By Kirsten Robbins in Redlands, California
Rory Sutherland placed fourth in the Redlands Bicycle Classic last year and has his sights set on a victory this time around. Sutherland and his teammate Floyd Landis will lead the OUCH p/b Maxxis team in the four-day stage race set to kick off on Thursday, March 26, with the Sun Prologue.
"I had a great day at the prologue last year and I'll have to do the same this year," said Sutherland, who won the opening event but lost the yellow leader's jersey to Santiago Botero, former Rock Racing all-rounder, during the stage two circuit race held in Beaumont.
"The problem with winning last year is that this year expectations are higher. Placing second, third or fourth is never going to be good enough. I have aspiration here and I'd love to add my name to the list of overall winners."
If there is one rider who Sutherland will need to worry about its his own teammate Floyd Landis, the event's marquee rider. The Redlands Bicycle Classic marks Landis's first North American Race Calendar (NRC) event since his series victory in 2006 while racing with Phonak. He won both the Tour of California and the Tour de Georgia that year. Landis joined OUCH p/b Maxxis at the Tour of California marking his first race back after completing a two-year suspension in January.
"Having someone like Floyd on the team and at the races brings a lot more media attention which is fantastic," Sutherland said. "People will come up and see him race on a local scene. I think we will see a lot of people out here watching and that can only be good for the sport and the team. Him and I racing together and racing at the same level... I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
According to Sutherland, despite the lull in the racing calendar between the Tour of California and the Redlands Bicycle Classic, his squad's ambitions include that of the overall victory, sprints and stage wins.
"Redlands is a very important race for the team and for me," he continued. "We have a lot of fire power and more of a complete team this year. What we are trying to do is get everyone on the same page but it doesn't just click directly, it takes time to make that happen."
The race roster includes Sutherland and Landis along with Cameron Evans, Pat McCarty, Tim Johnson, Andrew Pinfold, Bradley White and Roman Kilun. "We rounded out the squad and we have a new entity with OUCH," Sutherland said. "We are stronger in a few different avenues this year."