Road

Fraser and Freedman take Highlands road race at Redlands

It was expected to be an easy day. A long flat circuit north of Redlands offers a chance for the fields of 198 men and 110 women to stay together and fight out the finish in a bunch sprint. That’s the way it ended for both. Gord Fraser rode the Mercury train into the finish and cruised to an easy win, even beating Lotto’s new Dutch sprinter Jeroen Blijlevens to the line. But in the women’s race Saturn’s Ina Teutenberg was well on her way to winning stage 2 of the Redlands Classic on Wednesday, charging ahead of the 110-rider women’s field after the 122km Highlands Road Race, but bad luck and

Teutenberg and Bessette injured in women’s finish

Fraser and Freedman take Highlands road race at Redlands

Fraser and Freedman take Highlands road race at Redlands

Photo:

It was expected to be an easy day. A long flat circuit north of Redlands offers a chance for the fields of 198 men and 110 women to stay together and fight out the finish in a bunch sprint. That’s the way it ended for both. Gord Fraser rode the Mercury train into the finish and cruised to an easy win, even beating Lotto’s new Dutch sprinter Jeroen Blijlevens to the line. But in the women’s race Saturn’s Ina Teutenberg was well on her way to winning stage 2 of the Redlands Classic on Wednesday, charging ahead of the 110-rider women’s field after the 122km Highlands Road Race, but bad luck and overconfidence triggered an unfortunate chain reaction that sent her and teammate Lyne Bessette to the hospital.

Teutenberg began her celebration early, raised her hands in victory and then crashed as she realized that Nicole Freedman (Credit Suisse First Boston) was charging from behind with nearly 20 meters still to go to the line.

The accident in the finishing meters of the women’s race was serious enough to require that both Saturn riders be transported to a nearby hospital. Both were conscious and speaking with medical personnel. According to a Saturn team press release issued late Wednesday, Bessette suffered a broken right collar bone. Teutenberg, meanwhile, was treated for bruises and facial abrasions and released.

Bessette, who was credited for finishing third in the stage and maintained a hold on second place in the overall standings, is not expected to be able to race for the next six to seven weeks.

Freedman and Jeanson, without third-placed Bessette.

Freedman and Jeanson, without third-placed Bessette.

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The women’s 105km race was highlighted by few attacks, fewer escapes and a flat course that almost guaranteed a field sprint. With 10km to go the field’s top teams began to jockey front to move their top sprinters into position. AutoTrader.com’s Tina Mayolo was in the hunt for the sprinter’s jersey, having earned a dozen points in the intermediate sprints. Saturn, of course, had Teutenberg and her German teammate Petra Rossner, each a formidable sprinter and almost unbeatable when working in tandem.

Heading on to the long finishing straightaway, Teutenberg got the full treatment from her team, getting an impressive final pull from Bessette. As Teutenberg came past her teammate, she kicked in the afterburners and figured she had the race in the bag and raised her arms to celebrate her win. But Freedman, the women who earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team last year on strength of her sprint at the Olympic trials, was not that far behind. And behind Freedman, a hard-charging Genevieve Jeanson (Rona)intent upon protecting her overall lead.

“I saw Ina go and had pretty much resigned myself to finishing second,” Freedman said, “but then I looked up and saw her raise her arms, and she still had 15 or 20 meters to go and I thought ‘f— I can take her.’”

Freedman charged, Teutenberg quickly realized her mistake, dropped her hands to her bars and tried to resume her sprint. She wobbled, bumped into Freedman and crashed as she crossed the finish line, behind Freedman and just ahead of Jeanson. As Teutenberg hit the pavement, Bessette, still moving fast after that last pull, did what she could to avoid her teammate, but rode over the top of her and crashed.

Freedman, who managed to avoid the crash and win the stage shook her head and said “I just hope it wasn’t my fault. I just hope I wasn’t responsible for that.”

After reviewing finish line film, apparently race officials concluded that she was not responsible for the accident and confirmed her the stage win. Teutenberg, meanwhile, was relegated to the back of the field and cited for “dangerous maneuvers” during the finishing sprint and fined.

Meanwhile the overall race lead remains in the hands of 19-year-old Canadian Jeanson (Rona), who had dominated Tuesday’s opening time trial up the slopes Mt. Rubidoux.

Mercury, againIn the men’s race, Gord Fraser did what he does best and came to the finish on the heels of a strong lead from a well-organized Mercury team. Even the formidable sprinting threat posed by Lotto’s newest recruit, Jeroen Blijlevens, didn’t do much to intimidate Fraser.

“I’ve said it before,” Fraser remarked, “this team is so good, especially in situations like this.”

Indeed, after a long 166km road race, nearly the entire field remained intact. Fraser and the Mercurys waited until the right time, moved the entire team to front and began leading Fraser to the finish. Lotto, Saturn, Graeme Millar’s NetZero squad all tried to muddle things up, but without success.

“Baden (Cooke) was especially amazing,” Fraser said. “I got this incredibly long lead-out from him… it seemed like 300 meters and then he came around me again! You can’t lose with a team like that.”

But Blijlevens, too, was getting his own impressive leadout from his new Belgian teammates. But as the road narrowed toward the finish line, Blijlevens found himself riding up on Mercury on the far left side of the course.

“I didn’t get a clear shot,” Blijlevens later said. “I found myself riding into the barriers. I touched my brakes two times. You can’t win a sprint hitting your brakes.”

The Redlands Classic will continue through Sunday. Thursday offers up a 19.9km time trial stage and Redlands’ famous Oak Glen road race comes up on Friday.

Complete results

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Results

Hershey’s Chocolate Highland Road Race

1. Nicole Freedman (USA), Credit Suisse First Boston, 122.5km in 3:23:34; 2. Genevieve Jeanson (Can), Rona; 3. Lyne Bessette (Can), Saturn; 4. Katrina Berger (USA), 800.com; 5. Allie Warfel (USA), Credit Suisse First Boston; 6. Petra Rossner (G), Saturn; 7. Danelle Moore (USA) Press Enterprise; 8. Stacey Spencer (Can), Proctor and Gamble; 9. Joanne Kiesanowski (USA), Proctor and Gamble; 10. Pamela Heilgeist (USA), Press Enterprise.

Overall after two stages
1. Jeanson; 3:33:21
2. Bessette, at 0:20
3. Kim Bruckner (USA), Saturn, at 0:29

1. Gord Fraser (Can), Mercury, 166.1km in 4:03:34 (40.01kph); 2. Jeroen Blijlevens (Nl), Lotto-Adecco; 3. Baden Cook (Aus), Mercury; 4. Vassili Davidenko(Rus), Navigators; 5. Bostjan Mervar (Slo) KRKA Telekom; 6. Graeme Miller (NZ) NetZero; 7. Wesley Van Speybroeck (Bel) Lotto-Adecco; 8. Trent Klasna (USA), Saturn; 9. Robert Gaggiolli (I), DeFeet-LeMond; 10. Roland Green (Can), U.S. Postal, all s.t.

Overall after two stages:
1. Green, 4:12:27
2. Levi Leipheimer , 0:05
3. Klasna, at 0:06