REDLANDS, CA (CT) — Mexico’s Ulises Castillo (KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo) and Australia’s Lauretta Hanson (Colavita-Bianchi) took sprint victories at the technical Redlands Criterium Saturday, the fourth of five stages of the 2016 Redlands Bicycle Classic.
Held in front of enthusiastic crowds in downtown Redlands, both races were notable for looming clouds, a lack of breakaways, and no major changes in the general classification.
And while the women’s race was largely uneventful, the men’s race was marred by a pair of late-race crashes that took down several riders, including U.S. national criterium champion Eric Marcotte (Jamis-Sutter Home), Travis McCabe (Holowesko-Citadel), points leader Travis Samuel (H&R Block), and Matteo Dal-Cin (Silber Pro Cycling), second-overall on GC.
Marcotte went down in a late-race crash and suffered a gash to his chin that reportedly required several stitches. Samuel was taken down in the same crash, and was transported to a local hospital.
Dal-Cin went down in a crash in the final righthand turn when his Silber teammate, Chris Dahl, lost traction in his rear wheel and slid out. Dahl suffered an ankle injury while Dal-Cin injured his hand.
McCabe, who came into the final turn third wheel behind Castillo and Dahl, struck Dahl and somersaulted over his handlebar, but was not seriously injured. Four-time Redlands winner Chris Horner (Lupus) was another rider to go down in that crash, but was able to finish.
Castillo avoids the chaos
The elite men raced for 90 minutes, with intermediate sprint points up for grabs every 15 minutes — at 75, 60, 45, and 30 minutes to go — as well as at five laps remaining and at the finish line.
With the Jamis-Sutter Home team of race leader Janier Acevedo manning the front, no real breakaways formed throughout the 90-minute race.
Rally Cycling’s Tom Soladay was aggressive on the front, attacking several times to get away, but Jamis riders Ruben Companioni, Sebastian Haedo, and Luis Amaran kept all breakaways in check, with Acevedo tucked in safely behind them.
“There was fighting for the bonifcation, and and for the sprint,” Castillo said. “So this is why no breakaway goes. But actually I tried two times, because last year, I got in the breakaway and finished third. So I was thinking about getting in the breakaway again [today], but that didn’t happen, and I waited for the sprint.”
Rally’s Soladay and Jesse Anthony put together a dangerous late-race move, but were unable to make it stick, and into the fina lap it was clear it would come down to a bunch sprint. However disaster struck when Dahl lost traction in the final turn, and Castillo had clear daylight to the line as Dahl and McCabe were the first two of many to hit the deck with the finish line in sight.
Behind Castillo, Elliott Doyle (Silber) took second, with Colombian national champion Edwin Avila (Team Illuminate) in third.
For the fourth day in a row — following Companioni, Sepp Kuss (Gateway-Harley-Davidson) and Nielson Powless (Axeon-Hagens Berman) — a Redlands stage winner described his win as the biggest of his career.
“It’s my best victory at the moment, and it’s big for the team, because we are the local team,” Castillo said. “We love this race. It’s the best.”
Dal-Cin said he was banged up, but he expected he would be able to start on Sunday.
“We were in really good shape. I took us from from one lap to go on the start/finish straight to three corners to go into that technical bit. I left the door open for Chris, he took that set of corners first and I was drifting back and coming out of the last corner, there was a big pile up and I was one of the guys that went down. I jammed my hand up in the barriers, but looking at the other guys in the medical tent, it looks like I came away pretty lucky.”
Hanson plays it perfectly
The elite women raced first, for 60 minutes over the one-mile, nine-turn criterium course in downtown Redlands. Three intermediate sprint points were up for grabs, at 45 minutes to go, 30 minutes to go, and with five laps remaining, as well as points scored at the finish line.
With the Twenty16-Ridebiker team of race leader Kristin Armstrong patrolling the front, no moves were able to stick. Stage 1 winner Scotti Lechuga (Hagens Berman-Spearmint) made several valiant efforts, but to no avail.
Hanson (Colavita-Bianchi) followed Armstrong’s wheel on the final lap, then marked a late attack from Lechuga, sitting second wheel coming into the final turn before timing her sprint to perfection to take the win.
Behind Hanson, Starla Teddergreen (Canyon-Shimano) took second, with Heather Fischer (Rally Cycling) in third.
Along the way, Hanson picked up enough points to take the green jersey, to add to the red climber’s jersey held by Colavita-Bianchi teammate Katie Donovan.
“It was definitely a race until the last corner,” Hanson said. “It’s quite a short finish; I think it’s only 150 meters uphill, so it’s all about positioning coming into that last corner. The last three corners are quite short and quite tight, so it was all about playing it safe and riding at the front. Even if you had to spend that extra little bit of energy to stay there, it was worth it.”
Sunset Loop to decide it all
One stage remains, and it’s doozy: The Sunset Loop road race, a hilly, technical affair that has often decided the overall winner, with 700 feet of elevation gain per lap.
And while that’s unlikely in the women’s race, as Armstrong holds a commanding 33-second lead over Abbott, the men’s race is wide open. Colombian Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Sutter Home) leads Canadian Matteo Dal-Cin (Silber Pro Cycling) by just two seconds, with Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) in third overall, 13 seconds down.
Morton referred to the Sunset Loop as one of his favorite races in North America.
On Sunday the elite men will race 12 laps for 94.1 miles; elite women will race nine laps for 68.3 miles. Time bonuses are available in both races, with several intermediate sprints, and at the finish line, where 10, six, and four seconds are available to the first three riders across.
Because of the demanding nature of the course and the tight circuit, dropped riders will be asked to withdraw. Riders in both fields must complete four laps, without being lapped, in order to be given a prorated time and scored in the final classification.