By Kirsten Robbins in Redlands, California
Jeff Louder moved into the overall lead of the Redlands Bicycle Classic after he won stage one held in Beaumont, California. According to the BMC rider, his victory is a testament to the heavy training required to compete in Paris-Roubaix next month.
The BMC squad received an invitation to compete in this year's esteemed cobbled-Classic after the UCI granted the US-based Professional Continental team a wild card status in February. The upgrade allows BMC to accept invitations to the Grand Tours and ProTour level events.
"I got a call for Paris-Roubaix and that really lit a fire under me," said Louder, who won the 2008 Tour of Utah and played a key role in several of the Tour of California's lengthy breakaways. "I realized that I needed to start training really hard and I want to honor that race and do my best. I've put in a lot of miles towards this big objective. We have some big races coming and I'm on a long road trip, not home until May."
Louder hopes to add his name to the list of winners at the Redlands Classic after the final stage held on the infamous Sunset circuit on Sunday. "We have very high expectations and every race we enter is a chance to win," Louder said. "This may not be the biggest objective on our list but any win is a win and the competition here is very tough."
This is the first time, outside of the Tour of California, that all of the North American teams have been assembled in competition. "Its very important to our program to do well here," he continued. "We are a California team and we are a team that has worked very hard to have the status that we have. This is a race that will be hard to win but our expectations are to win it."
BMC's European spring campaign includes the Criterium International set to start this weekend followed by the Circuit de la Sarthe, Paris-Roubaix and Rund um Koln in April and the Tour of Romandie held in May.