Toyota - United battling it out in the hot Monterrey, Mexican race Vuelta Ciclista CROC

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10.02.2008/  The Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team has 5 riders down in Monterrey to do some strong race training prior to the Amgen Tour of California. The small team includes Dominique Rollin, Ivan Dominguez, Henk Vogels, Jose Manuel (Chepe) Garcia, and Ben Day. Rollin and Dominguez already won a stage and Vogels is second overall at the Vuelta Ciclista CROC– Monterrey, Mexico.  Hector Rangel is leading the overall. A riders diary of stage 4 and 5 by Toyota - United's Ben Day.

© Toyota - United
Ben Day ( Toyota - United)

Riders Diary Ben Day

Stage 4

After the first 3 stages of close finishes and having the whole Mexican peloton marking our wheels, today we finally broke through with a win.  The first stage saw Henk and Dom lap the field in a 12 man break, Henk finishing 2nd and Dom 5th.  The 2nd stage was more of a matter of minimizing our losses with 5 punctures in 70km and a neutral support vehicle that didn’t want to give us wheels… 

In the third stage, the 5 of us put the hammer down in the crosswinds and shredded the field to pieces.  If it wasn’t for Dom having an untimely puncture, we would have had 5 guys in a group of 20 at the finish.  Instead, it was just Henk and I trying to consolidate Henk’s 2nd overall.  I slipped into a move in the final 5km and misjudged the sprint line and finished 2nd on the stage.  So, today, we were keen to go to Mr Dependable, the maestro Ivan Dominguez.

In the 70km hotdog crit, we found ourselves in a situation with a move of the road, containing Chepe who had a great aggressive ride today.  He was feeling rather outnumbered as the peloton aren’t our best friends after what we did to them yesterday.  So we brought that move back, Chepito and I keeping the pace high for the last 10km and we practiced our leadout to perfection.  Chepe rode until 1 lap to go, then I took over until the bottom corner, Dom “The Horse” Rollin wound the boys out of the corner, Henk hit the burners and set Dominguez up perfectly for a win, with Henk in 4th.  Hats off to the yellow jersey holder though who showed his talent with a 2nd place.

It was a nice way for the boys to bond a bit more.  It felt like we are on a little bit of a boy scout camp for the first few days, trying to organize how to do everything to get to the stages ready to go, so it has certainly has been a bit of a different experience.  As we look at the weather channel, we are pretty grateful to be down here, basking in 80f temps, whilst back in the States it is still rather frigid.  Experiences this week: yes, it is possible to sit in the backseat of a tiny cab with The Horse, Dreek, the Maestro, and myself. A novel concept for stage racing is to drop the cyclists off at a truckstop on a open highway, and tell them to race to the next town, ie, 130-150km stages with no corners….  Best looking team kit in the peloton goes to the spidermen – both the evil black spidermen and the goodies red spidermen, especially when one of the dudes has a pair of Toyota- United Pro Cycling Team knicks on! 

© Ben Day
The Mexican way of transporting bikes.. ( Ben Day)

Stage 5 

So perhaps we underestimated the first climb today. In the other road stage, the climbs had been big gear highway climbs. The first one today was just that little bit harder, a good bit longer and at 1900 meters of altitude. Our man on GC, Henk Vogels, doesn't like climbing as much as other stuff, but about as much as he likes altitude. He made it over not too far from the front though, and with the help of the boys bombing down the descent he was back in the bunch in no time. This was followed by a bit of easy time, but there was one more, harder climb to go and the leaders had seen that Henk wasn't right in the front on the first climb. So they hit it hard. Dom and I stayed with the lead group of 10-15 riders, while the other guys protected Henk, with Chepe doing a great job pacing him on the climb. Henk handled the 2nd climb a lot better than the first, and the guys at the front seemed a bit demoralized when they saw they wouldn't be riding away from our man, 2nd on GC.

With 40km to go, our next thoughts went to how we could win the stage.

Dominique has shown some great form these past few weeks and so we decided to look after him for the kick. As things played out, I hit the front with 5km to go, and I must say I was brilliant (although I didn't realize it), when I finished my turn with 1km to go, there were only 4 guys left on my wheel. Dom was there, saw that the other guys were spent, and in one kilometer, he put 14 seconds into the chasers. We don't call him horse for nothing! I gasped across the line for 5th, still in the money.

Henk, like a trooper, finished in a small very select group behind us with the yellow jersey, who once again showed that he is a class act. With Henk's ride today, he gained a bit more breathing space in 2nd overall.

Oh yeah, it's hot down here!

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