Stage race month concludes with the most challenging, most grueling and most prestigious stage race of them all, the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Okay, maybe this year the San Dimas Stage Race was more “epic” than any other stage race because of the way the heavens unloaded on the unfortunate riders during the road race, but if San Dimas is the opening act then Redlands is the Big Show.
The event opens the NRC calendar and is where all of the UCI continental teams come together for the first time of the season. If you are on an amateur team, then getting invited to do Redlands can make or break the first half of your season. Only a very few riders, both pros and amateurs, are good enough to get a result at Redlands, but with over 200 challenging miles in the race and about 200 of the best domestic cyclists in the country, everyone comes out of Redlands with an experience that makes them a better rider for the rest of the season.
The Sun Prologue
A 3.1 mile time trial starts Redlands, and for whatever the time trial may lack in duration it makes up for in difficulty. No matter how fast or slow you ride the course with its false flats and short kickers you will be hurting when you crest the final uphill finish.
Phil Gaimon(Kenda/5hr Energy) kept his form from San Dimas, using his big ring more than anyone else to win the prologue over Julian Kyer(Juwi Solar) in 2nd and Morgan Schmitt(Exergy) in 3rd.
The City of Beaumont Road Race
This one is a toughy. With 120 miles of racing and a plenty of climbing, Beaumont takes a toll on the peloton, eating up those who have not been doing their homework in the off season. A better indicator of the difficulty of this race may be the results and Communique, which will show you that over 30 riders did not finish or make the time cut(including the 4 riders who were disqualified for trying to take a short cut).
Only a disqualification for trying to cheat by taking a short cut?! Maybe there should be some kind of ban for those trying to cheat by taking a short cut during a race, it seems on the same level as doping to me….
The Communique also showed about 30 riders who were fined for public urination during the race. They can thank the Yellow Jersey for calling the pee break right in the middle of downtown Beaumont.
……..But back to the racing. Jelly Belly claimed the first attack of the race, though it was short lived. The whole first lap consisted of attacks and counterattacks as we rolled along the first half of the course at around 40mph. As a result of the attacks, the first climb was not very difficult. I was able to crest the KOM in the top ten and stay near the front as we neared the end of the first lap. I put in an attack leading to the end of the first lap, thinking at the least I would get some sprint points, but I was brought back right at the finish line.
On the 2nd lap is where the break of the day would get away and when Kenda would set a tempo on the front to keep it in check. Positioning going into the climb was important, and on the 3rd time up I found myself in a group off the back. Fortunately we were able to chase on the whole flat section and rejoin the lead group about 8 miles later. That was too close. I made sure to be in better position on the next climb.
Going into the 4th lap, Kenda was upping the pace on the flat section (but they still had time to wave to the elementary school kids as we zoomed by at 30mph). The break was brought back sometime during the 4th lap and as we began the 5th and final lap it was time for the GC battle to begin. Mancebo and a Jacques-Maynes brother would put in a strong attack, but all the favorites were together after the final climb and it was a sprint finish, with Patrick Bevin of Bissell claiming his first win of the race.
I felt good for most of the race and avoided any crashed and bonking (Thanks chocolate Muscle Milk pancakes), finishing not far behind the leaders and surviving for the next day.
Downtown Redlands Criterium
Like the prologue, the Redlands Criterium is painful anyway you cut it. If you are on the front you are constantly dealing with a battle for position at 30mph, and if you are trying to sit in at the back, the technical corners of the course will have you sprinting at full gas every time time just to hold on to the wheel in front of you.
The first hour of the 90 minute race was uneventful, with Kenda setting a steady tempo on the front to discourage any breakaways, but allowing for everyone else to contest the sprint bonuses that were up every 15 minutes.
In the last half of the race the first real break made it off the front. It was a two man break that included Michael Creed (Optum) who powered off the front for over 20 minutes. But the two were never far up the road and inside of 10 laps to go the sprinter’s teams began to get organized on the front.
Optum took the reigns from Kenda first and blasted through the course for the final five laps, locking everyone’s positions into place. Despite their strong lead out train, Optum was bested by the more patient teams in the final lap, with Patrick Bevin of Bissell taking his 2nd win in a row followed by Alex Candelario (Optum) and Carlos Alzate (Exergy).
The Sunset Loop Road Race
The final day of Redlands is the most difficult. Even without the 170 miles of hard racing in the legs, 12 laps with 500 feet of climbing for each one, the Sunset Loop is hard to finish.
Position into each climb is tricky, you want to be in a good spot, but you don’t want to kill yourself to get there before the climb even starts. The group stayed together for the first 2 laps, with only tiny breaks getting off the front. But on the 3rd time up the climb is when the splits began to open up. If a split did not occur on the climb then it would have a chance to happen on the crosswind false flat on the top of the course. I was able to stay with the lead group for 4 laps before falling back with one of the chase groups.
Although we woke up to clear skies, rain was on the horizon, and sure enough it hit us about half way through the race. After completing about 7 laps I pulled out with the rest of my group and waited at the fire station to see the leaders come through. With 4 laps to go it was still a group of about 35 riders with Kenda still having good numbers. Nate English (Kenda) was off the front for a while covering an attack for his teammate.
The final laps of Sunset saw the group split up even more and only about a dozen riders were allowed to enter the finishing circuit. Defending champion Francisco Mancebo (Competitive Cyclist) put in a vicious attack on the final 5 circuits forcing the yellow jersey to chase. Gaimon never let Mancebo get far and with 2 laps to go it was all together and the rest of the breakaway riders began to take over for the stage win. Patrick Bevin showed that he can climb as well as sprint and survived the Sunset Loops to take his 3rd win of the stage race.
So, maybe the final day of Redlands was as epic as the SDSR road race a week before, it was definitely as exciting and dramatic.
By Lucas Binder, SPY-Swamis