While the cycling world’s attention is focused on France here in the Southeast racers were competing in the French Broad omnium held in the Asheville area. The three-day omnium started on Friday with a 20.5 kilometer time trial. Saturday the racers lined up for the infamous road race portion of the omnium. While only 65 miles in length the altitude gain was an impressive 6,500 feet. Sunday as usual was the criterium which would keep anyone who was in the leader’s jersey on their toes.
The first wearer of the French Broad leader’s jersey was CCB’s Cameron Cogburn who beat his nearest competitor in the time trial by 50 seconds. However just 24 seconds separated second place through 15th, so there were still many riders still in contention for the overall.
With Cogburn in the hot seat it was up to him and his team to watch for dangerous moves. As expected a break went up the road but was kept at a manageable distance. The true fireworks on this stage was going to happen on the last climb which started at the 50 mile point.
Tyler Karnes of the Hincapie Devo team was the lone survivor of the break and plowed on ahead. It’s tough for one man to stay ahead of a motivated bunch and Karnes was brought back to the peloton.
As the remaining lead riders of 16 reached the final climb it was evident that it was going to be an all out battle.
Andy Baker of Team Ion, Jonathan Clarke of United Healthcare and Boyd Johnson of Globalbike were attacking each other on the climb.
The Team Ion rider describes the action in the closing kilometers of the road race.
“I sat back and was conserving energy watching Boyd and Clarke. With two kilometers to go we separated to just us three. Johnson and I in the last kilometer took some hard digs which put Clarke into some difficulty. Boyd was strong and we were both riding well, but I never saw the climb finish before that day and I went too early. Boyd passed me with 400 meters to go and Clark ran me down for second.”
Johnson’s victory in the road race saw the leader’s jersey shift onto the back of the Globalbike rider. However his lead was by no means secure.
The following day was the criterium with omnium points still on the line. Baker went into the last day just one point behind Johnson. The strategy for Globalbike was simple – watch for dangerous moves and cover them like a blanket. Baker was taking an all or nothing approach to the race and careful bided this time to attack.
A thunderstorm rolled in and as a safety precaution the officials shortened the race reducing the laps that remained from 12 to five.
With the rain lashing down Baker described the peloton as getting “antsy”. The stress of leading the race looked wore on the boys in green and Globalbike with race leader Johnson was forced to cover attacks. In the closing laps Spencer Gaddy (Team Ion) and Mike Stone (Hincapie Development) attacked. Johnson countered the move but was working hard. Johnson looked to be on the ropes, which Baker took as his opportunity to attack and went solo.
“I put all my eggs into the one basket and thought I would at least try.”
However Global rallied their troops and chased Baker down in the last 500 meters to the line.
Keck Baker of Harley Davidson took the stage win with Jonathan Clarke second. Johnson finished fourth and retained enough points to clinch the omnium victory.
Johnson’s win was not only a victory for him, but for the Globalbike team as well.
“The French Broad is a race I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” said Johnson. “It’s a prestigious win for me and the team.”
“They worked really hard for me with one goal – to win. It was a team effort and that’s what made me push through the pain knowing it was all for them.”