The final tune-up before the Redlands Classic starts today in San Dimas, California, and defending men’s champion Ben Day is mad as hell. The new Kenda-5-hour Energy captain will be the final starter in the opening time trial at the San Dimas Stage Race, but is a world away from where he thought he’d be three months ago.
“I’m pissed off,” Day told VeloNews. “This is not where I wanted to be and this is not what I planned on doing again this year. I have a lot of respect for the races out here and racing in the U.S., but I was dreaming of being back in Europe. I’m not real happy with how everything has panned out.”
Day, the 2010 VeloNews North American Rider of the Year, was set to return to the continent with Pegasus Racing this year. When the team he’d captained on and off the road for the previous two seasons fell apart in late December, Day was left reeling. He found a last-minute home with the Kenda program in February and immediately increased the profile of Chad Thompson’s third-year pro squad. Despite his frustration, the ordinarily upbeat Day said he was deeply appreciative of the opportunity Thompson gave him.
“Normally I’m not a vengeful person or anything like that, but I’m just pretty annoyed and pissed off, honestly,” said Day. “I still have respect for all that people have done to give me a chance to race again; it was looking pretty dire there for a while.”
The Merco and Calville Bay classics are among a handful of races that have brought out the pros in the U.S. over the last few weeks. Last week’s Tour de Murrieta also saw a strong men’s field, but American racing really kicks off in the next two weeks in San Dimas and Redlands. The former opens this afternoon with an individual time trial before the weekend’s road race and criterium stages.
Olympic and former world time trial champion Kristin Armstrong’s return to racing with Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12 headlines the women’s event. Amber Neben (HTC-Highroad) and her streaking teammate Amanda Miller will also be on the startline, as well as 2010 fourth-place Carmen Small in her first major start for Tibco-To The Top. Friday’s TT is a short, steep affair, but will be the first test against the clock for new mom Armstrong in her hopeful return for the 2012 London Olympics.
A few hours later, Day will follow 2010 National Racing Calendar individual champion Luis Amaran onto the 3.8-mile uphill TT course at 5:09:30 p.m. PCT. Day won both the San Dimas and Redlands titles a year ago on the strength of his opening time trials and his Fly V Australia’s smothering presence in the peloton.
His motivation flagged in the offseason and with a new squad and just seven months since Sepsis nearly killed him, Day said he expected a slower start in 2011. “It’s really just going to get the juices flowing again,” he said. “To see that my body is healthy again and recovering again… I don’t think I appreciate the full extent of that whole thing, but I’m just happy to be a healthy person again.”
Day will wear the number one this evening when he throws his first angry pedal for Kenda in Southern California.
San Dimas Stage Race
Stage 1 Chaffey Auto Body Time Trial
Friday March 25 2:00 p.m. (women) / 3:50 p.m. (men)
Stage 2 San Dimas Hospital Road Race
Saturday March 26 10:10 a.m. (women) / 1:15 p.m. (men)
56 mi. (women) / 84 mi. (men)
Stage 3 Incycle/Cannondale San Dimas Classic Criterium
Sunday March 27 2:00 p.m. (women) / 3:00 p.m. (men)
55 min. (women) / 90 min. (men)