirbel, who put in a blistering time of 12 minutes, 36 seconds and the 7.2-kilometer course, beating Sutherland by 13 seconds. “We have some stronger guys on the team this year. Hopefully, we learned from last year and will do better.”

Last year, Bissell came out of the time trial with Ben Jacques-Maynes wearing the leader’s jersey and his team dominating the top 10 standings. In the end, though, Jacques-Maynes finished fourth overall, losing time to overall champion Sutherland in the fifth stage Mankato Road Race.

That result had OUCH-Maxxis’ Sutherland pleased, if not overly happy, finishing second to Zirbel.

“I think we are in the best position,” said Sutherland, whose teammates John Murphy – second overall last year – Karl Menzies (2006 champion) and Tim Johnson also finished in or near the top 10, all within 30 seconds of Zirbel. “If it comes down to the climb in Mankato, I would rather be chasing Zirbel than chasing Ben. I think I am a better climber than he is.”

Sutherland cautioned, though, there was a lot of riding to do before getting to that point.

“There are 15 guys who could be in the yellow jersey after the crit tonight,” said OUCH-Maxxis’s director Mike Tamayo.

Among those 15 include Jaques-Maynes and his brother, Andy, and their teammates Frank Pipp and Peter Latham. Latham briefly held the best time before losing it to Zirbel 12 minutes later. He finished third on the day.

Cracking the top 10 and disrupting the Bissell-OUCH showdown was Team Type 1’s Mike Creed, a recent addition to the team after financial turmoil ended his tenure at beleaguered Rock Racing. Creed finished the stage in sixth, 22 seconds back.

“It’s unbelievable,” Creed said of his performance and place on the team. “I was really, really surprised. I just got the bike. It felt good from the start.”

Happy to be racing on the team, he said his expectations riding against the juggernauts of Bissell and OUCH-Maxxis are in check for the overall classification. “We have some strong sprinters on the team. Crits will be our focus,” added Creed.

Floyd Landis (Ouch p/b Maxxis) leaves the start house in Stage One of the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Landis finished in 28th place among 144 men. (photo courtesy of Steve Pottenger)