By Bec “Wombat” Wener
After kicking off the race with a rousing rendition of Star Spangled Banner, it was the foreigners who spoiled the all American party, with Lululemon’s neo pro Aussie Loren Rowney taking out line honour s over the Canadian duo of Joelle Numainville and Joanie Caron in the Beaumont road stage at Redlands. (Check out Velo Images for an awesome race photo.)
Racing got off to a fast start on the smooth and wide, wind assisted road on the way to the first uphill drag through the suburbs. Here things stretched out a little, with a few digs that were easily covered, before NorCal’s own Beth Newell went on a solo escape. Newll really just loves to dish out the pain. Newell was caught by the front group entering the national park, after the rest of the field had been shattered in the lead up to the first KOM of the day. A front group of around 20 made it over the top together, with smaller bunches of stragglers chasing on the downhill run to the start/finish line.
Megan Guarnier sent out a warning to her GC rivals by taking the first sprint bonus seconds on offer. Other teams sensed the opportunity to try and get a break away after her big sprint effort, but most attempts were half hearted or easily covered. Team TIBCO patrolled the front, and it appeared that any move would be dictated by the terrain.
Chasers soon latched back on and the lead group was back at 40 or so, before the climb once again took its toll, with a repeat of the first lap. This time around Numainville of Optum took the points over Rowney, both apparently testing out their sprint for the finish.
Third time over the climb left a group of approximately 30 charging for the line. All the GC contenders were in there, with all the big teams represented. It was Rowney who had learned the most from the previous sprint, powering up the uphill drag to the finish to reverse the order of the previous sprint, pipping Numainville for her first NRS win at her first attempt. Not a bad start. Remember Rowney’s name, and keep an eye out for her while she is staying in Menlo Park, because you’re sure to see more of this strong and versatile Aussie in the future.
TIBCO defended well all day and Guarnier showed she’s going to be hard to crack, retaining the yellow jersey, with a 10 second lead over Lululemon’s Amber Neben heading into tomorrow’s hour long downtown crit.
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