Another stage podium, another strong time trial and a solid overall finish last week has Will Routley feeling great about the start to his season with Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies, his new team for the 2014 season.
The Whistler pro cyclist raced to third place in the first of five stages at the 30th annual Redlands Bicycle Classic in California, and ended the event ranked fourth in general classification after good efforts on every leg.
However, the final overall result was also a bit frustrating for Routley and Optum teammate Tom Zirbel, who were both in the mix for the overall victory heading into the last stage on Sunday, April 6, but had their bid for a win come up short and settled for placings in the top five overall.
"Tom and I have both finished on the podium in the overall GC of this race before, so we said this time we were going to throw everything out there and take a risk to try to win on the last day," said Routley. "It didn't quite work out, to make a long story short."
Hincapie Sportswear's Joseph Rosskopf ended up winning Stage 5, while Routley and Zirbel reached the line 36 seconds back, which ended up being about the same margin the Optum riders trailed Rosskopf by in the GC standings.
"I did one last big attempt coming over the top of the last climb with one of Rosskopft's teammates," explained Routley. "That got caught, and he countered and jumped up (with) two guys up the road, he caught up to them and they rolled into Redlands.
"It was that close."
The results of the Redlands Classic were somewhat bittersweet for Routley, who was strong on every stage, but kicking himself at missing out on some victories.
"This whole race was very positive, to be able to ride well and contesting each day," said the 30-year-old. "But it was also frustrating, because the first day I got third and it was a missed opportunity, a stage I should have won."
Routley was near the front of a sprinting pack when to earn his third-place finish on Stage 1, a 20-lap circuit race totalling 95 kilometres. Eleven riders came across with the same time as winner Dion Smith after what Routley called "a steep, nasty, uphill sprint finish" to decide the stage.
"Coming in with a bunch sprint finish isn't my forte, but the fact it was up such a steep hill, we thought I better have a go at it," said Routley, always a strong climber. "And I was close."
Routley has now returned home to B.C. for a couple of weeks before his next event, the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Cycling Classic. He's brought his time trial bike with him for some extra training as he looks to build on his success in solo rides so far.
Routley has been using Zirbel, the U.S. national champ, as a measuring stick for his time trial performances, and at Redlands he placed sixth, 20 seconds back of Zirbel's winning time. Routley had a podium finish in the time trial when capturing the yellow jersey at the Chico Stage Race in March, too.
"I've done three time trials this year and all of them have been really great," he said. "I haven't time trialled well like this for quite a few years because I haven't put any energy into it. That's really exciting for the season, because if you can do that, that means you can probably consistently be up there in the overall for all these races.
Routley said success in time trials for him is "75 per cent morale," and he's found a positive environment with Optum that's been helpful in that regard. He also said the team's Diamondback bikes have been excellent, and he's benefitting from aerodynamic adjustments after some work with HED Wheels.
"Time trials are all about digging deep and suffering, so it's so mental. You have to believe that what you're doing will be a good result," said Routley. "On the day, you have to really believe it's possible. I had a good block of winter training, and it starts to build on itself.
"You get a couple wins or podiums and it's like, 'Alright, let's keep this tide rolling along.'"
CHADDOCK RIDING FOR GARNEAU-QUEBECOR
Whistler's Ben Chaddock was also in action at Redlands, less than two weeks after being introduced as the newest member of the Garneau-Quebecor team, a UCI Pro Continental squad based out of Quebec.
Chaddock ended up 105th in general classification after the five stages. The 2012 Canadian criterium champion unsurprisingly had his best single-day finish in the Stage 4 crit, placing 23rd. The April 4 stage ended up being Garneau-Quebecor's best, as Chaddock's teammate Pierrick Naud rode to first place.