The National Racing Calendar (NRC) will kick off at the Redlands Bicycle Classic held from March 31 to April 3 in California. Ben Day (Kenda/5-hour Energy) will return to defend his title in the Pro men’s event and while Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (HTC-Highroad) will not be present to defend her title in the women’s event. Her teammate Amber Neben, will no doubt be on the hunt to secure a third overall title.
Day and Neben recently won overall titles at the San Dimas Stage Race held last weekend. They each opened the three-stage event by winning the uphill time trial on Glendora Mountain Road and maintained their lead through the stage two circuit race and stage three criterium with help from teammates.
After strong performances last weekend, they are the odds-on favourites to win the Redlands Bicycle Classic’s Sun Time Trial, a five-kilometre uphill prologue held on Thursday, March 31.
“There will definitely be a few more guys that we will have to contend with at Redlands,” Day said. “I appreciate the difficulties in controlling a race like that because I remember it being a lot of hard work last year.”
“Winning the time trial in one thing but the road stages are really difficult to control. It will be a really tough race and a hard way to step into the season. Hopefully we sharpened ourselves up at San Dimas and will have a good crack at Redlands.”
The Pro men’s field will be hotly contested by all-rounders that include runner up in last year’s event and recent winner of the Merco Cycling Classic Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) along with his teammates Jeremy Vennell and Paul Mach.
Other notable overall contenders include 2010 NRC winner Luis Amaran and Tyler Wren (Jamis-Sutter Home), Jason Donald and Andrew Bajadali (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth), Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com), Alex Howes (Chipotle Development Team), Matt Cooke (Team Exergy), John Bennett (California Giant Berry Farms), Tom Faiers (Wonderful Pistachios), Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda) and Chris Baldwin (Juwi Solar-First Solar).
Also included on the Pro men’s roster is the Fly V Australia team, winners of the 2010 NRC team competition. The team will field seven riders including Jonathan Cantwell, Bernie Sulzberger, Christopher Winn, Taylor Sheldon, Sean Sullivan, John Walker and Darren Rolfe.
On the women’s side, Neben will have support of her teammate Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Highroad), however, the pair will be up against strong overall contenders including Olympic Gold medallist Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & CO Twenty12), 201 NRC individual winner Cath Cheatley and Heather Sprenger (Colavita Forno D’Asolo).
“We are motivated and excited and we are going to try and keep the ball rolling,” Neben said. “I want to try and have another good time trial. I think it will be a different race this year because there are a lot of really strong teams and the talent is spread out.”
Also among the overall classification riders are US National Champion Mara Abbott who will be racing on a composite team, SC Velo-Empower Coaching.
Erinne Willock (TIBCO-To the Top) will be on the hunt for a podium place along with Kristin LaSasso and Robin Farina (Rouse Bicycles) and Anne Samplonius (Team Juvederm).
Following the opening time trial, the two fields will contest the stage one City of Beaumont Circuit Road Race held on Friday, April 1, where the men will complete 195 kms and the women will complete 115 kilometres.
On Saturday, April 2, the racing will continue at the stage three City of Redlands Criterium which will be a timed 90 minutes for the men’s field and 60 minutes for the women’s field.
The racing will conclude on Sunday, April 3 at the gruelling stage four Beaver Medical Group Sunset Road Race where the women’s field will complete 9 laps, totalling 110 kilometres and the men’s field will complete 12 laps, totalling 150 kilometres.