I flew out to Los Angeles Wednesday to ride the Redlands Stage race, Thursday through Sunday. I got a guest ride with the Equip Trek Team from Quebec, Canada. Thursday was a 5 km. uphill prologue TT. It’s a new course they’ve used only the last couple years. I didn’t have any expectations, but wanted to better my time from last year of 10:34. I thought I had good form, so I decided to change my normal uphill TT strategy of starting slow and finishing hard. I thought that if I wanted a “good” time I needed to ride the bottom portion of the course hard and hopefully have enough left to finish fast. That didn’t work out. I started hard and completely blew at 1km to go. I put it in a 27 in the back and crawled to the finish. I had 25 seconds to beat last year’s time at 200 meters and it took me nearly 45 seconds to get there. That is something close to 10mph for the last 200 meters. Unbelievable. What’s more unbelievable is that more than half the field could go up slower.
Friday was the Oak Glen Road Race. It’s a completely new course, but finishes on the same 10 km climb it has previously. They added a couple new climbs that looked hard on paper. A new 8 km climb at 70 miles that should of split up the field. The race started crazy. Attacks coming the first hour. Most of the time over 30mph. A 3 rider break got away after an hour or so. At around 50 miles, I took off with one other guy, hoping to start the first climb with a lead. We road pretty good for the next 40 minutes only to get caught at the turn off starting the climb. So, a 0 second lead with a bunch of energy expended. But, I did find out that I had pretty good legs. I didn’t have any trouble staying in the group up the climb. About half the field got shelled here. A few more attacks occured, some dirt road riding and fast descending. About 20 km out, just when it was starting to get interesting, I had a front flat. I stood there for a while and when the neutral Mavic support came to change the wheel, I told him he could take his time because there was a 0% chance I was going to get back on. I started riding and got into the very back of the caravan. Moving up the the caravan, I was in my 11 the whole time. A bunch of my buddies that I used to race with manage teams and drive the cars, so I got a lot of help the next 5 miles. Just enough to start the climb about 15 cars (400 meters) off the back of the huge field that was still together. I was in a bad situation. Make a huge effort to get on the back of the field and get shelled anyway or just bag it and ride easy. It wasn’t that hard of a decision. I shifted into my 27 again and crawled up the hill. But, it was by far the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had going up that climb. It was a little embarrassing having so many specatators yelling for me. But, that’s bike racing. I rode back to Redlands from the finish, so I got nearly 130 miles for the day. Redlands is great for early season form.
Saturday was the 90 minute “technical” criterium. I knew something was going to get away pretty early because BMC didn’t have the horsepower to control the race. I went for a couple early primes and after the first one I didn’t contest, a 5 man group rolled. They stayed away for the next hour. No teams controlled the field sprint. I finished 13th.
Finally, Sunday, the Sunset Road Race. It’s the hardest stage of Redlands in my opinion. 12 laps of a 10 km loop, plus a little extra riding to and from the loop. The lap is about 5 km up and 5 down. Nothing flat. It went hard from the gun. About half the field, nearly 100 guys, got shelled just riding up to the KOM, less than 10km into the race. I started near the back on the climb and was hurting pretty bad the first time up. The second lap I had better position, but a big group had formed off the front. 15 guys or so. The BMC guys had already lost half their team, so Scott only had 3 guys left. It was going to be a losing cause. I felt much better the 3 and 4 times up the climb. The main field got much smaller, but on the descent on the 4th lap, I hit a dip and my handlebars snaped off by the stem. I was going through a downhill corner going somewhere near 40mph I guess. It’s was pretty lucky I didn’t fall. By the time the first Mavic neutral support car with a bike on it came by, there wasn’t any reason to take support. I rode back up to the feed zone and stopped. I didn’t stay around for the end of the race, but looking at the results, it didn’t get any easier. I’m staying in San Diego this week and riding Indio Criterium on Saturday and Ojai on Sunday.