The men and women of Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies flexed their collective muscle in stage two of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, a race against the clock at picturesque Big Bear Lake, over 6,000 feet above sea level.
Time trial specialist Tom Zirbel won the stage for the men for the second consecutive year, with a time of 15:02 and an average speed of over 31 MPH on the 12.5 km course. Jasmin Glaesser, a British Columbia native and first-year rider on the Orange & Black, finished second in the TT, eight seconds behind stage winner Rhae Shaw. A near-miss at a stage win came with a phenomenal consolation prize for Glaesser – her time of 16:59 was enough to propel the London Olympics bronze medal winner into the Redlands yellow jersey.
Phil Gaimon delivered another quick ride for the men, tied for fourth with a time of 15:14. The fast run for Gaimon nearly placed him in yellow – he currently sits four seconds behind the fastest man against the clock in stage two, Ryan Roth of Silber Pro Cycling. With steep grades approaching on the Oak Glen circuit and classic Sunset Loop finish, the course looks favorable for a climbing specialist like Gaimon to contest the overall, with the help of his teammates.
Performance Directors Jonas Carney and Patrick McCarty, Tom Zirbel, and Jasmin Glaesser spoke about the team’s success in the time trial, and the shape of the race moving forward.
Did the course suit you today? Were you thinking you had a shot at winning?
“This was my third time competing in the Big Bear TT and while I haven’t always considered it particularly suited to my strengths I certainly lined up today wanting to see what I was capable of. The conditions were a bit tricky but I think I made a good call early on in the race to not focus on the numbers but on finding a rhythm and picking out the fastest line.”
Do you like the new Diamondback time trial bike, the Serios?
“I’ve been really pleased with the performance of my Serios even after just a few weeks of dialing it in. I’ve been able to perfect the fit to get me into a position that’s both aerodynamic and efficient. It’s a great advantage both for my own aspirations in improving my time trial this year and, more importantly, for the our team to get that extra edge in the team time trial championships later this year.”
How are things going your first year with Optum?
“Spending most of the winter focusing on the track, it’s always a tough transition to switch back to the road. I’m pleased I’ve been able to adapt quickly and start the season off on a high note. My first impressions of my teammates are that they are all extremely driven and motivated individuals. Having the team finish on the podium every time I’ve pinned a number on so far this season has inspired me and challenged me to contribute to that winning mentality.”
Does the TT win and yellow jersey change your strategy heading into the more challenging stages?
“I expected we would get the jersey after the TT, honestly. I knew one of our well-placed riders would finish high up enough in the TT, so I was expecting this situation going into the rest of the week. Our strategy only changes based on *who else* on the team is placed well in the GC. We have 4 in the top 10, and Leah in 12th, so our chances now hinge on a team effort, as usual.”
What do you think could be a decisive moment from the upcoming stages, and how will the team respond?
“Everyday, from now on, will be a decisive day. Tomorrow and Sunday are the two most demanding courses, and the criterium on Saturday is technically the most difficult day, with the mess-up factor being the biggest issue. We will take it day by day, and adjust our strategy as need be to win the race overall.”
How are you liking the new TT bike?
The new Serios rig is working out great. The range of adjustability has allowed me to dial in my position perfectly so the transition to a new frame has been an easy one. As for performance, the stiffness and handling of the bike really allowed me to take the technical sections of the course today to the maximum with confidence.
With your result and Gaimon’s result, you guys are in really good position on the GC. Does that change your thought process heading into the tougher stages ahead?
It doesn’t really change our approach, but it does give us confidence coming into the difficult climbing stages. We’re excited to race aggressively and shoot for that top spot of the general classification!
The course this year is different from years past. What is your strategy for the upcoming stages?
With the addition of the Oak Glen stage, Redlands is a different race. It’s much more suited to the pure climbers this year. As a result we will look more towards Mike Woods and Phil Gaimon for the GC and try to set them up for the Oak Glen climb tomorrow.
Even though you missed the yellow jersey, Gaimon is just four seconds out of the lead. Does it actually help the team by not having that burden of yellow?
It’s nice to be close but not be in the jersey as we aren’t as obligated to control the race. If we can conserve a bit of energy we can use it to execute our strategy instead of having to ride on the front for a long time.
Photos © Alex Chiu