Redlands Cycle Classic 2007
Perris - Oak Glen 115km
Amber Neben and her STAHL / SC Velo team successfully defended her leader's jersey on the first stage of the Redlands Classic in Southern California.
The day was warm in the valley, but noticeably cooler at the stage finish at 4819 feet above sea level. (That's 1468 metres!!!).
The STAHL / SC Velo team kept an eye on the race for Neben throughout the flatter parts of the stage and when the final climb began, Neben made sure that she was alert to the break and at the front of the chasing bunch.
There were a couple of early attacks, which kept the pace high on the stage. These breaks were marked by the teams with an eye on the overall. Although, Colavita Sutter found themselves chasing from the other end of the bunch after about 50km covered, when Dotsie Bausch (third GC overnight) punctured as the pace rose at the front. All of the team dropped back to form a chasing line to get back onto the bunch as quickly as possible.
The race was allowed onto the freeway, which was closed to other traffic for the passage, and this climb split the bunch with riders dropping off the pace and into the team car convoy as the road climbed steadily for several kilometres. Most were able to regain the back of the bunch on the descent.
The second mountains competition climb saw a handful of riders maintain their advantage over the bunch up the climb and down the other side. A reasonably long section of gravel / sand where the road was under construction over the top caused few problems for the riders; with no punctures or crashes noted.
The transition road from the descent to the foot of the next climb provided a recovery section before the final climb, which was a stubborn climb with differing gradients and a final average of over 15% gradient. With 4km to go, Mara Abbott (Webcor) had already opened a gap on her fellow breakaways, an advantage which she protected with a spirited conclusion to the climb. Amber Neben, as race leader, saw the danger of the rider who had started the day in fourth place and rode strongly to come in second behind Abbott and maintain her overall lead. Stuck closely to Neben all day was Christine Thorburn, third on GC at the start of the day and wearing the mountains competition jersey (since Neben already had the yellow leader's jersey). She finished behind Neben, but the Webcor team had done their job.
Leigh Hobson (Cheerwine) took over the mountains competition from Neben / Thorburn with a fighting finish to compliment her activity on the other 2 competition climbs of the day. Kori Seehafer (TEAm Lipton) became the first rider in the 2007 Redlands Classic to wear the green sprinter's jersey. There were two sprint points on the stage. Hobson will get a free day in red on stage 2, the Redlands town criterium; whilst Seehafer will be busy defending her green jersey from the other sprinters in the peloton.
Amber Neben - I knew it would be tough today. This race is hard. It gets raced hard by all the teams. The climb at the end is difficult and makes life difficult, but its great. She paid tribute to the efforts of her team-mates. My team-mates used their horsepower efficiently and helped me. They kept it to where I could ride hard on Oak Glen. At the end of the race it was like four against one.
General Classification - Top 10
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