Known to race aggressively, the NOW and Novartis for MS team will now have to switch gears and go on the defense to protect Alison Powers‘ yellow jersey at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
“That’s going to be interesting for us because we have the mentality of racing hard, going for stages but now we have the yellow. We’re going to do what we need to do to keep the yellow all weekend.” road captain Robin Farina told podiuminsight with a smile.
The old adage “the best defense is a good offense” rings true for Powers. “We do a fair bit of attacking and I think it’s easier to defend if you’re aggressive instead of just back on your heels and just reacting, we want to be proactive in the race.”
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For the first time in her career, Powers is wearing the yellow leader’s jersey at Redlands, the NRC opener. Last year, she had her best overall result when she finished second, after gobbling bonus seconds following her third place at the prologue.
Powers simply said that it was “awesome” to wear the yellow jersey at Redlands. She then added with a laugh, “Actually it barely fit because I had the green jersey. “
“It was really cool just to win the stage because it’s something that I’ve been wanting to win after they announced the route. Every training has been I want to win Redlands, I want to win Redlands, every time trial effort so to have that hard work pay off is really cool and inspiring and okay good things can happen if you put in the hard work.”
No one was really surprised to see Powers set the fastest time at the new time trial. After all, the 7.8-mile technical course was at altitude. We knew it and Powers knew it. But what surprised was how much she crushed it.
“The technical aspects, the altitude, it had my name all over it, in my opinion. If I want to win this and it’s suited for me then I better kick butt. “ laughed Powers.
Averaging a speed of 28.98 mph (46.64 km/h), Powers stopped the clock at 16:09, 31 seconds faster than second place Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon).
No time trial is easy. “I was suffering.” she admitted. “I wanted to win and then my personal goal for the day was to try and catch Jade (Wilcoxson), she was 1:30 ahead of me, that would be really hard to do but kept me motivated the whole time, ‘go get Jade, got get Jade’. And, there was a flask with some whiskey waiting at the finish, and I was going to get first place I was going to get some. It helps the coughing.”
Farina and Powers each enjoyed a small sip from the flask to celebrate. Not only did Powers have a great ride but teammate Lex Albrecht finished 55 seconds down for fifth while Farina is in ninth.
With a big circle around the time trial, the whole team pre-rode the course on Wednesday, as Albrecht explained. “That was really cool because I got to try out how I wanted to pace and how I was going to take all the corners. I was also a little bit concerned because the course is at altitude and I live at sea level. I did some experimenting yesterday to see how my body would react and so I devised my plan on how I was going to approach my race yesterday.”
So now, the team has three riders in the top 10 and a nice cushion to protect. “I’m really about that. Alison is a super GC rider, we’re going to be riding for her. It’s going to be fun. We have a lot of options for the next three days.” Albrecht said with a smile.
But it won’t be easy. There are a lot of time bonuses left in the three stages.
Powers added, “Normally Redlands is kind of a sprinter and time bonus race so this (gap) is very unusual, it’s kind of nice actually but it doesn’t mean game over. They’re all going to be gunning for us, there are three stages left and we really have to have our A game for sure. What’s really cool is that we won the last NRC stage race of the year at Cascade, so this is the first NRC and I would like to win and I know my team does to so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Farina expects squads such as the Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies team and Team TIBCO as well as Specialized-lululemon riders to race “super aggressive” in the Beaumont and Sunset stages on Friday an Sunday respectively.
“I think we’re going to be obviously protecting yellow which we are so excited about, we have a nice little time gap on that. We’ve got a great team here, we’ve brought good riders who can go for the QOM, go for the sprint, we’re going to be looking to get in the mix and in the right move.”
Powers looks forward to it. “I think it will be all out tomorrow (Friday). There are people here who like to race and who have been racing in Europe, who like to be aggressive. I hope it’s all out, otherwise it’s going to be quite boring, we all like to race.”
“Alison has worked really hard this off-season, she came into the season fit and ready to go. This time trial had her name on it, at altitude it’s perfect for her. We’re going to give her her best shot and we’re all happy to work really hard for her this weekend.” concluded Farina.