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CAMBRIA, Calif. (VN) — Will Routley (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) started Wednesday’s stage 4 at the Amgen Tour of California hoping to add to his lead in the king of the mountains competition. He finished the day with a stage victory and added a second jersey to his collection, the sprint jersey.
A stage win, KOM jersey, and points jersey — it was not a bad day at the races for the Canadian. “It was a little better than planned!” Routley said after the stage with a happy smile.
It took a little help from his Optum teammates, but Routley made it into the day’s breakaway of six. At the start of the day, few riders expected the break to go all the way, but the gap never dropped below 2:30, as only Omega Pharma-Quick Step seemed fully committed to the chase. A solid tailwind after the final KOM on California’s scenic Highway 1 gave the escape an added edge.
“When we came out of those last two KOMs, the tailwind was much stronger than anyone was expecting,” Routley said. “And you know, I’ve been in breaks a few times when that happens, and those are the days when you think, ‘holy smokes, this breakaway might make it to the line.’”
As the breakaway came into the finish, Routley waited for the final sprint, confident in his legs after his successes in the KOM sprints. Novo Nordisk’s Kevin De Mesmaeker was the first to jump at 400 meters to go. Routley sprinted from the middle of the group to take his first ever Tour of California stage victory.
“I figured it would work out, and sure enough it did,” Routley said.
Currently 30 years old, Routley is racing his 10th season this year. A third place at the under-23 national championships earned Routley a ticket to the professional ranks and he signed with Symmetrics in 2005. Routley spent three seasons at the Canadian team. Along the way, he helped Symmetrics win the team time trial at the Vuelta a El Salvador for two years running. Routley also won a stage of the Tour de White Rock in Canada.
A stand-out year for Routley came in 2010, when he won the Canadian national road race championship. He also won the Beaumont stage and finished third overall at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Since then, Routley has shown his versatility with a second place at Canadian nationals in 2011, third in a stage at Vuelta a Andalucía, and a 10th overall at the Tour of Turkey.
“I’m always kind of a jack of all trades, master of none,” he said. “In my training, I just try to work on everything. I’m feeling that the top-end of my power is better than it’s ever been. It’s a matter of not getting worked up, staying confident, and letting it happen.”
If Routley is a jack of all trades on the bike, he certainly has a variety of interests off the bike. At home in British Colombia, Routley plants vegetables on the farmland he owns his wife, hikes, hunts, and in the winter, heads out for some back-country skiing. Routley is also renovating his house, which he describes as “really, really old,” which means he spends a fair amount of off-the-bike time woodworking. “I don’t ever recall feeling bored!”
This year marks Routley’s first season with Optum and earlier this year, he finished third overall at Redlands. A third place in the mighty Gila Monster stage at the Silver City Tour of the Gila offered a hint that he was coming into form just in time for this year’s Tour of California. Many U.S. riders head to Gila for its challenging terrain as preparation for the California tour. It seems to have worked out just right for Routley.
“I came here with the goal to win a stage, that’s what I’ve wanted to do every time I’ve come to the Tour of California,” he said. “This time, I felt like I was prepared and ready. I wasn’t expecting today to be the day!”
With a stage win to his credit, Routley can count his Tour of California a success, but he still wants to win the KOM prize. That means he’ll need to ride yet another stage in the breakaway, a task that’s getting harder with every passing day.
“I think some of the later stages, it’ll be hard, because there will be some stronger guys looking to throw down. I’ll have to go one more day in the breakaway and try to lock down this jersey,” he said. “It’s been a goal. It’s just something that I want to do.”