Marc de Maar of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis may not have won the queen stage of the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic today as he had hoped, but he did achieve his other – and potentially more important – goal for the day, opening a bigger gap on 2nd overall Paul Mach (Bissell) going into tomorrow’s final stage criterium.
De Maar attacked on the final climb of the day about 8 km from the uphill finish, in pursuit of the four remnants of the day’s main break, which had nearly a two-minute gap on the race leader when he hit the bottom of the hill.
By the end of the climb, de Maar had taken back well over a minute from stage winner Pat McCarty (Matrix-Richardson), and only Michael Creed (Team Type 1) was able to hold his wheel to the line. De Maar took 5th on the stage.
“The team rode fantastic today,” de Maar said. “Today was a very hard course; it was either up or down all day. We really had only three guys to control the race today, and we were trying to protect Morgan (Schmitt) some, too, because he was our next highest guy on GC.”
Chris Baldwin and Max Jenkins were the other two riders tasked with keeping the peloton in check for the better part of 90 miles during today’s stage. A tired but satisfied Baldwin noted after the stage that “we had a good plan and we executed it perfectly today.”
“We wanted to protect Morgan a bit today,” said Team Directeur Sportif Gord Fraser, “and give him the task of marking (Rob) Britton (Bissell) because we wanted to make sure he didn’t get up the road and give Mach someone to bridge up to. So Max and Chris ended up with the bulk of the work, and it’s not easy defending a jersey for that long a stage with just two guys.”
Britton came into the day one place and 10 seconds behind Schmitt, who sat 7th overall at 1:47 behind de Maar.
“The Bissell guys were really aggressive from the start but we were able to keep them in check pretty much all day,” Baldwin said.
With 35 km remaining, and the final climb under way in earnest, a break finally got off the front and up the road. Nate English (Echelon Gran Fondo/Z-Team) was the most dangerous rider in the break, sitting 5th overall at 1:10 behind de Maar. Which meant that for a good portion of the latter part of the stage, English was the virtual leader on the road.
But de Maar made sure the yellow jersey wouldn’t leave his back, upping the pace enough to shed everyone from the front group except for Creed. By the time de Maar hit the line, the gap to English was only 0:23. More important, he’d put an additional 0:43 into Mach, who dropped to 4th overall behind Creed (2nd at 0:44) and English (3rd at 0:47), with only the final stage criterium remaining.
“It’s been fun defending the jersey this week,” Baldwin said. “We’ve had a lot of hurdles put in our way, with Roman (Kilun) crashing out and the situation with Morgan. But we keep getting over them. Hopefully we can keep things under control tomorrow and maybe give Eric (Barlevav) a shot at the stage win, too.”