August Soars to Victory Atop Oak Glen
Andrew “AJ” August of Hot Tubes Development Cycling stole away with the win at Oak Glen on Thursday for stage 2 at the Redlands Bicycle Classic Yucaipa Road Race. Weather had descended on Yucaipa with temperatures dipping down to the low 50s at the start. The NY-native and cyclocross junior star was in his element, taking a chance to escape from the field midway up Oak Glen.
By the time the field reached the climb, conditions had deteriorated with heavy fog greatly reducing visibility. A six-man chase group including Tyler Stites (Project Echelon) and Riley Sheehan (Denver Disrupters) tried to close the gap but came up short in the end. Last year’s overall winner Stites finished second, with Sheehan rounding the podium in third.
“I knew I’m climbing quite well right now,” August said after finishing. “I thought I took it too early, but I think with the fog it actually helped being out of sight. It was brutal; the last two laps I couldn’t feel my hands. Once we hit the climb I got warm for sure.”
The men raced six circuits around Yucaipa before the climb to Oak Glen. Denver Disrupters worked to protect Noah Granigan’s yellow jersey early on, keeping a leash on anyone who tried to escape. Midway through, it was 18-year-old Evan Boyle who managed to escape solo. Racing away from the field, he would eventually reach up over a three-minute advantage. Three others took on the chase including Landis Cyclery Stephan Schaefer, CS Velo Will Gleason, and Expeditors’ Greg Talpey. Boyle gave a valiant effort in the weather the riders faced, but was caught on the last lap. The Aevolo rider snagged enough points to move into the KOM lead for his efforts.
“I was supposed to get in the break, but I was hoping I would get a little bit of support so we could put pressure on other teams,” Boyle said. I got the pacing right, going down the descent as fast as I possibly could, recovering and then flag myself up the hill. The climb was really hard; I didn’t take that into consideration when I went in the break.”
As the field made the turn onto the climb, the top teams moved into position at the front. Toronto Hustle had led the chase after Boyle, hoping to deliver Matteo –Dal Cin in a good position among the favorites at the base of Oak Glen. Dal Cin had won Redlands Classic back in 2016. Instead, it was L39ion of Los Angeles, Denver Disrupters, and Project Echelon who sent their climbers on attack, including Stites, Sheehan, and Kyle Murphy with Eder Frayre. While they were focused on one another, August took the opportunity to escape.
“We came into the day trying to be in the breakaway because it’s a hard course to be on the front the whole day,” Sheehan said. “We were able to not do any work until halfway through the race, that saved our legs a lot for the climb.
“Kyle Murphy (L39ion) attacked 500m in. Everyone was looking at each other and then August kept the tempo going to the line, a phenomenal ride by him. I was just trying to follow wheels hoping Noah would be back there for GC. In the last km, the group was pretty thin. I tried giving it a go at 500m but it was brutal.”
Ricky Arnopol finished with enough time to slide into yellow for Project Echelon, ready for the time trial on Friday.
“I didn’t expect to be in yellow but I think the day worked really well, the team rode really well,” Arnopol said. “Tyler and I both had the legs we knew we could have and we knew the day we knew we could have. To have it work out with Tyler on the podium and me being in yellow tomorrow is just a great feeling.
“I think we’re the best time trialing team in the country. We spend a lot of time working on it. It’s going to be really close but I think we have a really good shot. Tyler waxed everyone in the TT last year, so I think he can do it again.”
Stage 3 – Route 66 Time Trial for Men
The first rider out of the start house on Friday will roll down the ramp at 12:15 PM PDT.
Gontova Emerges to Take Yellow Atop Oak Glen
Red Truck Racing’s Nadia Gontova emerged from the fog to take the victory on Oak Glen Thursday. The Canadian was in disbelief at the finish racing in her debut at Redlands Bicycle Classic. Patobike’s Marcela Prieto had been closing the gap in the final meters, continuing to inch closer to the overall coming in second on the stage, and sits 14 seconds behind Gontova. Prieto’s Colombian teammate Lorena Villamizar was third.
“There was another rider who attacked, I was able to follow and look back and I had a gap,” Gontova said. “I knew everyone was going to be hurting on the climb so I just decided to keep it going to see if I could pull off the win. I wasn’t expecting this at all. There was a chaser who was closing the gap at the end. I knew the fog would make the chase a little tougher so I think it worked in my favor.”
The stage had begun with a slight delay after the men’s race had started late due to last minute safety checks out on course. The cold and windy conditions made an already challenging course even harder. Marlies Mejias of Blue Ridge Twenty24 had a tough day after her effort in winning the opening stage. She would lose over two minutes at the end and her GC chances. Her teammates, Melisa Rollins and Laurel Quiñones took up the fight for the team finishing 5th and 6th respectfully on the stage.
DNA Pro Cycling’s Shayna Powless finished in fourth after working hard for her teammate and GC leader, Anet Barrera who ended 8th on the line. The team had planned to ride really aggressive, staying near the front making sure they would not miss any key moves. Teammate Holly Breck was first to attack out of the gate, hoping to help establish a break though like in the men’s race, she would end up out front solo for some time. The gap she maintained allowed her to notch key sprint points, landing her in the green jersey at days end.
“Overall, I think our team did really well,” Powless said. “I think we did a good job riding together. Holly crushed it, getting valuable sprint points so that was good.
“Going into the final climb, the plan was for Anet (Barrera), Kaitlyn (Rauwerda), and I to try and set a good tempo, covering things if we needed to help Anet up the climb. The group whittled down once we hit it. I took over the front and kept a solid tempo at threshold pace for as long as I could with Anet on my wheel.”
Barrera would be one of the first to launch an attack up Oak Glen, with Powless remaining with what remained of the group to cover any counter attacks. The move reduced the group down to a handful of riders, including Gontova and the Patobike duo. The trio would eventually respond to Barrera closing the gap, before Barrera lost contact.
“We came prepared, hoping to come out with good results,” Lorena Villamizar said. “We knew these three days would be very hard. Today’s stage was very complicated with the cold and the rain, so we were nervous. We rode cautiously so not to crash since Marcela had crashed the day before. The idea was to finish today’s race healthy and in good form.”
The GC remains tight heading into the decisive time trial. Gontova has a lead of only 14 seconds ahead of Prieto, and close to a minute over Villamizar. Both Blue Ridge Twenty24 and DNA Pro Cycling are nipping at their heels, all within striking distance ahead of the TT.
Stage 3 – Route 66 Time Trial for Women
The first rider out of the start house on Friday will roll down the ramp at 10:30 AM PDT.
Top Photo – AJ August (Hot Tubes Development Cycling) takes surprising win at Oak Glen.
Photos: Brian Hodes / VeloImages