By Rikke Preisler -- Redlands Bicycle Classic *GC* (W1/2) -- 03/25/12

Redlands Bicycle Classic 2012

Day 1: 3.1-mile prologue ? uphill
Day 2: City of Beaumont Road Race ? 72 miles
Day 3: City of Redlands Criterium ? 60 minutes
Day 4: Sunset Road Race (really a circuit race) 62 miles

Team mates: Lisa Mueller, Ellen Sherrill, Amanda Siegle and guest riders: Peggy LeGrand, Heather Lipana, Michelle Melka, Bec Werner.

Redlands Bicycle Classic is one of the ?spring classics? of California races. Although I had heard about it a few times it hadn?t really crossed my mind that it would be a fun race to go to. The field is usually very tough and it is an NRC race which I usually in my mind classify as ?way above my head?.
Metromint had a team going this year with four of my team mate Metromints and four guest riders. While at Merco Omnium in the beginning of March, I was subject to heavy lobbyism and I crumbled under the peer pressure and was talked into racing at Redlands. I did some last minute ?Redlands training? by finding a couple of hills near my house that somewhat resembled the hills on the courses at Redlands. I rode the hills a couple of consecutive weekends and if only all the girls from the pro-teams had been riding around with me in Los Gatos it would have been almost like being at Redlands. Riding in Los Gatos was rather different from racing at Redlands, which went something like this:

Day 0
Most of the team drove down to Redlands on Tuesday but I arrived Wednesday afternoon as I couldn?t quite take enough time off from work. When I don?t race my bike or train, I work as a research biologist and fortunately that is a fairly flexible job. We were lucky to be placed in the host housing program at Redland so the eight of us stayed in three different houses, relatively near each other. I stayed with Peggy and Lisa in a small apartment that was in the back yard of Bill and Sandy?s (our hosts) house on a palm tree-lined boulevard near down town Redlands. Conveniently, we could ride from the house to all stages except for the Beaumont road race. That race was 15 miles east of Redlands, and we?d have to drive there. Getting there on day 2 turned out to be my worst drive to a race ever, but more on that later.

Day 1 ? 3.1-mile prologue
The prologue was an uphill 3.1-mile time trial. All of us rode our road bikes (some had clip on aero bars) because the course is so hilly that one would want to race a bike as light as possible. Now, if you?re on a pro-team I?m sure that your time trial bike weighs exactly the minimum 6.8 kg (15 lbs.) but if you?re on Metromint (and if you don?t have any UCI-striped clothing) your time-trial bike most likely weighs about the same as a freight train, in which case you?d rather race your 15-lb road bike. The prologue was fun and hard. I started right ahead of Emily Kachorek and I knew it was only a matter of time before she would pass me. I got through about half the course before that happened and then I tried to keep the distance between us constant for as long as possible. My 30-second rabbit was a former guest rider for Metromint, and of course I wanted to pass her. After being definitively dropped by Emily I was reasonably close to my rabbit on a rather steep section of the course (12-15% grade). She looked like she was struggling which was great motivation for me so I went by her with a few minutes to go. I wasn?t cross-eyed or throwing up when I passed the finish line, but that was probably only because the time trail was super short. In 13 minutes, the amount of damage one can do to oneself is after all limited. Bec was our top placing rider for the day and she bagged a nice 40th place in a field of 87. Of the 87 riders, about 70 of them were professional racers, and then there were 17 mere mortals like us. Bec?s 40th place got her one page 1 of the results, and I need to briefly explain the significance of ?page 1?. Last year, when I raced Valley of the Sun (VoS) year I walked with a friend to check the results of the time trial. My friend is a seasoned racer and I have learned a lot from her since I first started racing. At VoS, as we look at the results my friend is looking for her name and her only comment is ?well, if I?m not even on page 1 of the results, it doesn?t matter where I placed?. Do I need to mention that I was 4th to last and on page 2 (of 2)? Since then, one of my default goals for any race has been to be on page 1. I finished 57th in the prologue, and didn?t make it onto page 1 (yet) but Bec got herself a nice page 1 result. The prologue was won by Megan Guarnier (Tibco).

Day 2 ? 72 mile road race
As mentioned the road race was about a half-hour drive from our host house. We were to drive in my car and I was taking Lisa and Peggy, as I have a roomy car with a roof rack that fits three bikes. We get up in the morning, eat breakfast, drink coffee, pack the car and we are all ready to go at 7:28, two minutes early for our planned 7:30 departure. The weather looks nice and everything is well until I exit the driveway that has a wooden overhang between the house and the fence. As I slowly proceed we hear the worst cracking sound E.V.E.R. as I am ripping the entire roof rack off the car accompanied by the three attached carbon race bikes with expensive carbon race wheels. In terms of inflicting material damage on other people?s property, this felt like the worst moment of my life. As we get out of the car, all I can say is ?oh f***, oh f***, oh f***?. All Lisa can say is ?oh my God, oh my God? and Peggy, our SUPER hero of the day was simply calm and collected. Peggy is a nuclear scientist overseeing nuclear power generating systems for submarines so her disaster control skills and ability to handle any situation calmly was not a surprise although extremely impressive. All her skills came to very good use this Friday morning where I just attempted to destroy bikes worth thousands of dollars. All that went through my mind was that now we wouldn?t get to race, and we?d be out of the race before we had even started because Redlands is a stage race and one must finish each stage to start the next stage. And in order to finish it is somewhat important to be on the start line with a bike that works. The bike rack and the bikes were one big tangled mess but Peggy calmly directly us to untangle the mess, put everything in the car, and drive to the race where there most likely would be neutral bikes available if our bikes were completely smashed. We put everything in the car and I don?t think I need to explain that the 15-mile drive was very long and very quiet. I don?t feel like crying very often, but this morning I really wanted to cry. Lisa and Peggy were the NICEST team mates ever saying that it was OK, it was an accident and it happens. Wow! I?m not sure I would have taken it as nicely as they did. We get to the race and find the neutral support right away. A very friendly mechanic checks our bikes and miraculously, nothing major was broken and he was able to adjust the bikes in about 10 minutes and they were all in ready to race. Whether we were ready to race after such a start to the morning is debatable.

