Two weeks after the Tour of California, Jeff Louder got the call that he would be racing at the Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix.
“I have to say it really lit a fire under me and I realized that wow I have to train really hard, I want to honor that race and try to do my best, I don’t know what I can do there but I started putting in some big miles and it’s always good to have big objectives.”
But before flying over to Europe the team tackled the NRC opener, the Redlands Bicycle Classic.This would be the fifth time that Louder had raced in the event since his first participation in 1999. “I won the crit last year and that’s I have to show for it.” said Louder.
“Besides Tour of California, this is the first time we’ve had the very best of the American domestic teams all together so it’s very important to our program to try to do well.”
Two years ago, the win slipped away from BMC’s shoulders on the final day at the Redlands Bicycle Classic where the continuous attacks took their tool on the Sunset Loop. This year, the team was determined that it wouldn’t happen again after Louder took the lead in stage 1.
“We’re a California team, and we’re a team that has worked very hard to get the status that we have, pro Continental team and wildcard status, this is a race that it’s going to be hard to win, but it’s a race that our expectations are to try to win it and that’s how we’re looking at it and we have a lot of respect for the whole peloton, it’s not easy, we come to every race to be prepared. A win is a win, and if we can get it, that will be amazing.” said Louder after winning the yellow jersey in the Beaumont Road Race.
Louder finished fifth in the opening prologue and the worked himself into a 4-man breakaway with just a handful of kilometers left in stage 1 and took the win and the leader’s jersey from Ben Day (Fly V Australia). In the following two stages including the very tough Sunset Road Race, Louder put his team in the wind and the front of the peloton and survived attack after attack. In the end, he won by a slim margin of 5 seconds over his closest rival.
“It was a well timed move that paid off and you could look back into the race and think ‘I could have done things differently’ if I was speaking from Ben’s point of view but hindsight is twenty-twenty. You have to make choices, you have to use your team that way that you think you can utilize them, Ben rode a really strong race and he rode very smart I think. Like he said, it’s hard to win from the front, it’s hard to win this race from the lead, it was a hard day that day and I profited from a well-timed move, getting away with the right guys. But that doesn’t always happen, it could have gone the other way and Ben would have won this race, it’s just a matter of luck, timing and having good form at the right moment.” said Louder about his attack on the fateful stage.
The level of competition was stiff at this edition of the race.
“This year, I think people are really fighting for spots more so than ever, just like everything times are tough. People realize that this is a great sport, a great job, everyone wants to stay involved. I think more than anything you see more motivation, more fire, it’s the same guys maybe but everyone realizes that there are not that many bike races in America and to be able to win one is important, you have to show up for everyone. Bike races are disappearing as we speak so it’s important, it’s great to have Redlands, it’s a great race, it’s a big race and it’s been around so long. ” said Louder.
In the end the BMC team prevailed and defending the jersey against strong opposition is a confidence-builder for the young team.
“This team is young. These guys are learning, there are things that I think maybe I take for granted and I see them doing, I’m not the most PC guy when out racing, you have to yell at them sometimes but you don’t learn in cycling unless you get experiences, this was an experience race, they learned a lot and that’s where confidence comes from. Confidence comes from getting forced to ride for an objective and then actually succeeding, that’s huge, that’s what builds confidence and that’s where you learn to be experienced, that’s how you build confidence.” said Louder.
After Redlands, Louder flew to Europe to race in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe-Pays-de-Loire in preparation for the Hell of the North on Sunday.
“Hopefully I can hopefully be on TV, you have to be realistic with a race like that, it’s a whole other level, this [win] is a great morale booster for the whole team.” said Louder about his expectations for Paris-Roubaix.
For BMC General Manager Gavin Chilcott, the invitation to race at Paris-Roubaix is a big honor and an opportunity to show the growth of the team.
“It’s a very prestigious invitation to be included in one of the monuments of cycling, Paris-Roubaix, I think, the biggest one-day spectacle in cycling so that’s a big honor, specifically it’s a big accolade to be given the nod from ASO, they’re trying to give us an opportunity based upon their impression of our goals and where we’re going forwards. Obviously, we are not a candidate to be on the podium, that’s not likely but it’s a step in the progression of the team where in the future we expect to have bigger riders, a bigger program and a bigger presence over there so they’re giving us an opportunity there much like Medalist gave us an opportunity in our evolution here that really helped the team develop. Without those big opportunities, the team doesn’t take the steps up that it needs to do, so they’re investing to a certain degree in us that we don’t take lightly. ” said Chilcott.
What does Paris-Roubaix mean to Jeff Louder? Watch the video to find out.