The San Dimas Stage Race has attracted a high quality domestic peloton and it will yet again be the perfect precursor to the National Racing Calendar (NRC) series, which kicks off a week later at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
The three-stage race will take place from March 25-27 in San Dimas, California, with Australia's Ben Day returning to defend his title in the Pro-Cat 1 men's field with his new outfit Kenda/5-hour Energy. Although Germany's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg of HTC-Highroad, winner of the women's Pro-Cat 1-2-3 race last year, is not registered to compete, there are a handful of capable overall contenders eager to take the overall title.
Last year, the women's race saw Teutenberg take the leader's jersey from climber Mara Abbott in an exciting final stage criterium. This year, the field is full of horsepower, with the addition of former UCI time trial world champion Kristin Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty 12), who is returning to professional bike racing following a one-year break to give birth to her first child.
"I'm excited to start racing again, I have a lot of excitement in me," Armstrong said. "The last time I raced at San Dimas was in 2006. I know that my training is going well but I don't know what to expect because I haven't been racing against girls for a year and half and I don't know what the levels are like.
"But, I do know that the few races that I do this year, I need to make the most of them," she continued. "The nice thing is that I get to go there with my team. I've had a long winter and I hope that I'm in a position where I'm working for one of my teammates because I want to work, I want to get up front. The start list is pretty good and it will be the same people going straight to Redlands."
Also amongst the female overall contenders are NRC individual champion Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Forno D'Asolo), Amber Neben (HTC-Highroad), Erinne Willock and Carmen Small (TIBCO-To the Top), Alisha Welsh (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty 12), Sue Palmer-Komar (P-K Express/HNZ Strategic.com) and Kristin LaSasso (Rouse Bicycles), among others.
The full men's field will include likely overall contenders such as NRC individual title holder Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home), Francisco Mancebo and Cesar Grajales (RealCyclist.com), Glen Chadwick (Pure Black Racing), Chris Baldwin (Team Juwi Solar/First Solar), Sean Mazich (Jelly Belly p/b Kenda), Carlos Alzate (Team Exergy) and Phil Zajicek, who is guest riding for MonsterMedia-SCVelo. Noticeably absent from the roster is the Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth team.
"I am eager to get into the racing season again, to leave all the other crap behind, because racing is one of the reasons why we love this sport," said Day. "In the coming weeks, I hope to chalk up a win or two for Kenda/5hr Energy Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder and start to integrate my knowledge and experience with my teammates in order to hone them for a successful 2011 season.
"The San Dimas Stage Race consists of a great format of racing for what is essentially the first US domestic race that teams will travel to, with a mountain time trial to start with, followed by a difficult circuit race and criterium on the final day," he added.
"I have heard mutterings of the field limit being at full capacity to the point that a number of top teams were denied entry, such as the demand there is to kick the year off at this race. It's a great way to open the lungs up before the start of Redlands the following weekend."
On Friday, the opening stage could decide the overall classification winner on the six-kilometre uphill Charrey Auto Body Time Trial, held on the notable Glendora Mountain Road. On Saturday, the racing will continue for a fast-paced 134.5km for the men and 90km for the women, San Dimas Hospital Road Race held on an 11km circuit. The event will conclude on Sunday for a high-speed Incycle/Cannondale San Dimas Classic criterium, 90 minutes for the men and 55 minutes for the women.
Likely sprint contenders for the stage three finale include Rahsaan Bahati (Monster Media SCVelo), Eric Barlevav (Team Exergy), Patrick Bevin and Kyle Wamsley (Bissell), Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis Sutter Home), Luca Damiani (Kenda/5-hour Energy), Ricardo Escuela (Full Circle Sports), Yosvany Falcon and Frank Travieso (RealCyclist.com).
Sprinters and opportunity seekers amongst the women's peloton that will be on the hunt for a stage win are Kelly Benjamin and Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita-Forno D'Asolo), Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12), Liza Rachetto (Primal/MapMyRide), Samantha Schneider (TIBCO-To the Top), Christina Gokey-Smith (Rouse Bicycles) and Chloe Hosking (HTC-Highroad).