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Neben, O’Neill claim Redlands crowns

At the Redlands Bicycle Classic road race Sunday, Amber Neben (SC Velo), Health Net-Maxxis and Toyota-United demonstrated three of the myriad ways to win. In the 100km women’s race, Neben launched a solo attack on the second of nine technical laps and never looked back. In the 148km men’s competition, Health Net-Maxxis used its full team to successfully defend Nathan O’Neill overall lead. And Toyota-United’s Juan Jose Haedo — well, he just sprinted like hell. Scroll down for a gallery of Casey Gibson photos The road race began on Saturday’s criterium course, then climbed up out of

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By Ben Delaney

Neben's bold move pays off

Neben’s bold move pays off

Photo: Casey Gibson

At the Redlands Bicycle Classic road race Sunday, Amber Neben (SC Velo), Health Net-Maxxis and Toyota-United demonstrated three of the myriad ways to win.

Haedo got a second chance and made the most of it

Haedo got a second chance and made the most of it

Photo: Casey Gibson

In the 100km women’s race, Neben launched a solo attack on the second of nine technical laps and never looked back. In the 148km men’s competition, Health Net-Maxxis used its full team to successfully defend Nathan O’Neill overall lead. And Toyota-United’s Juan Jose Haedo — well, he just sprinted like hell.

Scroll down for a gallery of Casey Gibson photos

Neben goes it alone

Neben goes it alone

Photo: Casey Gibson

The road race began on Saturday’s criterium course, then climbed up out of downtown Redlands to a hilly 10km circuit.

In the morning women’s race, riders were shelled left and right the first time up the climb as a 10-woman break quickly established itself. Containing the biggest engines in the race — the nine fastest women from the time trial, plus 14th-placed Grace Fleury (Team Lipton) — the move looked sure to stick. Only 26 women remained in the now-inconsequential main field, with two more groups behind.

O'Neill, in contrast, was well protected

O’Neill, in contrast, was well protected

Photo: Casey Gibson

Neben, who rides professionally in Europe for the Dutch squad Buitenpoort-Flexpoint, won the opening 5km time trial flying the flag for a local team, SC Velo. She lost the lead in the criterium to Kristin Armstrong (Team Lipton), who snatched a number of time-bonus sprints.

But Neben quickly put herself back in the virtual lead with her daring solo attack. T-Mobile, with three women, forced race leader Armstrong and her teammate Fleury to chase. When they blew and were dropped, T-Mobile’s Kimberly Anderson and Ina Teutenberg took up the effort, sacrificing themselves for fourth-placed Kimberly Baldwin. Also among the pursuers were Christine Thorburn (Webcor), Alisha Lion (Team Kenda), Anne Samplonius (Team Biovail) and Dotsie Bausch (Colavita).

TIAA-CREF on the chase

TIAA-CREF on the chase

Photo: Casey Gibson

Held entirely on windy residential streets, the technical course put smaller groups at an advantage. At some points, visibility was less than 20 feet.

Heading into the seventh lap, teamwork was no longer a factor as T-Mobile’s Anderson and Teutenberg faded out of the small group chasing Neben. Going over the top of the course at the feed zone, the four remaining chasers — Thorburn, Lion, Bausch and Baldwin — were just 1:15 behind Neben. That was as close as they would get. Neben rolled back into Redlands 2:15 ahead of the four. Thorburn won the sprint for second ahead of Bausch, and quickly braked after the finish to hug her former national-squad teammate Neben.

The final jerseys

The final jerseys

Photo: Casey Gibson

In the men’s race, Toyota-United’s Chris Baldwin didn’t ride 70km solo like Neben did, but he did spend a large portion of the race drilling it on the front. Baldwin, in second place overall thanks to his time-trial ride, joined a nine-man break that went clear on the second of 12 10km laps on the outer circuit. Assisted by three eager TIAA-CREF riders, Baldwin threw his cards on the table, holding off Health Net’s relentless train for nine laps.

“I’m normally a very conservative GC rider,” Baldwin said. “I try to do a good time trial and then set back and let the team take over. So I want to get out of that rut and recapture a more youthful, aggressive style.”

TIAA-CREF’s Timmy Duggan, Lucas Euser and Tom Peterson pushed it on the downhill and flatter stretches. Baldwin took the driver’s seat on the climb each lap, stretching the lead over the chase each time.

Sitting on the move was third-placed Scott Moninger (Health Net), who certainly wasn’t pulling with his man O’Neill behind. Also in the mix were Phil Wong (Jittery Joe’s), Michael Dietrich (Kodak-Sierra Nevada), Caleb Manion (Jelly Belly) and Zak Grabowksi (Colavita), who was dropped and replaced by teammate Davide Frattini.

As with the women’s race, the men’s field blew apart the first time up the climb, and settled into two main groups behind the break. Many spectators set up lawn chairs along the course, loudly cheering on riders regardless of their luck or fitness. Some riders shelled from the main Health Net group handled the verbal encouragement better than others.

Behind the break, Toyota-United spearheaded the everyone-against-Health Net battle, sending riders up the road and generally trying to upset Health Net’s tempo riding. Other teams sent riders, too, but nothing stuck. Still, responding to the repetitive attacks wore Health Net down. With three circuit laps remaining, only Karl Menzies remained with O’Neill’s group. At two to go, the break was caught.

From there, Menzies and the still relatively fresh Moninger and O’Neill made sure no one else left their company — unless they were going backward.

Coming back into downtown Redlands, O’Neill in his yellow jersey led the approximately 25 riders who survived the day’s aggression onto the first of five finishing laps on the criterium course.

For the last four laps, it was the Toyota-United show. Justin England, Heath Blackgrove, Baldwin and Sean Sullivan gave their man J.J. Haedo a long, steady lead-out. With one to go, it was again Baldwin on the front, out of the saddle and drilling it through the slightly uphill start/finish stretch.

Getting a second shot on the exact same course he crashed on the day before, Haedo was out for redemption.

“My body was a little bit shocked from the crash yesterday,” Haedo said. “But I wanted to take revenge from yesterday. I didn’t want to give up and not have a good race in Redlands.”

Storming across the line for the win with clenched fists in the air, the usually relaxed Haedo looked plain angry — this is what I meant to do yesterday. Regardless of body language, the results were clear: Juan Jose Haedo is a fast man.

Complete results were unavailable Sunday. For the complete story on the Redlands Bicycle Classic, check the April 10 issue of VeloNews.

Sunset Road Race
Men

1. Juan Jose Haedo (Toyota-United)
2. Brice Jones (Jelly Belly)
3. Ben Jacques-Maynes (Kodak-Sierra Nevada)

Women
1. Amber Neben (SC Velo)
2. Christine Thorburn (Webcor)
3. Dotsie Bausch (Colavita)

Overall
Men

1. Nathan O’Neill (Health Net-Maxxis)
2. Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United)
3. Scott Moninger (Health Net-Maxxis)

Women
1. Amber Neben (SC Velo)
2. Christine Thorburn (Webcor)
Kimberly Baldwin (T-Mobile)

Photo Gallery