Colavita-Bianchi’s Lauretta Hanson took the stage 4 bunch sprint win Saturday evening at the Redlands Bicycle Classic downtown criterium, while Twenty16-RideBiker’s Kristin Armstrong finished safely in the bunch to maintain her 33-second general classification lead over Mara Abbott (Amy D Foundation) going into the final stage.
Hanson sprinted ahead of Starla Teddergreen (Canyon-Shimano) in second and Heather Fischer (Rally Cycling) in third after 60 minutes of racing on the 1.6km nine-corner course in the heart of downtown Redlands.
“This course is quite technical,” Hanson told Cyclingnews after her win. “It’s got a lot of corners in it, so it’s about staying up front. It’s really a race to the last corner because it’s such a short finish. It was all about positioning.”
Hanson came through the final corner in second position behind stage 1 winner Scotti Lechuga (Hagens Berman-Supermint), who Hanson said took over the lead for the final half of the final lap.
“She was just trying to play it safe and I think she also knew it was a game of positioning, so even if she came through the last corner tired but first, she was still in with a good chance,” Hanson said. “It was hard to come through the last corner with a lot of speed, so it’s just about that last little run in.”
Rain threatened throughout the women’s race, but the precipitation held off and the streets remained mercifully dry for the contest. As with the men’s race that would take place later in the evening, the women’s peloton clamped down tightly to any escape attempts, although several groups and individual riders tried to break the hold and get away.
Five riders went clear after the first intermediate sprint, and then the group swelled to nine a lap later before the chasers brought them back. Trek Red Truck tried several moves late in the race, with Gillian Ellsay escaping for a lap and then Sara Bergen slipping away for two circuits.
But the peloton was determined to see the race come down to a sprint, and that’s what happened as Lechuga led through the final corner before Hanson passed her and held off all-comers for the win.
Armstrong led the bunch through the start-finish to take the bell for the final lap, but her effort was more about staying safe and maintaining the overall lead than it was about trying to make a run at the stage win for herself or her team.
“I wore my clear glasses today to make sure it didn’t rain,” Armstrong told Cyclingnews before the podium ceremony. “I switched my lenses out about five minutes before the start. What do they say about umbrellas? Bring it and it won’t rain. So I had my clear glasses on today.
“But yeah, it was a pretty safe criterium. The speed was pretty consistent and fast. There were a couple of times I saw the front just because that’s how I stay safe, but my team protected me today. None of the moves that tried to go went, and they were always there following any kind of primes or time bonuses. So I felt really good and feel really good going into tomorrow.”
The Sunset Road Race on the final day is notoriously selective. The peloton starts in town and then rides uphill to the 10.4km Sunset circuit in the hills southwest of town. The up-and-down loop weaves its way through a tony residential neighborhood, with significant climbing coming in the first 4km. After multiple trips around the swooping circuit, the survivors head back to town for the finish on the criterium course from stage 4.