Team delivers Haga home safely in yellow in Beaumont stage while Walle grabs time bonuses and 3rd on the line
The Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies men’s and women’s squads both had strong performances in Stage 2 of the Redlands Classic on Friday.
The women’s squad executed some text book leadouts in mid race sprints to deliver Brianna Walle a few more precious seconds in her search for the final podium on Sunday. After Jade Wilcoxson punctured from a promising breakaway in the closing laps, which also included teammate Joelle Numainville, the team turned its attention to a sprint finish where Walle grabbed 3rd place, and enough bonus time to move into 3rd overall. Director Rachel Heal was happy with the efforts despite an untimely mechanical that could’ve changed the overall general classification. “Jade could have been the driving force that kept the break clear, but that’s bike racing. We switched to plan B and still came away with moving Brianna onto the podium”.
In the men’s race, a reduced squad of 6 looked to defend Chad Haga’s yellow jersey that he earned in a sterling performance in Thursday’s opening time trial, besting TT powerhouse and teammate, Tom Zirbel. Director Jonas Carney was tasked with using the team’s efforts wisely so as not to leave Haga and Zirbel isolated too early in the stage. “We had to be careful with our guys, having only 6 riders here,” said Carney. “When you don’t have a full team, you have to strategically allow certain breakaways to happen that are not great for other squads, so perhaps they will be forced to react. We tried to play that card today and it helped a little in the finale, although Mancebo was not the ideal rider to be in the move that made it to the finish.” The Kenda/5 Hour Energy rider managed to take 3rd on the stage and grab a small time bonus to move himself into 2nd place, jumping over Tom Zirbel who now sits 3rd overall. However Haga remains in yellow. “The priority was keeping yellow, and we did that. We will play the same game on Saturday and Sunday if we are in a similar situation. Tom remains a significant card in our arsenal also.”
Today’s Stage 3 is the traditional downtown Redlands criterium, which typically ends in a bunch sprint. Last year Joelle Numainville won the stage while Alex Candelario grabbed 2nd in the men’s race. However this year, things could steer toward defending yellow for Haga and more time bonus opportunities for Walle.