Back at Redlands. It’s been a couple years since I raced the Redlands Classic, twice actually in 2012-13 with the Hagens Berman amateur squad. It’s a pretty different race now besides the last two stages with the Criterium & Sunset Loop being the same. Getting the nod to race with the Holowesko / Citadel Team this year I was pretty stoked, but knew it would be tough race as the Team has a good history with this race winning it in 2014, and now having new guys on the squad who can deliver stage results and top GC placings. The first stage was a new one to me with the Highland Circuit Race. It was basically 20 laps on a 3 mile loop which had a steep 500 meter kicker every lap going up to the finish. The real kicker though today would be the heat as it was in the mid 90’s most of the race. Having our new teammate with Travis McCabe this year, he has a good history with this finish placing second last year. Going into the stage the game plan was to make sure nothing large got off the front and bring it back for Travis for the finish.
Just over 200 starters rolled off the start line and you could tell instantly that everyone was excited to get out there, so excited that there was a descent crash in the second turn. Luckily none of our guys were in it and the racing continued. Attacks were going and coming back the first couple laps and finally a break of 4 went up the road. This race was all about being smart and keeping your efforts to the minimum. Ideally you would want to hit the climb in the front, go easy and sag towards the mid-back while everyone races up the climb, and then go around everyone to the front on the descent or a couple other spots on the course. Especially with it being super hot today you wanted to keep the efforts to the minimum.
Once the race got to around half way or so the break was out to 3 minutes and nobody was doing much to bring the break back. The Holowesko / Citadel Team moved to the front at this point to start to bring the gap down. The gap started to come down but with the heat we underestimated a bit on the tole it would have on us, also in the break was Ruben (Companioni) from Team Jamis and he was riding really well. With 5 to go other teams such as Jelly Belly & Rally came to the front, but there was never much of a dedicated chase and the time was running out. At this point the Jamis rider was solo and holding a good lead. With 4 to go I made a mistake on the climb of easing up a bit too much and drifted back too far and started to get swarmed. It was always a fine line with this on not putting too much work in, but also trying to not go too far back and at this point and I went too far back. The next couple laps I worked on getting back up to the front but the race was full gas at this point fighting for position. Coming into 1 to go a rider cut over in front of me breaking one of my spokes and throwing my front wheel out of true so that wasn’t ideal. No time to get a new wheel and it didn’t help my positioning battle any. On the second to last stretch I did what I could to move up and gave it everything I had to make up the most ground that I could on the finishing climb.
All in all, the Jamis rider stayed away by 15 seconds for the win and Travis was able to sprint for 3rd. The field basically exploded into smaller groups up the stretch with myself crossing the line in 46th and losing 19 seconds to the front of the field; 34 seconds to the winner. Nothing good by all means, as I should’ve kept myself up there better at the end of the laps as I felt decent moving up the final climb busted wheel and all. The time gaps were pretty big though behind me as the last groups of guys finishing were up to 16 minutes down and 25 riders won’t be starting tomorrow due to DNF’s. Day 1 in the books.
Photo courtesy Jon Hornbeck
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p|b Hincapie Sportswear Team and is also is the owner of Spandex Stampede Cycling Fundo Events. You can follow Jon on social media at @JonHornbeck.