Redlands Bicycle Classic Stage 2 & 3 Recap
The team had already spent three days together by the time it was Saturday and the start of the Stage 2 Criterium, so spirits were high before one of the hardest criteriums of the year.
Normally criteriums are stand alone races with a single winner, but when included in the stage race format and increasing the start list to just a hair under 200 riders, the dynamic changes completely. We knew that moving around on a technical course like the one in Downtown Redlands would be extremely difficult. We also knew that the general classification was close enough that the criterium would be important to stage hunters as well as overall contenders.
Andrew Goessling was feeling strong and it was his birthday so we knew he was capable of a great result for our team in the tight circuit. He is no rookie to fast criteriums and it showed early on as he could be counted among the front of the race on every lap early on.
Andrew fell victim to an untimely crash and needed to take a neutral service bicycle which allowed him to finish the race safely in the pack, but a top result was now out of the question as he gutted through soreness in his hip and shoulder on an unfamiliar bicycle.
When the race was finished, Ben Bertiger proved to be the highest placed Stage 17 Racing rider of the day finishing 60th out of 158 finishers. Ben has shown throughout the year that he is consistent and can be relied upon to be there for his team or to finish off a race for himself. At 18 years of age, we are very motivated by his progress.
The final stage of the race includes 12 laps around the infamous Sunset Loop just in the hills above Downtown Redlands. The team had only lost one rider, Adam Carr to a Stage 1 crash, going into the final stage of the race, which is a huge success for a team as small as ours. It is a testament to the character and determination of our riders.
With storm clouds brewing in the west, the race was giving riders mixed emotions as finishing the Redlands Classic is a great feat, however, with the attrition rate expected, it would not be an easy one. Sunday was Rudy Napolitano’s birthday, and a lot can be said for the motivation that comes from riding on your birthday, cyclists have always wanted to gift themselves a great ride on their personal day. Like Andrew the day before, Rudy looked to have the best legs today and set out to make a show for our team among the best the domestic circuit had to offer.
Slippery roads, crashes and ill-timed punctures forced Art Rand and Hunter Grove out of the race before they could make the time cut. Neither was injured and they were not the first victims of the Sunset Loop on the day, nor were they the last.
Ben Bertiger and Daniel Harm spent most of the day in the third group on the road with Daniel Katz following closely behind them in another chase group. Even after the first lap the race had blown up into selective groups. All three of our riders managed to make it eight laps around the loop before being asked to resign for the day. For their efforts their place in GC was secured because they had all reached the time cut.
Meanwhile, up the road, Rudy Napolitano was sitting comfortably in the second group on the road every lap through the feed zone. His group was so selective that it contained the days eventual stage and overall race winners as well as the green and red jerseys. The task of staying with the GC leaders proved too daunting once the main breakaway of the day was brought back into the fold and the GC contenders started attacking the yellow jersey.
Rudy made it 10 laps before being asked to resign, just two shy of being allowed to enter the finishing circuits in Downtown Redlands. Only 12 riders were left to fight for the stage finish at the end of the day; the rain and wind had take their toll on a field that only finished half of the races original 200 starters.
We could not be happier about our showing in our first NRC race as a new team. We brought almost our entire team into the last day of racing and finished five out of our eight riders. The experience gained by our young riders will be the most valuable asset for the future of this team and its members. Thank you to the cities of Redlands and Beaumont, race officials, race promoters, all of the volunteers and especially the fans who were there everyday to make this race an outstanding success for everyone involved. We will be back next year, if they will have us.