BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (VN) — The wind whipped up whitecaps on Big Bear Lake on Thursday, but did not stop pre-race favorites Alison Powers and Chad Haga, who took top honors in the opening stage time trial at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. The fast, technical course around the lake saw strong winds pick up throughout the day, with a consistent tailwind blowing late finishers home in the kick-off to the 2013 National Racing Calendar.
Powers (NOW-Novartis for MS) won the women’s 7.8-mile individual test in 16:09. Powers bested second-place Tayler Wiles (Specialized-lululemon) by 31 seconds. Rhae Shaw (Vanderkitten) was third, at 45 seconds.
“I’ve been training for this since they announced it,” said Powers. “I got the email from Kurt [Stockton, team director], and I was like, ‘this one is mine.’”
The course perfectly suited Powers’ combination of strength and technical skill. Her solid time gap over Wiles puts her in a strong position to defend the overall in Friday’s Beaumont Circuit Race. Powers lost the final general classification at the 2012 edition of Redlands by one second. “I don’t want that to happen again,” she said.
Though she could not match Powers’ time, Wiles was happy with her second-place ride.
“It hurt really good. Pain is my friend,” said Wiles. “It was a really fun course, and you had to be on your toes the whole time. I’ve never taken turns that hot in my life.”
Former triathlete Rhae Shaw was a surprise third-place finisher in a field stacked with talent. Shaw, who worked for Microsoft before turning athlete, finished second in the 2012 Canadian time trial national championship, and seventh at the 2011 world championship in Copenhagen.
“I’m really excited about our team, and our sponsors; it’s a great way to start the season,” she said.
Haga tops in men’s opener
In the men’s race, Haga (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) won the stage with a time of 14:53, six seconds ahead of his teammate Tom Zirbel. Haga, who recently returned from a block of racing in Europe, was happy to take the victory in Big Bear.
“For the most part, I just put my head down and went fast,” he said, laughing.
“I hate losing to Chad, he better watch out tomorrow,” said Zirbel. “It’s awesome, I was super psyched for him.”
Zirbel said he prefers to ride a harder second half in time trial events, but the headwind on the opening leg of the course put an end to that plan. “It was really tough,” he said. “I just tried to keep the speed up.”
David Williams (5-hour Energy-Kenda) finished third, in 15:04.
“I didn’t feel that fast,” said Williams after the stage. “The headwind straight out of the gun, especially at altitude, made it hard. I think it was hard for everyone.”
Joey Rosskopf (Hincapie Development) set an early fast time that held for much of the day, until Haga crossed the line. With the top two slots in the general classification, Optum is in a commanding position ahead of Friday’s stage 2 Beaumont circuit race.