The Redlands Bicycle Classic is one of the most prestigious stage races in the US. It is run as a full professional stage race with all the trimmings; teams are invited (they even use the TdF-esque numbering system), there is a pro men’s and pro women’s race only, the courses are well thought out and the crowds are huge. This year I was given the opportunity to guest ride with Stage 17 Racing, a southern California team that emphasizes young rider development. I am very appreciative of Staage 17’s director Michael Roecklein for the invite.
The stage race starts off with a 5km prologue. It’s more or less up-hill the whole way and finishes with a steep climb. I’m not usually stoked on time trial-ing but it is a goal of mine to improve my ability in the discipline. Normal time trials are one thing, however, but 5km efforts are entirely another the short burst and perfectly timed effort is something I have yet to master.
After finishing and taking a spin on my lovely road bike I started to mentally prepare for the next day.
Stage 1 is a 120 mile brute of a road race that starts in nearby town Beaumont, CA. The 25 mile loop has something for everyone with some gradual climbs, some steep kickers, long windswept straights, and twisty descents. The climb to the KOM had a ‘double summit’, you haul up the majority of the elevation gain then drop through a narrow descent then climb up again to the top. If you are not able to recover from the first effort for the second the climb is long enough you can loose a lot of time.
The day started with 197 riders, probably the largest field I’ve ever raced in. The first two laps through the hills were very fast but the field generally came back together during the long gradual descent.
There were the usual ridiculous crashes, one of which sadly ended the race for my teammate Adam. Once the day’s breakaway was established the team of the race leader, Kenda/5-Hour Energy, set tempo and the front and kept the 3rd lap pretty mild. The 4th time though the climb was very fast and blew the field apart. I worked hard to make it into the front group and knew that it was very important to stay at the front for the climb if I was going to finish with the leaders. We caught the break with about 20 miles to go and Kenda strung the field out for the rest of the race. Kenda had riders peeling off the font totally gassed and hunched over their bikes – that’s a well drilled team! Parts of the course where you could usually count of resting were now high tempo and the hard parts were now on in the red. The final time up the climb I made it with about 50 riders who distanced themselves from the rest and motored towards the finish. Bissel and Elbowz were trying to set up for the sprint. There were two stupid crashes on the run in which made me decide to basically tail-gun the group until the finish. It looked like Cal Giant rider Huffman decided to do the same thing. Going into the last turn I felt my front wheel go soft and I swung wide to not wash out. I got out of the saddle to sprint with the group and felt my tire going flat to I hammered in seated to made sure I finished with the group. My tire was flat before I made it back to the car – good timing.
At the end of the day I would move up 100 places on GC which has to be some kind of record.