An opening day time trial has been a regular part of the Redlands Classic for the last 28 years. But this storied stage race has never seen a time trial like this.
Starting at the East Boat Ramp on the north shore of Big Bear Lake, the 7.75-mile course headed straight west, turned around in rustic Fawnskin and then made a beeline back to the finish. Sounds simple, right? Except for the fact that it was twisty, turny and rarely flat. “Technical” would be an understatement.
Photos by Phil Beckman / PB Creative
Considering how important this stage can be in a race that is often decided by seconds, it required a rider to hang it out well past what most would consider a comfort zone. Now add in a westerly wind that increased throughout the day, pushing later riders into corners way faster than expected on the return leg. Bike handling is not often a critical skill in a time trial. Today it may have made all the difference. Today and when the event finishes in Redlands on Sunday.
And oh yeah, did we mention this was taking place at roughly 6,800 feet of elevation? It was enough to make anyone gasp.
Showing the most intestinal fortitude, dexterity and leg strength on this challenging stage were Alison Powers (NOW and Novartis for MS) and Chad Haga (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies).
Powers drew first blood in the Women’s division with a time of 16:09, a full half minute ahead of Tayler Wiles (Specialized Lululemon). As you may recall, Powers lost last year’s Redlands Classic by — gasp — one second.
On the third step of the podium was a surprising former triathlete and Canadian, Rhae Shaw (Vanderkitten).
It was an Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies group hug in the Men’s division, as Chad Haga and teammate Tom Zirbel threw a 1-2 punch. Haga earned the top step with a time of 14:53, with Zirbel only six seconds back. Third on the day was David Williams (5-Hour Energy/Kenda) with a 15:04.
The men in black and orange will be the team to beat in tomorrow’s Beaumont Circuit Road Race, a five-lap, 120.5-mile test on a 24.1-mile loop. Will anyone pull back Powers in the women’s three-lap, 72.3-mile event? Park yourself at the Beaumont City Hall to find out.