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REDLANDS, California (VN) — Cath Cheatley distanced an elite group in downtown Redlands Sunday to win the final stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
The Kiwi road champion made it three stage wins in four tries for Colavita-Forno D’Asolo in the season’s first National Racing Calendar event.
Amber Neben’s HTC-Highroad squad controlled the head of the race all day on the Sunset Loop to deliver her to her third overall win at Redlands.
Erinne Willock (Tibco-To The Top) entered the day second overall, just 11 seconds behind Neben in the classification. HTC and Tibco threw their first punches early. With the day’s only intermediate time bonus on the line at the first pass of the QOM line on Sunset Drive, the pace ratcheted up when the peloton reached the start of the first circuit.
Stevens led Neben out and the yellow jersey held off Willock for the three seconds, adding to her 11-second advantage.
“I was going to try to go and get the time and Amanda (Miller) the points. It worked out really good,” said Neben. “Evelyn (Stevens) just drilled it up the climb and I sprinted.”
The acceleration sprung five riders clear: Neben and teammate Miller; Erika Graves (SC Velo-Empower Coaching); fourth overall Carmen Small (Tibco-To The Top); and fifth overall Andrea Dvorak (Colavita-Forno D’Asolo). An eight-rider chase, including Willock and Stevens, soon drew even and 13 riders remained in contact with the front of the race atop Sunset Ridge the second time through.
Cheatley was there, as well as sixth overall Kristen Armstrong (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12). Willock punched out twice late in the race, but couldn’t shake Neben with her accelerations on the climb.
“Erinne put in a really good attack with three to go. I followed that. She tried one more time around the feed zone, but really my job was to stay close to her. I just tried to stay on her,” said Neben. “People see that no matter what happens the team is going to be together.”
Cheatley and Dvorak saw it. The Kiwi said they talked late in the race and decided to switch their focus to the team’s third stage win.
“HTC team really rode a great race, so we wanted to go for another stage win,” said Cheatley. “I thought if I could come out of the last bend first and get a bit of a gap on the field, I could hopefully hold on.”
When the leaders arrived to downtown Redlands, and the final three corners of Saturday’s stage-two criterium, Cheatley struck. As she’d hoped, her white-and-black New Zealand champion’s kit was the first to show on the finish straight. She held the four-bike gap to the line and made it three-in-a-row for Colavita.
“I’m just happy to finish it off,” she said. “I jumped the girls on that and just hoped I’d hold on.”
Neben finished safely at the back of the group to etch her name for the third time into the base of the Redlands trophy.
“The team was fantastic again. Evelyn was amazing today. That’s two years in a row that she’s won the race for the team,” said Neben. “To be honest, it’s just really special to win with HTC. … The girls worked so hard this week and I wanted to be sure I did my part.”
- 1. Catherine Cheatley, Colavita Forno D’asolo, 3:10:54
- 2. Carmen Small, Team Tibco-To The Top, same time
- 3. Denise Ramsden, Team Juvederm, s.t.
- 4. Kristen Armstrong, Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty 12, s.t.
- 5. Erinne Willock, Team Tibco-To The Top, s.t.
- 1. Amber Neben, HTC-Highroad Women, 7:31:01
- 2. Erinne Willock, Team Tibco-To The Top, at 0:14
- 3. Evelyn Stevens, HTC-Highroad Women, at 0:19
- 4. Carmen Small, Team Tibco-To The Top, at 0:31
- 5. Andrea Dvorak, Colavita Forno D’asolo, at 0:41