April 11, 2015 (Redlands, CA) – Today was the first yellow jersey defense Silber Pro Cycling has had to make, and what a stage for the drama to unfold: Oak Glen at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Perhaps on paper we wouldn’t be considered a favorite to hold onto our race lead at day’s end, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t try.
Last night’s team meeting covered a lot of topics. Our riders range from the wise and wily 32 years old leader Ryan Roth to our runner-turned cycling phenom Michael Le Rossignol–whose first bike race was an astounding 11 months ago. In between we have Euro-seasoned Nigel Ellsay, scrappy Kiwi Alexander Ray [Aray], sprinter Elliott Doyle, diesel Matteo Dal-Cin and two riders who missed the entire 2014 season with massive facial trauma and reconstructive surgeries in Alex Cataford and Nicolas Masbourian. The challenge of blending these players into a cohesive unit capable of controlling one of the best domestic pelotons I’ve seen in years is why I do this job.
During my racing years, I had the pleasure of helping defend a Redlands lead held by Horner and Wherry; while post-retirement I directed a Mancebo victory. These lessons would help, but with this young and unproven team our goals are slightly different. Tactically, it would be up to Silber to dictate what type of breakaway was allowed leash on the surprisingly tough circuit around the streets of Yucaipa.
Team Smartstop and Team H&R Block were the most active, but unsuccessful to break clear. Finally after 60km a break of two riders would snap the hold of the peloton and Silber would mass to drive a sensible tempo into the last climb. Silber’s workers would trail off after a job very well done and leave Aray, Alex and race leader Ryan ready to go.
Jelly Belly turned the screws first as the battle for position at the base of Oak Glen intensified, while Optum would wait to unleash super-climber Mike Woods. Once Woods took over, he pushed a tempo that only a few could handle–including his team’s leader and 2nd on GC, Phil Gaimon.
Ryan would lose contact after a brave attempt to hold the front group while up front the numbers were dwindling on potential stage winners. Gaimon would profit from the tempo set by his teammate to take the stage and leader’s jersey. The emphatic display from the Optum team produced results that were well-deserved.
For Silber, Cataford continues his development with a solid ride up the climb, while Aray had an unfortunate puncture at 2km to go and had to wait as our car was waiting to be cleared by race officials to pass groups of dropped riders. A quick wheel change by wrench-man Doug Berner and our kiwi set off on the final distance to the finish line.
All in all, a great learning experience for Silber Pro cycling and one quite frankly we passed with flying colors. Hopefully, we will have more chances this year to protect a lead in a major stage race.