February 14, 2011 (Phoenix, AZ) – The season has already begun! This past weekend was the Valley of the Sun Stage Race located in Phoenix, AZ. Four members of the team made the trek from the team’s base in Oro Valley to compete in the 3 stage event. Sigrid Ziegler competed in the Pro Women’s field, Baydon Pritchard competed in the Cat 2 Men’s Field, while Andrew McCullough and Charles Bryer competed in the Pro 1 Men’s field.
Starting with the Time Trial on the 11th – it was a 23km out and back course in Buckeye, AZ, just outside of Tucson. The course was virtually a “false flat” into a headwind on the way out and the way back was slightly downhill with a tailwind.
In the women’s time trial – Sigrid Ziegler placed 16th. While the in the Cat 2 men’s, Bayden Pritchard placed 69th. The Pro 1 men’s Time trial Andrew McCullough placed 52nd while Charles Bryer placed 47th. In the men’s category, the rider’s had no time trial equipment. It was decided to take it a little easier in order to conserve energy for the 140km road race on Saturday.
For stage 2, the 140km road race in Casa Grande, AZ the course was an undulating 25km circuit that featured 5km climb each lap, with sections that were heavily exposed to high winds.
In the Pro Women’s race which was 90km, Sigrid suffered some bad luck when someone smashed into here front wheel, causing severe damage forcing her to stop. Given the logistical challenges of wheel support, she was unable to get a wheel in a timely manor. Despite the obstacles Sigrid managed to finish 4 minutes behind the peleton, which allowed her to start the next day’s criterium in Phoenix.
In the Cat 2 men’s Bayden Pritchard got into the first break of 8 riders the first time up the hill. The group was chased down and eventually caught. Bayden still had strong legs and was active in many attempts to split the field in the heavy crosswinds. In the end, the group did split with ten riders finishing in front of the main field. Bayden finished in the main peleton.
In the Pro Men’s race, the pace was fast right from the gun. After the first time up the hill a split of 17 riders countered an attack made by Luis Armaran of Jamie/Sutter Home. Charles Bryer managed to latch onto the split. The break-way was strong while it worked well together and soon gained 4 minutes on the peleton. By the end of the race, the break-away group had managed to build a lead of 8 minutes but there were now only 6 riders left in the group. In the uphill final sprint, tactically it was prefect and Charles finished 4th on the day. The huge time gap put him into 8th overall on the General Classification. Andrew McCullough covered moves throughout the day from the peleton and finished safely in the main field.
The final stage was a criterium located in Downtown Phoenix. The racing was aggressive in nature and was fast in all categories. For the most part, everything was positive as everyone finished safely in the peleton with the exception of Andrew McCullough who crashed on the second to last lap in the Pro Men’s Race. Luckily he is okay.
Overall it was a great weekend of racing – and solid way to kick of the year. To have a rider finish in the top eight in the general classification with no time trial bike was certainly a bonus so early in the season!