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The Director’s Cut

The Specialized D4W/Bicycle Haus team is off to a grand start this year. While we have done less on the local scene in Arizona and California, we are very focused on the NRC.

Our first true test — The Redlands Bicycle Classic. The first NRC race of the year! This invitation-only pro race never disappoints and never takes any prisoners. With most of our NRC riders ready to roll, this year, we took on an additionalguest rider by the name of Katie Donovan. Katie had a really solid race at San Dimas — the RBC primer. Furthermore, teammates Ruth and Cara also had solid races preparing them for the stacked competitive field of RBC! I was hoping to report on this race real time; however, the news of our teammate Heidi derailed me a bit. I’m happy to report she is strong and making a solid recovery.

The Prologue: We had a solid prologue with 3 women in the top 20! Katie was in 14th, Chloe in 16 (and in 3rd for U25) and Ruth was in 19th! Melanie was only 1:22 out and in 27th place. It was our best start ever!

Day 2; Stage 1: The next day was the Beaumont Road Race which is always windy. Thank goodness we didn’t have the 50 mile per hour winds like last year!

The added loop portion to this road race made it very interesting and selective. Our women did great staying right where they were supposed to be and keeping an eye out for one another. A special shout-out to Heather Sborz who was one of the guardian angels;she would not let her fellow riders fall back in the pack — which is critical when racing at this level. Another little change this year — no radios.Without radios, I have no way of communicating directly with our team unless one of the riders wants to drop back,communicate to the Chief Referee, who in turn, will call me(on the race radio)up to the Com1 car. So, we were a bit spoiled by radios and we will need to do things differently, but then again, so does everyone else.

The bottom line? We rode smart and strong and went into Stage 3 in 14th, 16th and 20th!

Stage 2: The infamous downtown Redlands Criterium. This is the mother of all crits! This year, was a true game changer and I can’t ever remember seeing riders get so much time on the leader (in a crit)! Amber Neben had a great Prolouge TT and remained in 1st, but not by much going into Stage 3. So, a little more background on Stage 2 that takes us into this stage. Ina, Allison and some of the other top contenders worked hard to capture the time points on the start-finish line and the QOM in the Beaumont RR. There was a time bonus every time the riders crossed the start finish line (lap) and 2 QOM’s — nothing like creating a little bit of competition!! After the first QOM and then the first start-finish line sprint points, I started to have all the top riders numbers etched in my mind! Everytime I heard 301 (Ina)– I thought – wow – how will Amber defend her 1st place; all the while thinking how can we take advantage of what these top teams were doing and how they were executing it. Amber is an accomplished and gifted rider, but without a strong team, she had a very tough race in front of her. Given the time gaps, the race strategy was easy to anticipate, so we went into each stage with a solid plan and executed flawlessfully.

Now back to the crit. If you’ve never seen this race or better yet — raced it, please believe me, it’s no walk in the park. The crit is alwaysfast and furious! It’simportant for riders to stay in at least the top 50% of the pack, but every rider to to be in the top 50% or better yet, the top 25%. Unless you are willing to ride elbow to elbow, and hip to hip, you will not survive the time cut. I prefer for our riders to be in the top 25% – it’s not only the safest place to be from a riding/racing point, it’s the best place to be to conserve energy. With 11 turns, a rider will quickly lose contact with the pack if not riding strong, smart and towards the front. There was alot of collateral damage in this race as many riders did not make the time cut. At one point in the race, Chloe, Mel and Ruth lost contact with the front pack — you see, it got pretty difficult, when Ina lauched a full-out war on Amber and other teams. She and some other riders made an explosive attack putting 1 minute into the field — again, something that rarely happens in a crit. So the need to bring back the break was intense putting added pressure on all riders. Even with the smallest gap onthis course, riders aresure to lose time and GC because it can be so difficult to bridge gaps. But, that wasn’t in the cards for us — no way. Another shout-out to Ruth Clemence who bridged the gap (with some help from Melanie) and brought that group back to the pack which was essentially, the chase group. Talk about collateral damage — GC for the top 10 really changed after this stage.

To put things into perspective, after the Prologue, Ina was 29 seconds behind;by Stage 1, she was 14 seconds down and by the end of the crit, Ina was 32 seconds ahead, this time over Katherine Carroll. The top 10 had completely changed!

Stage Sunset Loop 3: A true race of attrition and only the strong will finish! We had to stay with the top group of riders because if we did, we had the best chance of improving our GC. Once again, we were not disappointed as the split (always) comes on the first climb with the QOM. There we have it — the Specialized D4W Women were all in the top group after the QOM!! Each lap, the pack was smaller and more smaller packs evolved. I won’t bore you with lap after lap. I will say we had a phenonmenol group of helpers in the feedzone. We had Ruth’s 4 children and her husband, our team mechanic Jack, Cara’s husband Jack and of course, Don and me! We were sure to take good care of all of our riders getting them what they needed to stay hydrated and energized. I think the lap that stands out the most was when Ruth came through and said “water – coke next time.” Oh no — I don’t have any Coca Cola! So, away went Jeff to “borrow” some Coke! He came back with 2 small cans — thanks to another team — and we got Ruth herfix of Coca Cola on the next lap. Special thanks to Nick, Lauren, Hope, Grace and Max! They were awesome — wearing our team colors proud!

Chloe stayed the the top chasegroup until the final lap when she cramped. She came across the line in some amount of discomfort (that’s an understatement), but finished strong. Then came Melanie and Ruth — Ruth out of the saddle sprinting! Cara also had a very strong finish as climbing is truly not her favorite thing to do!!

There you have it, we finished RBC in 24th (Chloe), 27th (Melanie), 31st (Ruth) and 69th (Cara). Heather had to pull out of the race due to the fact that she is recovering from a serious winter cold, Katie had to pull out of the race due to a dislocated rib (ouch) which happend during San Dimas. Katie will be back riding with us for Tour of the Gila!

Another shout out to Jack Lindquist, our race mechanic! Thanks Jack for doing a great job and wearing pink! Another big THANK YOU to Jeff Lawler who staffed the Beaumont Feedzone and also donned pink! Real men really do wear pink!

On a local level, we had great results at the Tucson Bicycle Classic – and alot of fun too! Ruth crushed the TT at the Tour of Murrietta.

Also, we are part of the Women’s Prestige Series and so far, Melanie and Chloe are in the top U25 in the US!! Nice!

Stay tuned .. . more fun to come! Next up is Colossal Cave (AZ), Sea Otter (CA), and Tour of the Gila (NM).

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