Near Misses on Sunset Loop Will Only Drive the Optum p/b KBS Squads Toward Further Success

 

The finale at the Redlands Classic was an epic battle in the men and women’s fields today. We did not win the war today but our teams fought valiantly to defend their GC positions and try to hold onto yellow for one last day.

Race Report by Rachel Heal

The sunset circuit race lived up to expectations of being a very tough race, with a KOM on the first lap, the pace was hard enough to blow things apart, and as they hit the feed zone after less than 10 miles, the front group was just 20 riders with Brie, Joelle, Janel and Jade representing the team.

As the course started to take its toll, the front group whittling down every lap. As Mara Abbott (Exergy) and Claudia Hausler (Tibco) broke clear with a couple of laps to go, Joelle dug deep to stay with a very select front group. Abbott attacked Hausler and solo’d in for the win, and Joelle won the sprint for 2nd, another podium to round off a good week for the team

Joelle Numainville had an excellent stage today finishing runner-up for the second day in a row, this time behind a powerful solo move from 2011 Giro Donne winner, Mara Abbott. Her form continues to climb following a stellar and very long 2012 season where Numainville needed to perform from beginning to end to first, qualify for the Olympics, then compete well there and finally hold onto that form at the World Championships at the end of the season. Great to see Joelle is coming back to her best. Brianna Walle who is in her first full season of pro racing, fought hard all week to move into a final podium position today. Unfortunately her legs gave out just a bit too soon and Brie couldn’t hold onto her spot. But given the earlier race winning performance and podiums she had at San Dimas and another podium this week on Stage 2, Brianna will surely improve over the coming weeks as we look ahead to Joe Martin and the Tour of the Gila.

 

Race Report by Jonas Carney

Yesterday was the final stage of the Redlands classic…the Sunset Loop. It’s a brutal circuit that is always going up or down and is also incredibly technical. Normally half the field is eliminated on the first lap, when the GC riders sprint for a time bonus at the KOM line 8 miles into the stage. With Mancebo only 5 seconds down on Chad, we had to go for this bonus. The math worked out so that if Chad could pick up one second, he would make it much more difficult for his biggest threats to beat him. This would ensure that riders like Luis Amaran and Ben Jacques Ben could not win on bonuses…they’d have to drop Chad. Also Mancebo would have to drop him or finish on the podium to have a chance. Chad finished second in the time bonus behind Mancebo and we were in good shape.

After the bonus, things got a bit chaotic because we could not do a normal defense with only five riders. There was no way the Cando, Sherer, and Zwiz could just ride the front. The other teams would simply wait for those three to get tired and then attack the crap out of Chad and Tom. We decided to use our three workers only when necessary….to mark out certain individuals and weld back unappealing breaks. They’d also support Tom and Chad with bottles, positioning, and service if necessary. While the race took some time to settle down, the strategy worked well. Cando, Sherer, and Zwiz used their efforts wisely and other teams were forced to chase. This mainly fell on the shoulders of Kenda as they were 100% behind Mancebo.

1/3 of the way into the race, we had lost Sherer. By 2/3 of the way we had lost Cando. We were down to three guys and Zwiz was swinging at the back of the group which was down to about 40 riders. However, things were under control. It was only a matter of time before Mancebo would attack and Chad would have to try to follow him. Chad new this and shadowed Mancebo in the closing laps, but when the the attack came he could not follow. Nobody in the peloton could follow. Mancebo got clear on the climb on the last lap and joined another rider who was dangling 13 seconds ahead of the field. It’s all downhill and flat for about 10k to entry of the circuit where the officials take the GC time. At the top of the climb, Haga, Zwiz, and Zirbel came together, put their heads down and TTT’d as hard as they could. Normally we’d expect that with three of the biggest and most powerful TT specialists in North America going all out for 10k on a mostly downhill section that we’d make up some ground. But Mancebo actually pulled away and we lost the yellow jersey.

Chad finished second overall and Zirbel was third. While we are all disappointed that we could not win the GC, it was our best Redlands ever…a stage win, three days in yellow, and two guys on the GC podium. Not a bad weekend considering that we didn’t start a full squad.

Next up…the guys will race Castilla y Leon in Spain next weekend (April 12-14).

Jonas

 

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