It was a cloudy Sunday afternoon in downtown Redlands and everything was still and quiet. From the start line, I looked past a sea of helmet-less heads down the road to the blue official’s car and beyond to the hazy gray mountains in the distance. The last few notes of a beautiful and soulful Star Spangled Banner echoed off the buildings. A very strange stillness ensued broken by a starters pistol. The quiet was swallowed by 150 cleats clicking into pedals for the start of the final stage of the Redlands Classic.
This week in California has flown by. I usually judge my time in one place by the circumference that my clothes reach around my suitcase; the more time I have been there, the wider the circle grows. Sunday morning, my clothes were everywhere, Thursday’s time trial was a distant, painful memory, and I had completely forgotten Wednesday’s school visit. The team performed fantastic all week – starting with Joey’s 4th place in the time trial and ending with Ty’s 4th place on the final stage. We walked away with 3rd place in the team classification (which takes the cumulative time from the top 3 finishers for each team for each day).
For myself though, Redlands was a bit of a shock to the system. Part of me knew it would be. Friday’s 120 mile road race around Beaumont left me crippled and dehydrated, finishing two and a half minutes behind the leaders and barely able to walk up the stairs to my room. Saturday’s crit was positive – I felt good, raced up front, and helped Joey stay out of trouble. And lastly, Sunday’s Sunset Loop. Things were going well until my front wheel ran into the rider next to it in the race to stay up front. In mere seconds I found myself off the back of the entire race, straddling my top tube, attempting to clip back into my pedals, adrenaline preventing me from thinking straight and doing so. I calmed myself and joined the rear of the field as the race began to splinter over the hard part of the course. Any chance of helping my teammates evaporated and I rode on in anger. 30 minutes had elapsed since the starters pistol sounded. Two hours later, I was still riding. I hadn’t expected to even make it an hour before being pulled, but here I was, still on course. The group I was with had swelled and shrunk as we picked up dropped riders and shed some of our own. Finally, with 3 laps left, officials pulled us so that the front group wouldn’t catch us. 3 laps left of 12.
This years trip was very different from last years, but one thing stayed the same: our host family. Roger and Cathy’s house is located about a mile from downtown Redlands. Its got a big front porch with rocking chairs, plenty of bed space upstairs, a large dining table (important), and a 40 tree orange/grapefruit/lemon grove out back including a hummingbird nest in one. A hot tub on the back patio, a few guitars and a keyboard for Ty and Oscar who will seize any opportunity to play some music.
Thats it. Nothing really interesting or crazy happened. Just another race in California. Every morning I would wake up, walk over to the team espresso machine filled with 10 Speed Coffee of course, eat some of Brian’s granola with greek yogurt and get ready to go train or go race.
Two days before the time trial, everyone piled into the team vehicles and drove to Big Bear to recon the new time trial course. Roger had promised that it was ‘all downhill back to Redlands’ so after, we all hopped onto our road bikes only to find that it was a ten mile climb out of Big Bear before the downhill began! Why not just stop climbing and get into the car? A climb with no descent is like decaf coffee. Pointless. At one point on the descent, I thought I had a flat so I pulled over only to find nothing was wrong. Just being cautious I suppose. Thomas, following behind in the car, began pacing me back to the group, eventually hitting 60 miles an hour! WOOOOOO. So much for the cautiousness.
Rides were followed by more eating and some massage and acupuncture. Naps, making orange juice, interwebbing, Normatec, I found myself solving Sudokus and KenKens most afternoons. Next thing you know, it was dinner time and back to the table for more eating.
After the final stage, Roger and Cathy threw the team a cookout on the back patio. This year the next door neighbors brought over homemade pies and cookies. As if we hadn’t eaten enough all week, Roger made sure everyone had at least two hamburgers and a heaping spoonful of beans. Robin left early in order to make class the following morning and everyone slowly went inside until it was just a handful of us left with Ty back on the guitar, singing a song dedicated to our soigneur Cari’s dog. The moment was bittersweet; partly because Ty was leaving for a stint in Europe with the National team and partly because I found out that the beautiful rendition of the National Anthem at the start that morning had been a recording. Total moment killer.