Chris Winn: Ramblings From The Road

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07 April 2011

Redlands Classic.

Photo Credit: Cynthia Lou

And just like that the NRC season has begun.  Once again Redlands played host for the first major show down and there was a huge buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air. New teams, new colours and everyone motivated as hell to get that first win under the belt and start the year off on a good note.  With some new faces and new sponsors on board, we were no different, and also had the title of defending champions from 2010.
 Redlands was not a race that I had done before, but nonetheless I was chomping at the bit to do whatever I could for a V Australia jersey to cross the line in first place.  Coming off a local win the weekend prior was a nice boost for the confidence and an indicator that the legs were coming around.  I didn't have a great ride in the first day 5km prologue, mistiming my pacing and efforts on a difficult course, but our GC rider Darren Rolfe rode strong was well in contention to snatch the yellow jersey in a race littered with time bonuses.

Photo Credit: Cynthia Lou

Stage Two was a hot and long 190km affair with a couple of punchy climbs each lap sandwiched in between some fast open flat roads.  With 228 riders in the peloton it was clear that staying at the pointy end was the wise thing to do, with many early crashes from nervous riders touching wheels.  Tito went on the attack on the fourth lap around and went super close to bridging the 2min gap to what became the winning breakaway.  As they say fortune favors the bold and it's always better to have a crack than to never know.  I felt pretty good out there but late in the race suffered with some cramping on the climb, and post race my kit clearly showed the damage done being covered in copious amounts of salt.  Overall the team had a decent day with no change in GC and mostly all finishing in the front group.  

 
Post Beaumont Stage Two debrief.  There is nothing like a simple wet towel after a long stage in the blazing sun.  The simple things in life! Photo Credit: Cynthia Lou
 

With eleven corners and close to 200 guys left in the race, the Saturday evening downtown criterium was an absolute riot, with a lot of handle bar rubbing and calculated risks.  Super fun though with my new team Fuji SST handling like its on rails. I don't think I've ever ridden a bike so stiff through the head tube and BB which makes life so much easier holding the line through tight corners.  In the wash up our National Criterium Champ Johnnie came through for a third place finish giving the team it's first NRC podium for the year.  My legs seemed to be getter better by each stage, and with the hilly Sunset Loop stage to close out the week I was eager to leave it all out there.

Quite simply put Sully was a monster in the criterium.  This image is incredible as he strung out the bunch on the final lap to set up Johnnie.  So stoked to have a guy of this caliber and experience on the team.

Cantwell sporting his new National Criterium Championship kit.  Very tidy. Photo Credit: Cynthia Lou

Coming into the final Sunset Loop Stage the GC was still very close and with plenty of time bonuses up for grabs it was on from the gun.  Starting with a climb out of town, the main bulk of day was spent pinning around 12 laps of a tight and technical 10km loop. Winding though a residential area, at times there was little chance to move up or rest, and although not a very long climb, by the final few laps the legs were starting to know about it.  Nonetheless I was pumped to work as I hard as I could for the team, and set up Darren or Hayden to snatch as many seconds as they could.

With Darren only 17sec down on GC, it was fireworks pretty much every time up the climb.  Second lap in I had to shut down a dangerous break on the climb with him in tow.


There was a select front group of 40 odd who made it back into town for 5 more times around the criterium circuit before the finish line.  With Cantwell still there I emptied the tank on the front with one lap to go before swinging off. Second in line Bernie caught the break with three corners to go and launched Johnnie for a second place in a tight sprint. 

Another angle of coming inside a lap to go of the V Australia train. Photo Credit: Cynthia Lou

Overall it was a magic week.  Two podium finishes for the team, and a top 10 GC place for the opening race of the season is a solid start, and it is clear our first NRC win is not too far away.  Right now I'm back at HQ in Colorado, having a few easier days of recovery before getting stuck into some solid training before Tour of the Gila in less than a months time.  It will be my fourth time tackling the monster and I can't wait.  

Thanks for reading.....cw

2 comments:

David said...

Thanks for the recap, Chris. It's an exciting read.

Chris Winn said...

No problem David!