By Ben Delaney
Despite having a good excuse for a bad ride, Health Net-Maxxis’s Nathan O’Neill put in the day’s best performance in the opening 5km time trial of the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
Fresh off a plane from Australia, where he won the Commonwealth Games time trial, O’Neill smoked the opening section of the 680-vertical-foot course and kept a big gear going over the steeper final part for the winning time of 9:17.82.
It may have been California, but it wasn’t exactly a day at the beach — not after that long flight from Oz, right after winning a 40km time trial.
“I got off the bike 10 meters after I crossed the finish line,” O’Neill said of his Commonwealth ride. “No roll down, no cool down; got on the airplane with legs full of garbage for a 20-hour flight straight here.”
O’Neill got to California Wednesday night, and did a four-hour ride Thursday to loosen his legs. It didn’t help. It didn’t matter.
“I was hurting the whole way, but that goes with the game, huh?” O’Neill said.
Toyota-United’s Chris Baldwin, the current U.S. time trial champion, came second at 9:29.72, followed by Scott Moninger (Health Net-Maxxis) at 9:38.18.
“Sometimes you question your effort; today was not one of those days,” Baldwin said. “I got a pretty good butt-whipping by Nathan, but I’m pretty pleased with my effort. I left it all on the road out there.”
Unlike many male and female competitors who rode standard road bikes, O’Neill and Baldwin relied on their favored time-trial machines for the uphill test. O’Neill rode his team’s stock Cannondale Six13 Slice. Baldwin chose his 15-pound Cervelo P3 over the Easton-made United Bicycles’ road frame.
Amber Neben (SC Velo) won the women’s race in 10:51.18, ahead of Kristin Armstrong (Lipton) and defending race champion Christine Thorburn (Webcor). Like O’Neill, Neben said she felt a little rough during the time trial.
“It was more on the lousy side than the feel-good side,” Neben said. “It’s my first race this year, and so those efforts never feel good at the beginning. And gauging your effort is always difficult in the beginning of the year because you don’t know how much you have and how much you can handle at this point.”
Neben rode in the skinsuit of her Dutch team Buitenpoort-Flexpoint – the team with which she won the 2005 Tour de l’Aude – with the jersey of California regional club SC Velo on top.
The time-trial course, new for this year, started smack in front of the Braswell’s Retirement Center. Many home residents set up chairs in the shady grass to watch the riders roll out, with rock music and the voices of announcers Larry Longo and Clark Sheehan blaring from the speakers in front of them.
Caroline Breihan, 91, was among those at Braswell’s outside enjoying the show on the 75-degree day.
“This is very nice,” said Breihan, who has attended previous editions of the race. “I enjoy it. Although it’s not as exciting the way they have it here as downtown [for the criterium].”
Saturday’s criterium stage should prove exciting indeed, with multiple time bonuses on the line throughout the men’s 90-minute and women’s 60-minute races.
“The leaders are so close together that the time bonuses are going to be super important,” Neben said. “But at the same time, for me, not being a sprinter, my goal is to stay safe and to get to Sunday. Hopefully there will be some other people interested in the sprint jersey that will be going for points.”
In the men’s race, Toyota-United and Health Net-Maxxis hold the top five spots. Racers offered conflicting opinions on the importance of Saturday’s five, three-second bonus sprints, but all agreed fireworks will go off in Sunday’s road race.
Visit VeloNews.com tomorrow afternoon for criterium coverage, and Sunday evening for coverage of the decisive Sunset Loop road race. And be sure to check out the April 10 issue of VeloNews for the complete story on the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
Centennial Bank Time Trial (unofficial results)
1. Amber Neben, SC Velo, 5km in 10:51.18
2. Kristin Armstrong, Team Lipton, at 0:03.69
3. Christine Thorburn, Webcor-Platinum, at 0:05.43
4. Kimberly Baldwin, T-Mobile, at 0:14.35
5. Katerina Nash, Luna, at 0:14.47
6. Felicia Gomez, Webcor-Platinum, at 0:34.39
7. Alisha Lion, Team Kenda Tire, at 0:41.12
8. Dotsie Bausch, Colavita Olive Oil-Cooking Light, at 0:43.46
9. Kimberly Anderson, T-Mobile, at 0:47.58
10. Anne Samplonius, Team Biovail, at 0:55.91
1. Nathan O’Neill, Health Net-Maxxis, 5km in 9:17.82
2. Chris Baldwin, Toyota-United, at 0:11.9
3. Scott Moninger, Health Net-Maxxis, at 0:19.36
4. Heath Blackgrove, Toyota-United, at 0:22.68
5. Justin England, Toyota-United, at 0:24.04
6. Ben Jacques-Maynes, Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada, at 0:25.61
7. Will Frischkorn, Team TIAA-CREF, at 0:40.86
8. Phil Zajicek, Navigators Insurance, at 0:41.8
9. Chris Wherry, Toyota-United, at 0:42.26
10. Timmy Duggan, Team TIAA-CREF, at 0:42.67