Chris Winn: Ramblings From The Road


01 April 2012


It's funny how places can conjure up memories in your mind as soon as you return to them and start seeing familiar sights.  In the days leading up to the Redlands Classic, riding the different stages I couldn't help but smile and feel excitement from thoughts about 12 months prior.   At that point I had just come from an Australian summer full of warm weather training combined with tough racing, and the Classic was the first big objective with Team V Australia. Featuring four very unique and difficult stages, Redlands is the traditional kick off to the NRC calendar and as always there are plenty of riders chomping at the bit to try and stand on that tallest podium step.  Including me.

After the slight detour that San Dimas gave me, Redlands was a new week and another chance for doing what I love the most which is racing my bike.  Settling in with the Juwi Solar guys was a blast, and as predicted the 6 of us Colorado based lads got along like Vegemite and cheese.  Once again the cycling community came together and we were hosted by a brilliant couple in the small town of Banning which located outside of Redlands but was closest to the Beaumont stage.  This was perfect as that particular stage was the earliest start time of 9am!  Frank and Michele had never hosted a cycling team before but being local to the area they had witnessed the race many times and were keen to get involved in 2012.  Before I start to talk about the racing action, I want to extend a huge thanks to them both for their hospitality and we hope you enjoyed the experience as much as we did.  Not to mention they were both a whiz in the kitchen and kept us well fueled.  I think bicycle riders and people who love to cook get along fantastically!

So the Redlands TT is quite the funky affair.  Time trial or road bike I've seen both do well, and this year I was on the latter.  Either way my only goal for the stage was to beat my time from last year.  To be honest I had a funny race on a course that is tricky to judge your pacing.  At sub 10 minutes there is only one stretch where you can settle in for perhaps 3 of those, before finishing with a steep berg that flattens then kicks again to the line.  Quite the sting in the tail if you go too deep and are shot with 500m to go.  Either way I achieved the goal of going faster than last year, knocking 25sec of my time.  My team mate Julian (and honorary Australian) smoked all but one guy in the field with a crushing second place.  This gave the Juwi Solar team some exciting racing ahead to help defend a podium position.

My recollection from the Beaumont stage in 2011 was a long, hot and nasty affair, with temperatures creeping over the 100F mark (for you metric system readers that's bloody hot) and I still have a photo of a semi cracked looking author post stage that somewhat scares me.  This year the mercury was a little cooler and with 192km on tap feeding was going to be important.  Our previous hosts for a few nights Jeff and Andre more than willingly stuck their hand up and fired up the Vovlo for caravan duties.  Thanks guys!  For first timers on the job we were all thankful of being car number two in the caravan although I think we still may have been subject to a few fines from the commissars!  Much like last year this stage proved to be a difficult one for me, dropping off the front group (which still contained Julian thankfully) and finishing a minute or so down.  At least the commute home was short.

After a nice 1.5hr roll Saturday morning, the third stage was the fast and furious down town criterium.  Perhaps one of the more technical crits on the calendar (for a stage race at least), I was pretty happy to see some sections of the roads had been completely redone with hot mix.  Sometimes riding in the bunch with 190 other guys can get tough enough, so when there are good roads it's one less thing to worry about!  The main aim for the team was clear as with no sprinters the plan was to keep everyone safe and not lose any time going into the final day.  Unfortunately this didn't go as smoothly as we'd hoped, losing Nick to an early crash with a nearby rider clipping his pedal.  Although his front brake was ripped clean from the fork, it's a true testament to how strong his bamboo bikes are as it survived without a crack!  After a sneaky dinner out it was early to bed before the final showdown on the Sunset Loop and my favorite stage of the Classic.

Of all the stages last year, I have the fondest memories of the Sunset Loop.  After a long uphill drag out of downtown Redlands, the course then winds over 12 laps featuring another equally difficult climb and a plunging descent.  With 150 still left in the peloton and bunch positioning very much key, it was clearly a bun fight from the gun.  Unfortunately I got caught behind an uphill crash (!) right before the entering the loops which sent me back a little further than I'd hoped.  Either way, once the road turned skywards my legs just didn't want to come out and play.  Some day's in cycling you're the hammer, the other you're the nail, and for that particular day I was the latter.  It was then just a matter of hanging in as long as possible and making the best of the situation.  To make it even more interesting, as predicted the skies opened up and the temperatures plummeted and all of a sudden things, well,  turned a shade apocalyptic!  Very much reminiscent of the San Dimas road stage the weekend prior soon enough I was soaked to the bone and the walls were closing in.  Unfortunately I have a pretty low cold weather tolerance threshold if I don't have the right clothing on, and it's always a wild ride when your arms shake so much it's hard to steer the bike!  My much needed pre packed rain bag with jacket, vest and warm gloves never made it up to the feed zone and soon enough it was day done.  To give you an idea, last year around 40 odd riders (including myself) made it to the finishing circuits before the cut off line.  This year it was closer to 15.  But such is bike racing and I'm already looking forward to what adventures the next one will bring.

So I'm typing this now back home in sunny Colorado and I have to say this first week back has been a real treat.  I've built up my new Scott Foil (more on that soon) and the sun is shining and the air is warm.  This was not the Colorado I left three weeks prior!  I'm fact I'm just fizzing over the whole spring-time action here, with the trees breaking out and the birds making a racket in the trees causing Henry and Wilson to go crazy. Time to get amongst it and go ride.

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