World Time Trial Champion Amber Neben (Nurnberger Shoair) blitzed the competition at the Redlands Bicycle Classic opener, the 3.1-mile (5 km) uphill Sun Time Trial, stopping the clock at 10:40.76, making it 27 seconds faster than second place Mara Abbott (Columbia-High Road). Ina-Yoko Teutenberg also of Columbia-High Road was third with almost the same time as her teammate.
“Good ride today, a good way to start the season. This is the first race of the year for me so you never know what to expect. My training has gone well and I come in fit but you just don’t know until you go hard. It’s always a goal to come in and win this stage, the rest of the week will be a bonus if we can do anything else. It feels good to start with a win.” said Neben.
The technical course includes everything climbing at the start, flats and then a climb up the final 800 meters with a 207 meter (680’) total vertical ascent., which Abbott enjoys.
“It’s fun to be able to come back and do this course again. It’s a really interesting course, it’s never boring, I really like it. Because it appeals to a lot of different type of riders, there’s a lot of different way you can ride a course like this, it’s not straight flat, it’s not straight up, twists and turns, it’s got a little bit of everything.” said Abbott.
Neben used her knowledge of the course which she won two years to judge her results. “I kind of had some times in my head based on previous races of different points on the course and I knew when I hit those points at about the same time as I’d hit them in years past I was okay, but until you finish you just don’t know.”
By winning two stages and the overall at the San Dimas Stage Race,Teutenberg showed good form but still it was a surprise to see her finish on the third step of the podium.
“I can time trial when I’m fit. I was just trying to go as hard as possible and stay close with all the time bonuses coming up, I didn’t think I would go that fast that surprised me too. There’s a lot of flats in this time trial course, that way you can push up with power, in the end, it’s only the last 800 meters which goes uphill.” said Teutenberg.
Will Neben’s team, Numberger Shoair, be able to defend the jersey in tomorrow’s road race which everything expects to be super aggressive with time bonuses on the line, and as only one minute separates the fourth rider on GC, Alison Powers (Team Type 1) to the fiftieth rider.
After its dominating win at the San Dimas Stage Race, all eyes will be on the Columbia-High Road team. Team Directeur Petra Rossner explained the team’s simple strategy prior to the prologue.
“Winning doesn’t mean anything because a lot of teams were not there. We like that race and we were a bit sad that a lot of teams didn’t come because it was a really nice race, good timing for Redlands and good preparation. The strategy is what we always have, we’re going to race our bikes to win and we try everything to do this. And if we don’t win and we tried everything we are still happy, but no change in our strategy. If others are better then they should go ahead and win, as long as we don’t do mistakes, I’ll be happy with the girls.”
The men’s race is much tighter after the prologue with the first 21 finishers separated by 30 seconds. Showing his form from winning the San Dimas Stage Race the previous weekend, Ben Day (Fly V Australia/Successful Living) set the fastest time of 09:19.88, setting an unofficial record for the course. Brent Bookwalter (BMC) was second at 3 seconds back and Tom Zirbel (Bissell) slots into third place at 6 seconds from the winner.
Day announced his form by winning the time trial and the overall at last weekend’s San Dimas Stage Race, and he credits his return to good training for his results.
“Since the Tour of Missouri, I’ve gone back to looking after myself. Missouri was great, Sun Tour was good for me as well and I came out this year and California sucked but it was good to get the legs going. The first few races have worked really well for me, my training has been going great, I feel really strong trying to become a bit more of a skinny fuck.” said Day.
The eleventh rider out of 200-rider field out of the start gate, Bookwalter set the fastest time early on only to be beat by Day. And then the men waited on the hot seat to see if anyone would beat their time.
“It was really fast today, definitely some tailwind. I was one of the early ones and I was hoping it wouldn’t pick up too much and shoot those last guys up the climb too fast.” said Bookwalter.
“Just go as hard as you can, it’s pretty simple.” said Zirbel about his strategy for the course. After taking a week to recover from the brutal Amgen Tour of California, Zirbel went back to training and “the only fear was that I was going to come in a little bit cooked but I felt good”
“I was pretty scared about the steep hill so I tried to go a little conservative on the flats just to come up with a little push. That last 2 k is brutal even with taking the flats a little easier, I still died off bad the last 500 meters, I wasn’t able to re-accelerate, I’m sure that cost me a little bit. I’m happy with my effort, not a course that particularly suits me, it doesn’t have my name written all over it.”
The Sun Time Trial is a tricky course for all riders which demands some thoughts.
“I think you have to think about this one [the course]. There’s almost like two different sections you come out of the gate, a little bit uphill and then you have that first little pinch, you’ve got to go hard over the top of that because you have a little bit of recovery after that, a false flat coming up to that bitch of a finish going up that last climb. I find that you need to do one effort at the beginning and then that last effort at the finish, and then hold on over the top and the last 200 meters are like a dog show, trying to hold on and make it to the finish. I learned a lot by doing this course last year, this year was 30 seconds quicker which made it a whole lot different as well, I think I did it right this time. ” said Day.
Tomorrow’s race should be extremely aggressive with not only time bonuses at the finish line but intermediate time bonuses on the loops. Both the Bissell and BMC teams placed two riders capable of winning the overall close to the top of the leaderboard. BMC’s Jeff Louder is in fifth place followed by Bissell’s Ben Jacques-Maynes. Also in the mix are Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing), Rory Sutherland (Ouch) and Peter Stetina (Garmin-Holoweko Partners-Felt).
For the first time for some of its riders, the Fly V Australia team successfully defended the leader’s jersey at the San Dimas race, and confidence was built.
“Most of those guys had never been in a position to defend a lead before, so thank god for radios, they were great, they were really, really awesome and I think they took a lot out of that, it was really good for their confidence and mine to know that the team is strong around me, that’s good.” said Day who enjoys providing advice to the younger members on the team.
But Day is focused on winning the overall and is willing, if need be, to let go of the leader’s jersey tomorrow in order to achieve the victory.
“Tomorrow like I found last year seemed like a difficult stage to control. We’re just going to have to play it by ear and control as we can tomorrow and stay within striking distance whether we keep the jersey or not. The bigger goal is the be in the lead at the end.” concluded Day.
“Let’s race, let’s see what happens, Fly V has got a strong team, they brought guys that have raced and have experience. It’s going to be an interesting battle, I think that there are guys that are not on the podium that are going to be looking to win so it’s going to be an aggressive couple road races, I’m really looking forwards to it. ” said Zirbel about tomorrow’s stage.
Tomorrow is the City of Beaumont Road Race, a circuit race around a 24-mile (38.9 km) course which the women do 3 laps for 72.6 miles (116.8 km) and the men do 4 times for a total of 96.8 miles (155.7 km). Each lap includes a climb to the summit of Bogart County Park with an elevation of 3230 ft (985 m). (See google map of the stage).
Complete results here