Three currents ran through the Redlands 5 day stage race for me, the progression towards sickness, the battle for high scores in the Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man arcade at the host house, and just being able to finish each stage within the time cut.
Stage 1 was the one that made me most nervous. It was a 58-mile circuit race with a false flat leading into a short and very steep climb each 2.8 mile lap. Highland circuit was last raced in Redlands when Chris Horner won in 2003. Intimidating. I knew I had to make it a third of the way in to make time cut, but after I made it there, I kept going. Each lap wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be, so I just kept going until the last lap came around and I started to come off the back. I looked around and saw Fast Freddie and JJ Haedo and I didn’t feel quite as bad. The bad part for me was the rain. It was slick, but even worse, I always get sick after racing in the rain.
Stage 2 was the Big Bear time trial. 7 flat and curvy miles at over 7000 feet of elevation made for an interesting race, particularly on a road bike with clip on aero bars. The take away from that race was not being able to breathe. That and if I come back, I’ll figure out a TT bike for next year.
The Stage 3 Beaumont road race was 120 miles with 5 circuits. Each lap had 3 climbs, time cut was a significant worry for me. I took it bit by bit and once the pace settled after the first lap, I felt OK. After the third lap, I started thinking I could actually finish well. The fourth lap, Holloway and I went back for Coke and Red Bull, but the Comm car never seemed to send Gord up. Little did we know that they had kicked Gord out of the caravan for bumping the Jelly Belly team car and a and they didn’t tell us he was out. I really wanted a Coke, so I hung around for about a half lap, 12 miles. Holloway moved up, and right after that there was a big crash. I got caught behind and had to chase into the base of the climb. I was in the red when the group was closest and I never could catch. Luckily I ended up in a good chase with a couple Optum guys, Jamis and a few others. We made time cut, Gord got a $200 fine and then we moved on to getting ready for the crit.
The Stage 4 crit was our main goal. 9 corners with several tighter than 90 degrees, the course was fast, and meant for technical crit racers. I got stuck in the middle of the 200 rider field because riders lined up 45 minutes before the race in the heat. The goal was to protect Holloway in a bubble so he could safely conserve energy in the front of the race. Everyone did a great job of keeping him up there, except I was only up there for a couple laps. Making an outside pass through the final corner, a very short Hincapie rider flicked me out and my rear wheel hopped about 2 feet out. I came down hard on my seat, and the clamp slipped so that the nose of my seat dropped about 4 inches down. I lost about 100 spots as I bounced up and down on the seat trying to level it. Once it was level, I started moving up again only to have my chain drop. After moving through a huge field twice, I was cooked. I was also feeling the sinus issues that had begun the night before and I just hung in the rest of the race. Disappointing. Holloway and Anthony were just inside the top 15, and Holloway was third in the field sprint.
Stage 5, and the final day of Redlands, the Sunset Loop, is the hardest of all. It starts with 2 crit loops, does a 4 mile climb to the circuits, then riders complete 12 laps of a climbing heavy, twisty 5 mile circuit. Finally, the course heads back to town for 5 more crit laps. About 20 riders made the finishing group. It was exciting to watch; although, I would rather have been racing. Holloway and Dahlheim almost made the lead group into the fbishibg circuits. I fell back on the first climb when I couldn’t breathe; the med car rummaged for an inhaler and then shrugged their shoulders and drove away. It would have been fun to do at least one loop. I’m glad I was able to make it to the last stage, but it was a disappointing race overall. Not a good time to be sick.
On to Charlotte!