YUCAIPA, California (April 13, 2023) — Red Truck Racing’s Nadia Gontova emerged from the fog to take the victory on Oak Glen Thursday. The Canadian was in disbelief at the finish racing in her debut at Redlands Bicycle Classic. Patobike’s Marcela Prieto had been closing the gap in the final meters, continuing to inch closer to the overall coming in second on the stage, and sits 14 seconds behind Gontova. Prieto’s Colombian teammate Lorena Villamizar was third.
“There was another rider who attacked, I was able to follow and look back and I had a gap,” Gontova said. “I knew everyone was going to be hurting on the climb so I just decided to keep it going to see if I could pull off the win. I wasn’t expecting this at all. There was a chaser who was closing the gap at the end. I knew the fog would make the chase a little tougher so I think it worked in my favor.”
The stage had begun with a slight delay after the men’s race had started late due to last minute safety checks out on course. The cold and windy conditions made an already challenging course even harder. Marlies Mejias of Blue Ridge Twenty24 had a tough day after her effort in winning the opening stage. She would lose over two minutes at the end and her GC chances. Her teammates, Melisa Rollins and Laurel Quiñones took up the fight for the team finishing 5th and 6th respectfully on the stage.
DNA Pro Cycling’s Shayna Powless finished in fourth after working hard for her teammate and GC leader, Anet Barrera who ended 8th on the line. The team had planned to ride really aggressive, staying near the front making sure they would not miss any key moves. Teammate Holly Breck was first to attack out of the gate, hoping to help establish a break though like in the men’s race, she would end up out front solo for some time. The gap she maintained allowed her to notch key sprint points, landing her in the green jersey at days end.
“Overall, I think our team did really well,” Powless said. “I think we did a good job riding together. Holly crushed it, getting valuable sprint points so that was good.
“Going into the final climb, the plan was for Anet (Barrera), Kaitlyn (Rauwerda), and I to try and set a good tempo, covering things if we needed to help Anet up the climb. The group whittled down once we hit it. I took over the front and kept a solid tempo at threshold pace for as long as I could with Anet on my wheel.”
Barrera would be one of the first to launch an attack up Oak Glen, with Powless remaining with what remained of the group to cover any counter attacks. The move reduced the group down to a handful of riders, including Gontova and the Patobike duo. The trio would eventually respond to Barrera closing the gap, before Barrera lost contact.
“We came prepared, hoping to come out with good results,” Lorena Villamizar said. “We knew these three days would be very hard. Today’s stage was very complicated with the cold and the rain, so we were nervous. We rode cautiously so not to crash since Marcela had crashed the day before. The idea was to finish today’s race healthy and in good form.”
The GC remains tight heading into the decisive time trial. Gontova has a lead of only 14 seconds ahead of Prieto, and close to a minute over Villamizar. Both Blue Ridge Twenty24 and DNA Pro Cycling are nipping at their heels, all within striking distance ahead of the TT.