By Kip Mikler , VeloNews Editor
Chris Horner, the man with the yellow jersey at the Redlands Classic road race in Southern California, has said it several times during the five-day stage race this week: “It’s bike racing, anything can happen.”
Horner was referring in large part to Friday’s stage, the gnarly race to the top of Oak Glen. It’s been proven here before that he’s right, anything really can happen.
Who knew, though, that Horner’s point would apply not to his own fate — the Prime Alliance leader defended the jersey just fine by finishing right behind the amazing Roland Green at Oak Glen Friday — but to that of women’s leader Genevieve Jeanson.
After shattering the women’s field in the uphill time trial on Wednesday, Jeanson had the competition quaking in their boots, just waiting to see what brand of damage she would unleash on the climb to Oak Glen.
But it didn’t work out that way. About half a mile after rolling out for the start, Saturn’s Judith Arndt took a little flyer that turned into a big one. The German phenom was marked by Jeanson’s Rona teammate Andrea Hannos, and the two began an 81-mile journey through the dry rolling hills surrounding Redlands that would eventually take them to the 4800-foot peak at Oak Glen.
A chase of eight, including three Rona riders, made an attempt to reel in the two escapees, but behind them the field just meandered along while the Arndt and Hannos just kept hammering. Jeanson had her eye on Saturn’s other GC threat, Lyne Bessette, but meanwhile Arndt built a lead that skyrocketed to more than 10 minutes.
When Jeanson finally put the hammer down, on the climb to Oak Glen, she flew up the hill faster than anyone else, but it was too late. Arndt dropped Hannos on the climb and put more than nine minutes on Jeanson to move comfortably into the lead.
It was a classic Saturn move, the result of a team with too many weapons. “If the chasers would have caught me, another Saturn rider would have attacked,” said Arndt who had no idea she would be taking a solo win when she rolled off the front so early.
The men’s race didn’t create quite the same shake-up, but it too was a riveting affair. With more than 60 miles to go in the 106.6-mile race, a break of six formed and built a lead that soared to more than five minutes. Four of the big teams were represented in the break — Chann McRae for U.S. Postal Service, Chris Wherry for Mercury, Eric Wohlberg for Saturn and Kirk O’Bee for Navigators — but missing was anyone from Horner’s Prime Alliance team.
That meant a long day for the Alliance crew. They chased the well-run break, which also included Doug Ziewacz of 7UP-Nutrafig and David O’Loughlin of OFOTO-Lombardi Sports, for most of the day. ” All day,” said Horner. “My guys killed themselves.”
At 73 miles, with 33 still to go, including the wicked 6-mile climb to the finish, Prime Alliance had been cutting into the breakaway when one of its riders, Svein Tuft, crashed coming through a feed zone. At almost exactly the same time, another Prime Alliance rider, Danny Pate, punctured a tire. The chase came apart and the break again began to gain more time.
Nine miles later, however, the break turned into a headwind, and as the road started to unwind across some steeper pitches, the first signs of its faltering began to show.
Pate was back at the front of the field, charging, and five miles before the base of the steep part of the climb, Ziewacz was shed from the break.
The leaders hit the climb with a 1:51 gap, and within a mile that advantage was cut in half. Next, Wherry dropped off. McRae tried a few last-gasp attacks and was able to shed the others, but by this time Horner was charging up, trying to put time on GC threats Trent Klasna (Saturn) and Green.
Klasna’s teammate Soren Petersen marked Horner, and that trio — Horner, Petersen and Green — flew toward the summit. “I was hoping Trent could come with me so we could be together,” said Sorensen, but that didn’t happen.
Soon it was clear that it was a battle between Horner, overall winner of this race in 2000, and Green, the world champion who spends most of his time on dirt. “I attacked him about five or six times, but my legs were cramping,” said Green.
Horner had a different agenda. “[Green] was playing some games, telling me I had to pull harder and stuff, but I got the jersey so I don’t have to do anything,” he said. “But he was the strongest on the climb, no doubt about it. He was very impressive. He was attacking in the big chainring and stuff.”
They came toward the finish line together, and Green won the sprint to the line, taking one of his biggest career victories on the road.
“It’s a good feeling to win this stage because I know how hard it is,” he said.
With a Saturday criterium and another road race on Sunday, Horner’s in good position with a 21-second lead over Green, who doesn’t have the benefit of a strong trade team like Horner’s Prime Allliance crew.
“It’ll be pretty tough to get away [in the road race],” said Green, “but it’s not impossible.”
What might be impossible is the huge time gap Jeanson will have to overcome to overthrow Arndt. But if anyone can do it, it’s her.
REDLANDS BICYCLE CLASSIC, Redlands, CA. March 13-17;;
Stage 3, Sun Road Race;;
1. Roland Green (Can), Canadian Cycling Team, 4:17:03; 2 Chris Horner, Prime Alliance, s.t.;3. Soren Peterson (Dk), Saturn, at 0:29; 4. David Zabriskie, U.S. Postal Service, at 0:31; 5. Trent Klasna, Saturn, at 0:40.;;
General Classification after Stage 3;;
1. Horner, 6:19:31; 2. Green, at 0:21; 3, Peterson, at 1:00; 4. Zabriskie, at 1:09; 5. Klasna, at 1:14.;;
1. Judith Arndt (G), Saturn, 3:51:18; 2. Andrea Hannos (Can), Rona Cycling Team, at 2:53; 3 Genevieve Jeanson (Can), Rona Cycling Team), at 9:58; 4. Susy Pryde (NZ), TalogoAmerica, at 10:15; 5. Lyne Bessette (CAN), Saturn, at 11:44.;;
General Classification after Stage 3;;
1. Arndt, 5:41:11; 2. Hannos, at 6:18; 3. Jeanson, at 7:37; 4. Bessette, at 10:12; 5. Pryde, at 12:15.