I guess I did get a 3 minute 40 sec warm up in before the gun went off and the road race was on. Despite the race being hard, it was quite a relief to race, as opposed to ripping roof racks off cars. The road race is a 24-mile loop. There is a very fast flat section, then a moderate climb through the suburbs of Beaumont, followed by a climb to a QOM in a park. After the climb one descends out of the parks and city streets brings one back to the city hall of Beaumont where the loop starts over. Unfortunately, Metromint had nothing but flats and mechanicals in this stage. Ellen got a flat 2 miles into the race. Melka flatted fairly early in the race too. Amanda, who was sitting comfortably mid-pack protected from the wind, managed to break her shifter and Bec, who was climbing comfortably with the lead group unfortunately flatted too. Ironically, the three bikes that fell to the ground from the roof of my car did not flat and did not break any parts in the road race. The QOMs separated riders from the main field on each lap, and although I couldn?t keep up with the lead group on the climb, I was fairly close and I managed to catch back on during the remains of lap 1 and lap 2 because the groups I got dropped with were big enough to chase. I knew I?d be in trouble on the third lap as well, so I simply climbed as fast as I could without blowing up, as I would need a considerable effort to get back to the finish with as little time lost as possible. In the end, I finished in the first group behind the main group of 28 riders with a time gap of 1 min 40 seconds. My placing for day 2 was 30th, and for the stage and in the GC I made it onto page 1. Peggy, Bec, and Lisa all made the time cuts too, but unfortunately the rest of our team was out after day 2. They all put up heroic fights despite major equipment malfunctions. The last two days of racing were, thank goodness, much less eventful and quite a bit of fun. After a long day, we went back to our houses to eat, rest, rehydrate, and recover before the criterium on day 3. The stage winner of the day was Lauren Rowney (Specialized lululemon).

Day 3 ? 60 min. City of Redlands Criterium
Saturday morning was a bit chilly and cloudy, and we went for a very easy spin to a coffee shop in downtown Redlands. The coffee shop was right next to the race course, and we got a chance to pre-ride the course and then enjoy a good cup of coffee. After pre-riding and coffee we went spinning for another 20 minutes before heading back to the house. I felt quite lethargic and exhausted but fortunately the crit wasn?t until 2:30 pm. I did nothing the rest of the morning but eat and lounge/nap on my bed. After 1.5 hrs. of zero activity I felt considerably better. We all rode to the crit where Amanda and Eric had parked in team parking, set up the Metromint tent, and set up our trainers making us feel like a pro-team. The crit course was somewhat similar to a figure eight shape with at least one turn of over 90 degrees. On a map, the course looked fairly intimidating but once the race was on it was actually a fun course. The crit was furiously fast! In fact, it was my fastest crit yet. All I wanted to do was survive to the next day without losing more time, and survive I did although it wasn?t very pretty. I wanted to stay out of trouble (=stay clear of crashes) and therefore I sat more in the wind than what was desirable. However, I stayed out of trouble (and there was a crash on the last lap) and managed to finish with the same time as the leaders. When I looked at my data after the crit, my heart rate looked like I had just done a 60 minute time trial. Ouch. Bec, Peggy, and Lisa all survived too, and GC standings didn?t change much overall. The stage winner of the day was Joelle Noumainville (Optum).

Day 4 ? 62 mile Sunset Road Race (circuit race).
The last day of Redlands was probably the best day because I was so overly excited that I had survived to this point. My primary goal for Redlands stage race was to be on the start line on the last day. If I achieved that my secondary goal was to be mid-field in the GC, and my tertiary goal was to be on page 1. The last race started in the same place as the crit, and there was a neutral promenade out to a 6-mile loop that was to be ridden nine times before heading back to the start/finish. I had heard rumors that the neutral start was just about as neutral as the neutral start of Hamilton road race (=NOT neutral at all ? in fact, people blow up and get dropped ? in that order). Of the 87 starters, only 62 of us had made it to the last day. We rode out to enter the loop and although it didn?t feel as relaxed as a neutral start, it wasn?t as bad as the start of Hamilton road race. However, what I did not know (but I do now know for next year) was that the real race on the last day is NOT to the finish line. The real race is to be in top 20 wheels once you enter the 6-mile loop that starts by a fire station. The top 25 girls to the fire station simply rode away from the rest of us merely 18 minutes into the race ? whaaaaat? Really? Yes! Really! OK, lesson learned for next year. Although our race was in reality over after 18 minutes, it wasn?t particularly easy but our group of 25 mostly stayed together for the rest of the race. We all got pulled with one lap to go?really? Yes! Really! They only let the top 25 girls actually finish the race. In the end, I finished 30th in the GC, which was the last place to collect prize money. Bec and Peggy worked their way onto page 1 and Lisa although willing to settle for lantern rouge (the last person to actually finish the race) moved up no less than nice places in the GC on the last day and she finished well above lantern rouge.

Huge, huge thanks to all the support from the most awesome team mates ever, and to the phenomenal Eric who busted his butt to support our team, working the feed zone, helping with bikes, setting up trainers and being the super hero of team support for the entire race. In the end, Redlands was an amazing experience and I might have to go back and race Redlands again next year now that I know the courses.