“No Longer Green at Redlands”
By Steven Davis
The 2014 Redlands Bicycle Classic celebrated their 30th year anniversary and I earned the chance to race this ‘Epic’ for the first time. Racing for KHS-Maxxis p/b JAKROO was an honor as well as a great experience. Where to begin?
First and foremost, I simply have to say ‘Thank You’. This was my second ever NRC (National Racing Calendar) race but first time on an actual team. When I say team, I want the emphasis to be on ‘team’. For those that might be unfamiliar with the ‘behind the scenes’, this sport is bloody impossible without a team. This extends from your actual teammates, to the director, managers, mechanics, soigneurs, and hosts for housing. The details behind the curtain are near unimaginable, and a special ‘thank you’ goes out to all those that make it possible for us to show up and race our bikes.
For their 30th edition, the Classic decided to add an extra day of racing with the famed Highland Circuit, stage 1. This stage of the race that has not been used in several years, and upped the amount of racing from 4 to 5 days. Even though I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, living in southern California now, I think it is okay for me to use the local vernacular in describing the course as Gnarly. It consisted of 20 laps on a 3 mile course. There was one climb on the course that was rumored to max out at a near 14% gradient. The race was moderately fast, fun, technical, and essentially a day that would begin a week-long war of attrition. Although most of the 200+ starters finished, it was enough to get a glimpse at how 5 days of quality racing would saturate the system.
Having never raced this event, I can tell you that I was mentally prepared going into the race, with thanks to my teammates and director. So much so, I can honestly say that I was a tad intimidated. I was told that sometimes just to finish the stages might take all the focus that one can muster. At this level, it is possible to feel a sense of accomplishment from just making it through. To be forthcoming, this was hard for me to accept. I am not quite sure that I have ever entered something to simply finish and I still do not like the idea of being contented by such an endeavour.
The Individual Time Trial Stage 2 was held at 7,000ft in the mountain of Big Bear. Fears of snow and ice overnight cleared with blue sky and crisp mountain air for the 7.8 mile fast and technical stage.
I can still remember moments during preparation in the winter for this event. On a hard ride at training camp we were 4 hours into the ride climbing Hwy 38 towards Big Bear. Paul Abrahams our team director pulled up beside me in the car and yelled, “This is when it happens at Beaumont! Everything you have done to this point, just gets you here. Now is when it matters”. These moments had me dreaming of making the front group, putting in a late surprise attack, allowing my teammates David Santos or Fabrizio Von Nacher to get a free ride, setting up the podium and an upset on the day.
Well, 4 months later, things change. Fitness ebbs and flows, injuries come and go, and team orders dictate your role for the day as we entered the Beaumont Road Race Stage 3. This stage covered 120 miles on a lap course which was exposed to the wind which punchy climbs and a KOM and sprint points to be contested each lap. I did my job to the best of my abilities and learned quite a great deal on the day. This was my first real experience riding in the caravan. To those that are unfamiliar with this, imagine 200 racers from 25 teams each team having a follow car. There are also officials on motorcycles, medical car, and three cars filled with race communications. The difference between the first placed rider in the group and the last follow car can be nearly a kilometer. Trying to weave in and out on a bicycle at speeds over what you might find hard to believe is a true test of character, skill, and willingness to compete.
The Downtown Redlands Criterium Stage 4 would host a fast and technical one mile event that had 9-turns. The race duration was 90 minutes with plenty of primes and sprint laps to be contested. I thought this course was a lot of fun and that the downtown Redlands organizers did an incredible job. So much so, that I now see myself going back to Redlands just to hang out! It was a great day for our teammate Fabrizio Von Nacher as he made the breakaway with the green jersey (best sprinter) rider. Our goal for the day was for him to earn the jersey and and he came very close, gathering as many sprint points as possible. Sadly for me, today I was merely pack fodder. I stayed mid-pack, tried conserving as much energy as possible, all awhile learning how to simply just become a better (technically) bike racer.
The Queen Stage of the event is the famed Sunset Loop, Stage 5. The stage included similar circuits of the criterium course and then we headed out of town to the arduous and unforgiving 6.5 mile Sunset Loop. We were to complete 12 circuits of the Sunset Loop then return to downtown Redlands for the finish of 5 more laps on the criterium course. This was certainly my favorite stage of the Redlands Classic. It boasted Single lane s-bend switchback roads with undulating ascents which forest-covered and protected on the way up. Once we crested the climb, it was barren and exposed at the top with varying degrees of pavement as we railed the adrenaline-spiking risk-taking descents. This race was one of attrition, focus, and will.
Sunset was another great teacher both physically and mentally. It also taught us what it means to be a teammate. David Santos, Fabrizio Von Nacher and our guest rider Timothy Rugg had all made the front group. Tim flatted and Dave being the friend, teammate, and guy that he is, gave his wheel to Tim. Tim was slightly higher placed overall and was pursuing the Best Amateur Jersey. David Santos had spent all off-season preparing for this race. With hours of training, commitment, focus, and sacrifices gave up his opportunity at a great result in the interest of doing what was right. I hope that when I am faced with a decision such as this, I too, can be unselfish and as instinctual as Dave’s actions.
Personally, I finished. Once again feeling contented with this is hard to grasp, but doing so will only help me in moving forward, and I can confidently say that I am better-prepared for success at Redlands in 2015. Over 200 of the Best cyclists in America started this race, with about 120 actually completing the event. Team KHS-Maxxis p/b JAKROO fought every second of the race and would have hoped for a better outcome, but I know we all got stronger as a team and are ready to continue the fight in 2014. Results will come and we are prepared!
The ‘thank you’ also extends to the race directors, promotors, and the community of Redlands who all went out of their way to make us feel welcomed. Teams, races, and riders come and go year after year. Being a part of something as special as The Redlands Classic and celebrating its’ 30th year, was an honor. Visiting multiple schools and talking about why we race and bike safety leading into the event was cool and even better was having those students cheer for us while racing is truly special.
Thank you KHS, Maxxis, JAKROO Custom Apparel, Serfas, Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, IRT Wheels, Xpedo, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Rennie & Associates, Q2, Bike Religion, Chamois Butter, WD-40 Bike, Bicycle Blue Book and the Management of IPA sports.
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