The 2018 racing season began in earnest Friday at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Phoenix AZ.
At the stage 1 Individual Time Trial, guest rider Innokenty Zavyalov took the overall lead in the general classification laying down a day’s best time of 27:50 over the 14 mile course. Placing 9th in the stage for Pacific Premier Bank was 22 year old Joseph Garey, who came in 2:06 back with a time of 29:56.
Defending the lead going into the 94 mile road race on day 2 would be somewhat new territory for the team given the depth of the field, which included multiple UCI squads as well as some of the top Domestic Elite teams in the country.
From the gun the attacks came thick and fast forcing the boys on the defensive and spreading out the team’s numbers between a sizable 20+ rider breakaway and the second group which contained Zavyalov. Over the course of the first three laps, the breakaway group would gain almost 4 minutes on the main field. Although the team had multiple riders in the front group, Zavyalov was quickly becoming isolated as riders from opposing teams in the 2nd group launched a series of vicious attacks, each taking their toll on the team’s supporting riders.
With a lap remaining there were now three groups on the road, the second containing Zavyalov and Cory Lockwood (Project Echelon), who had started the day 2nd in the GC, just 30 seconds behind. At the front of the race the group containing Pacific Premier Bank riders Enrique Aldapa, Joseph Garey, John Garbo and Chris Wyman, still held a lead of nearly two and a half minutes.
Recognizing the situation that had developed, Zwart Wouter (Landis/Trek) along with David Greif (Rio Grande Elite Cycling) capitalized by attacking the front group early in the final lap. The two maximized their advantage, rolling across the line nearly three minutes ahead knocking Zavyalov down to 5th in GC.
Although the day had not gone as planned for the team, Joseph Garey managed to salvage a 5th place in the stage as well as advance two spots in GC to 7th.
The final stage, a 60 minute timed criterium in downtown Phoenix, failed to present an opportunity to alter the overall GC. Regardless, the team did again score an impressive 2nd in the stage with Enrique Aldapa showcasing his sprinting prowess for the first time in 2018.
Despite a crash in the final lap of the criterium involving Zavyalov from which he was able to remount, he and Garey would finish 5th and 7th in the final overall standings respectively.