With only a final-stage criterium between Karl Menzies and the overall title of the Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove, the task facing the OUCH seemed pretty straightforward.
However, throw in the fact that the crit was over 110 km long with strong winds on the long finishing straight, and the fact that the team had done a significant amount of work Saturday to put Menzies in position to take the leader’s jersey, and the job was far from simple.
“It was a hard race,” team directeur Mike Tamayo said simply. “The guys worked really hard to hold Karl’s position. With the wind, the length of the crit and yesterday’s effort, the guys were a bit tired. But they did what they had to do to get Karl the win. It was a great team effort.”
In the end, Menzies’ two lead-out men, Andrew Pinfold and John Murphy, delivered the big Tasmanian safely to 11th in the final sprint, which was more than enough to secure his overall title.
“The boys were amazing again today,” Menzies said. “I think between yesterday and today, I spent maybe a couple minutes total with my nose in the wind. They made things easy on me.”
With time gaps tight within the top 25 overall coming into the crit, the team was going to have its work cut out for it. Early on, a group of nine riders got off the front and threatened Menzies’ lead.
“That forced us to work a bit earlier than we would’ve like,” Tamayo said. “It took a bit of snap out of the legs later one.”
“It’s great having guys like Rory (Sutherland), Floyd (Landis) and Bobby (Lea), who can get on the front and put in the long efforts you need to bring back moves like that,” Menzies added.
Once the nine-rider move was neutralized, a two-man break formed toward the end of the race that also posed a threat.
“Fly V wanted to keep things together for a bunch sprint, so we got some help from then bringing back the two-man break,” Tamayo said.
With that break back in the fold and the peloton coming into the final laps, “the sprinter’s teams started bunching up at the front,” Tamayo said. “A number of teams wanted a crack at the stage win.”
Fly V wanted to set up Jonathan Cantwell, who took 3rd behind Menzies Saturday. Sebastian Haedo (Colavita/Sutter Home) was in the hunt for his second consecutive stage win.
“I had Murph and Pinner there protecting me again,” Menzies. “The headwind made the sprint a bit more dangerous. There was a lot of swarming and bunching up. I was just trying to follow the guys.”
The sprint played out similarly to Saturday’s, with Murphy leaving final lead-out duties to Pinfold coming out of the last corner.
“Pinned took the last corner full gas, but the wind knocked him back a bit,” Menzies said. “Yesterday it worked, today it didn’t. But the main thing was the GC, and if we got a result on top of that, then great. But we got the main result we wanted.”