If there is a pattern developing in this early part of the season, it's that the criterium stages of multi-day races – normally some of the most predictable – are becoming anything but. Today's second road stage of the Redlands Classic – a technical, 60-minute criterium – saw an eight-rider break get away, open a big gap and keep it to the line.
Even better, Joanne Kiesanowski, Rebecca Much and Brooke Miller of Team TIBCO/To the Top were all there driving it. Kiesanowski took 2nd place in the sprint finish behind Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita/Baci), while Miller finished 3rd. Much finished off the stage podium, but got a bigger prize, riding herself up to 3rd overall behind break-mates Ina Tuetenberg (HTC-Columbia), who now holds the race lead, and Team TIBCO alum Katharine Carroll (Peanut Butter & Company). Miller did herself plenty of good in the overall, too, jumping from 18th to 4th overall. Kiesanowski also made a big jump in the overall up to 8th.
"We had a plan coming into the race to be aggressive and get breaks going and it worked to perfection today," said team directeur sportif Emma Rickards. "Everyone was active. Everyone was attentive. We either covered every move or started them for the first half of the race until the main break went away."
That started when Miller attacked on the second lap to fire the first salvo. It continued a few laps later when Kristen LaSasso of Team TIBCO took a solo flier and opened up a 10-second gap.
"Her attack caused a bit of mayhem," Rickards. "A lot of teams were chasing her. The other teams weren't quite sure what to do."
After that, there were any number of attempts to establish breaks, one with Amanda Miller of Team TIBCO covering a move by Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation).
When that move came back, the teams started setting up for the mid-race bonus sprint. And that's when things blew apart.
"Ina went for mid-race sprint and I was on her when she went," Miller said. "The sprint caused a bit of a gap and Ina attacked hard again. Theresa went up to Ina and I sprinted up when Theresa went up. It was pretty hard getting up there."
A short time later, Much bridged up with Carroll. "When the separation happened after the sprint, Kat missed the move so she bridged up and I went with her," Much said.
"I wasn't going to work with Kat there," Miller added, "but then Rebecca she said we should work."
Soon, Kiesanowski bridged up along with Alexis Rhodes (Vera Bradley Foundation), and a few minutes later, Joelle Numainville (Webcor) appeared at the back of the break. With that, an eight-rider break had formed with every major team represented except that of race leader Amber Neben (Dare-to-Be/BMW/Bianchi). And there proved to be too much horsepower up front to bring it back.
With the most to gain from the break succeeding, Team TIBCO's Much and Kiesanowski were doing much of the work along with Teutenberg, who came into the stage just 0:14 behind Neben, and was very keen to erase that gap and take the race lead.
"Ina was driving it," Miller said. "Sometimes it's hard to even stay with her when she gets in that mode. Kat was working, too, trying to move up in the overall, and Alexis took a couple of pulls as well, but Theresa was able to sit in and she had pretty fresh legs for the finish."
Ryan went with half a lap to go and Kiesanowski went straight to her wheel with Miller in tow.
"I thought we were in great position for the sprint because she had gone so early," Kiesanowski said. "I tried to go in the third to last corner but Theresa dove corner and shut me down. We needed to go into the final corner one-two, but we were two-three."
From there, Ryan held it to the line. "Give her credit," Miller said. "She's really good from 500 meters out.
"I'm bummed we didn't get the win," Miller said, "but the silver lining is the team raced phenomenally and we're now sitting 3rd, 4th and 8th overall. It was a good day at the office."
And that went for everyone on the team.
The Redlands finishes tomorrow with the notoriously hard Sunset Loop Road Race. Though Teutenberg is sitting in good position at the top of the leader board, there's still plenty of potential for another shake-up in the overall standings.
With three riders in the top eight, and two more riders in the top 20, Team TIBCO/To the Top took a solid 2:24 lead over the five other top teams in the team classification.