PARK CITY, Utah – Racing in the first National Racing Calendar event of the 2012 cycling season, the Competitive Cyclist Racing Team gave a gutsy performance at the 28th annual Redlands Bicycle Classic – and ended up third on the podium.
Entering the four-day stage race in southern California, Team captain and last year’s Redlands Bicycle Classic men’s pro category winner, Francisco “Paco” Mancebo (ESP), had a target on his back. Looking to repeat and don the yellow jersey on the race’s final day, Mancebo clawed his way up the General Classification (GC) leaderboard but was unable to reel in overall winner Phil Gaimon (Kenda/5 Hour Energy). Mancebo took the third spot on the podium with a four-day combined time of 10 hours, 7 minutes, 3 seconds – a mere seven seconds behind Gaimon. Second-place finisher Patrick Bevin (Bissell Pro Cycling) trailed Gaimon by two seconds. Competitive Cyclist Racing Team’s Rob Britton (CAN) took 14th in the 109-racer field with a time of 10:11:04.
Team rider Taylor Shelden (USA) dominated the races’ climbs and captured the red jersey and King of the Mountain (KOM) title.
“There’s no doubt that the Team gave it their all at Redlands,” said directeur sportif Gord Fraser. “Granted, riding away with the overall GC win would have been special, but with Paco taking third and Taylor crushing it on the climbs I’m extremely happy with how the Team raced this first NRC event of the season.”
After pedaling to ninth place in the 3.1-mile Prologue Sun Time Trial, Mancebo and the Team battled hard throughout the 120.5-mile Stage 1 City of Beaumont Circuit Road Race. On the last climb of the day, Shelden displayed true grit by overcoming a feed mishap - which resulted in a hard crash - to finish the race with the KOM red jersey. Three Competitive Cyclist Racing Team riders finished the race in the top 25 after a 50-rider bunch sprint to the line.
Stage 2 City of Redlands Criterium might be one of the most challenging stages in the country. Looking to solidify a favorable position heading into Stage 3, Mancebo and teammate Tommy Nankervis (AUS) worked in concert but couldn’t hold off Bevin and a couple other riders. Mancebo finished the stage in eighth place.
“Stage 2 is one of the most technical and prestigious criteriums in the country — either standalone or part of a stage race,” said Fraser. “Our plan was to let Kenda control the stage and try later to get Paco a chance at the mid-race bonus. True to form, Paco attacked on the time bonus lap and eked out a second-place finish, netting him two seconds to bump him up to sixth in the GC.”
On the final day of racing, during the Beaver Medical Group Sunset Road Race, rain pelted the riders throughout 12 laps and 94.1 miles. Mancebo attacked early and claimed the first two time bonuses and continued to chip away at Gaimon’s GC lead. Despite gaining ground, a tactical hiccup made room for the aggressive riding of Gaimon and Bevin, who nabbed the first two spots in the GC. Mancebo finished third overall and Shelden, still rebounding from his crash, courageously rode to the KOM title.
“All in all, we had to battle back from a slow start in the Prologue time trial,” said Fraser. “I’m proud of the riders’ efforts.”
The week before the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the Team raced at the three-day San Dimas Stage Race. Britton led the way for the Team, capturing third overall only nine seconds behind the GC winner. Other top-25 finishes included: Mancebo, 9th; Chad Beyer (USA), 12th; and Ian Burnett (USA) 17th.
The Competitive Cyclist Racing Team’s next race is Tour of the Battenkill, April 14-15.