Stage 3 of the Redlands Classic was the Time Trial. Not much to report from there. It rained, it was a new out and back course, not a stellar finish, but we move on. Stage 4 was the Crit. A fairly technical course with many corners and with not many area’s to move up besides threading the needle in the corners, the crashes would come. And they did. Far more crashes than what I remember in the past, but fortunately the rain held up as it could’ve been much worse. The real bummer though was the last turn as my Holowesko / Citadel teammate Travis McCabe, came through the corner third wheel in a prime spot to take the win only resulting in the rider in front of him clipping his pedal, then high siding, then Travis hitting him head on front flipping over. Luckily he was okay and still able to start the next day.
Stage 5, was the notorious Sunset Loop. This course is no easy stage as it’s the last day and doing many laps on this course makes it one of the toughest stages on the domestic circuit. It is not an overly challenging course being around 6 miles, but the constant change in direction and half the lap climbing and the other half descending through a technical neighborhood results in a race of key positioning and not much time to rest. I’ve done this race twice. My first time in ’12 where I made it 3 laps then got dropped, then got pulled from the race. I came back in ’13 to stay in contention all 12 laps only to be dropped the final lap, and then pulled from the race once we exited the course. If your not in the lead group after completing the laps you don’t get to finish on the downtown finishing circuits, you just receive a pro-rated time. Two years later I was hoping for a bit better showing.
Our game plan going in was to race race aggressive. We had Travis sitting sixth on GC then a couple of us over a minute down, and then some guys further down. Our plan was to send guys up the road early, then have guys ready to attack later or bridge up to on the closing laps. This being bike racing though, nothing typically plays out according to plan. Our number one goal though was to hit the opening laps in the front of the group and be ready.
Photos © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com
The race started out fast as usual. We did a couple opening crit laps then had to make our way over to the Sunset loop which was around 7k away and slightly uphill. Attacks kept going as we were heading to the Sunset loop but nothing was sticking. We had most of our team towards the front as there was still no established break heading towards the circuit. I was happy to turn onto the circuit third wheel and quickly moved to the front as we started our descent through the technical neighborhood. I applied a decent pace as I looked back and saw the group strung out. Once we hit the bottom I noticed there were about 15 of us who had a gap and started the climb. I quickly checked who was there and saw it was myself with teammates Oscar, Squire, and Travis. Four of us in a group of 15 or so was good, especially with our GC guy Travis. I went back to the front to keep the pace high as we rode the climb to establish the break. Most top teams were represented here so I knew it would be up to the leading team; Team Jamis, to ride the front. Myself, Oscar and Squire did a fair bit of work on the front to keep this break rolling. I knew we weren’t racing the field, but really racing the guys from Jamis who were chasing us. For the next three laps we drilled it on the front as I knew how hard we were riding, they were riding just as hard. This circuit is tough, and with not many wide open areas, everyone has a tough time racing, even if your just sitting in the field.
Once we started the fourth lap we were getting time checks from the moto that the field was coming up on us. I knew the field had to be getting tired as we were putting a good pace on these opening laps and for them to catch back up would’ve taken a big effort by them. We got caught on top of the course going through the feed zone and as I looked back to see the field I didn’t see a field, I saw small groups everywhere as it was shattered. It was at this point where there was a lull and some attacks went again. Travis responded with a couple guys and I jumped as well. I caught the few guys with Travis and immediately went back to the front to drill it. The damage was done with the field, and now it was time to really go. A group of 10 of us or so got away again and the time gap began to go back up. Team Jamis did a lot of work to bring us back and now we were gone again, with them in the rear. Over the next couple laps some guys were bridging up to us, and now the move was becoming a GC move as Silber Pro Cycling had there GC guys with us along with Axeon and myself with Travis. The time gap finally got over a minute and kept going up. Rally Pro Cycling also bridged up with a couple guys and they were going for a stage result, so were happy to help as well. My teammate Robin also made the move to join us so now there were 3 of us. We had Travis sit on and do minimal work as Robin and I stayed towards the front to keep it moving. With 2 laps to go the break had almost 2 minutes and it was clear that this would be the winning move, and that Team Jamis would be losing the overall lead to the new riders which were present in the break. Attacks started on the climb and I was at my limit and fell off the pace. I rode the next lap with a couple other riders which came off and then the final lap we were caught by the main field which consisted of around 40 riders. We had Oscar, Squire, Andre, and Andz all riding towards the front shutting down any type of attacks or chasing from other teams. For the most part everyone was pretty cooked though.
We completed the last lap and then rode to the finishing circuits in downtown where we would be stopped and given a pro-rated time as the lead break was already on the finishing circuits. I rode over to the finish with my other teammates to watch the finish as Travis & Robin were still there. As the group came around the final corner it was Travis who led everyone out sprinting for the win to finish off a day where we went all in, and in the end Travis finished it off with the victory.
Photos © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com
In the end I would say it was a successful day of tactics and everyone doing their job. We raced from the gun and helped cause a major shake up in the overall standings and a stage victory. I was happy to play my part and help animate the race, as my last experiences here were more or less hanging on until I was dropped. ‘Til next time.
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.