The kickoff to the NRC season for the domestic men is just two days with the Redlands Bicycle Classic, a 4-day stage race. Teams have been ramping up their fitness through the March races which culminated in the San Dimas race where Rock Racing came out with all guns blasting. Even with a substantial number of riders in the Rock Racing and Team Rock present, it didn't work out, and Symmetrics' Cam Evans took the win.
On the women's side, Redlands is the third race in the NRC calendar currently led by Tibco's Brooke Miller in the individual standings and Cheerwine in the teams competition. With the two-time defending champion Amber Neben racing in Europe, as is Brooke Miller and a few of the other top domestic women, the race is wide open. Team High Road dominated quite a few of the earlier races, especially San Dimas, but all the teams will be gunning for the win. Fun, fun, fun.
Of note, Redlands is entirely run by volunteers and it's been this way since the start of this race, 24 years ago.
This year, Redlands includes a modification to the stages with the replacement of the Oak Glen road race with a new circuit race.
Update [2008-4-1 22:24:44 by lyne]: There's a rumor floating around (yes again) that Axel Merckx will be in the Rock Racing car ....
Update [2008-4-1 22:56:47 by lyne]:: Live streaming
Update [2008-4-2 18:55:21 by lyne]:: Velonews preview
More on the flip
Looking at the men (somebody has to)
Andy Bajadali (aka the Baj) will counting on his new team Kelly Benefit/Medifast to defend his title, and he is going to have his work cut out for him after taking a quick look at the startlist (which can always change). We can expect fireworks with Symmetrics team riding like possessed men (or riders looking for contracts), Rock Racing looking for a big win and all the other teams hungry for NRC wins early in the season.
The riders in contention for GC are Bissell's Ben Jacques-Maynes, Jittery Joe's Neil Shirley, Team Type 1's Valeriy Kobzarenko (winner of the 2006 Tour de Beauce), Slipstream's Tommy D, Rock Racing's Oscar Sevilla, Toyota-United's Chris Baldwin, Health Net-Maxxis' Rory Sutherland and Phil Zajicek.
Quite a few sprinters will be hunting for stages. In the mix are, Rock Racing's Fast Freddie and Kayle Leogrande, Toyota-United's Ivan Dominguez and Dominique Rollin, Health Net-Maxxis' Karl Menzies, KBS' Keven Lacombe and Alex Candelario, BMC's Tony Cruz. Successful Living is without Charles Dionne who broke his elbow at Sequoia a few weekends ago, but will be counting on Cody O'Reilly and teammates.
Riders that I'm curious to see what they can do this year, starting with Redlands: Jittery Joes' Jon Cantwell, Team Type 1's Chris Jones, Jelly Belly's Aaron Tuckerman, Symmetrics' Francois Parisien, KBS' David Veilleux, Bissell's Jeremy Vennell, and BMC's Brent Bookwalter. Add to the list Cal Giant Berry's Andy Jacques-Maynes who is returning from a horrific injury and says that he wants to go for it this year. And of course Time's Jered Gruber. This is by no means an exhaustive list ....
The stages. The prologue is a short but uphill 5km time trial with the finish at the top of 207 meter hill. (course map and profile). Quite a few riders to watch, Bissell's Ben Jacques-Maynes, Colavita's Anthony Colby, Toyota-United's Justin England, Heath Blackgrove and Chris Baldwin, Health Net-Maxxis's Phil Zajicek, BMC's Jeff Louder, and Rock Racing's Oscar Sevilla.
Stage 1 is brand new, a 5 lap of a 27.6 km circuit providing 138 km total with 3 rated climbs in each lap. Breakaway artists will try their hand, such as Successful Living's Alessandro Bazzana, Team Type 1's Ben Brooks, Slipstream boys, Symmetric's Cam Evans and Andrew Randell, Bissell's Omer Kem and Teddy King, Rock's Mike Creed and of course the BMC boys, the experts at breakaways this year.
Stage 2 is the fast and furious 90-minute downtown criterium with 5 sprinter competitions and time bonuses. Last year's winner Rory Sutherland will have his hands full with the sprinters ready to come out and play. Leadout trains will collide - Successful Living, Colavita/Sutter Home, Toyota-United, Kelly Benefit/Medifast and Cal Giant Berry all vying to put their guy in front.
Stage 3, the last stage, is the dreaded Sunset Road race, 146.5 km of pain, with 5 climber competitions and two sprinter points on the line. Last year, Scott Moninger's team could not defend the leader's jersey when they could not catch a successful breakaway, and the Baj won the overall and the points jersey.
Focusing on the women
High Road crushed the competition at San Dimas by not only putting their riders in all 3 positions on the podium led by the amazing Kim Anderson, but by winning all three stages. This is the first race where the full Webcor team led by Christine Thornburg will be present, combined with the full force of the Aaron's, Value Act, Tibco and always aggressive Vanderkitten teams, it will be a battle to the end. And lets not forget the Cheerwine team led by winningest active pro rider, Laura Van Gilder.
In contention for GC. Second-place finisher last year, High Road's Mara Abbott will certainly be someone to watch for overall GC, as his her teammate Anderson. Aaron's climbing ace Felicia Gomez who wants to represent Canada in the Olympics, and took time off her job (as a professor) to focus on cycling and only cycling this year. Value Act's Leah Goldstein, who last year pretty much singlehandedly defended her yellow jersey at Mt Hood, and who trains officers for the Israel Army. Cheerwine's Leigh Hobson, Webcor's Thornburg, Tibco's Amber Rais and Rachel Heal and Vanderkitten's Liz Hatch will all be hoping to place.
On the sprinters front, you have to start with Van Gilder. Include Aaron's Kat Carroll, High Road's Emilia Fahlin and you have a fast finish.
Riders that I'm curious to see what they can do this year, starting with Redlands: Value Act's Martina Patella and Taitt Satto, Aaron's Kat Carroll, Webcor's Alex Wrubleski and Vanderkitten's Flavia Oliveira.... Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list ....
The stages. The women race on the same course, just shorter.
The prologue is a the same short but uphill 5km time trial with the finish at the top of 207 meter hill. (course map and profile). Last year it was won by Amber Neben with Olympian Christine Thornburg in second place.
In Stage 1, the women race 4 laps of th 27.6 km circuit adding up to 110 kms total with 3 rated climbs in each lap.
Stage 2 is the fast and furious 60-minute downtown criterium with 5 sprinter competitions and time bonuses. Laura Van Gilder finished second last year and third the year before so is hoping to get on the top step.
Stage 3 is the dreaded Sunset Road race, 105.7 km of pain, with 5 climber competitions and two sprinter points on the line. Kim Anderson won the stage last year, and we can expect High Road to give it all this year.
Rosters and Stage Course Maps and Profiles (pdf)
Update [2008-4-1 19:18:20 by lyne]:And if you need more Redlands, here are my photo galleries from 2007