The Redlands Bicycle Classic in Southern California is shaking things up for its 29th edition, which will run April 4-7 with four stages over four days, including a new opening time trial course at elevation.
The longer, flatter time trial at Big Bear Lake about 64 km northeast of downtown Redlands will replace the 4.9 km uphill Highland Avenue prologue course that has marked the start of USA Cycling's National Race Calendar for the past several years. The stage race will also move for the first time from the end of March to the first week in April.
The 12.7 km opening salvo, which will be a stage rather than a prologue, will take place in the relatively thin air of Big Bear's 2,060 meters of elevation. The out-and-back course will start at the East Boat Ramp on the lake's north shore and head west toward the turnaround in Fawnskin. From there it will head back to the start/finish after taking a brief deviation onto a side road.
“It's a little technical, and there's a little bit of up and down on it,” Redlands race director Eric Reiser told Cyclingnews. “There are some corners there that you have to slow down for, there's no ifs, ands or buts about it, there's no way to take them at speed. But I don't think it's long enough that it will give a huge advantage to anybody.”
The change from prologue to stage will also shake things up for some of the teams and their support riders.
“As it's not a prologue, it will also count for other things like team classification,” Reiser said. “That changes the dynamics for some of those teams that are totally backing one guy, but the team needs to show what they can do, too. And as a stage, there will be a time cut.”
The start at Big Bear is the result of the race organizers' desire for change combined with the local organizing committee's desire to have another cycling event after missing out on hosting a stage of the Amgen Tour of California this year.
“We were contacted by the Big Bear local organizing committee that helped bring the Tour of California there last year,” Reiser said. “They were interested in bringing some kind of cycling event to the community this year, just to keep awareness alive. So that was a good fit. We were looking for something different, and they have a venue up there.”
The remaining Redlands stages will mirror last year's event, won by Kenda/5-Hour Energy's Phil Gaimon and TIBCO-To the Top's Megan Guarnier. The Beaumont Road Race will follow the opening time trial on Friday, April 5, backed by the Downtown Redlands Criterium on Saturday and the traditional Sunset Road Race to close things out on Sunday.
The recent announcement of a newly signed presenting sponsor, the Manuel Band of Mission Indians, also helped put to rest rumors that the race was in danger of being downsized or canceled this year. Redlands Bicycle Classic President Dan Rendler told the Redlands Press-Enterprise that the sponsorship deal is allowing the race to continue.
“It's allowing us to have the race, quite candidly,” he told the Press-Enterprise. “Their sponsorship is quite critical for us to put on the event.”
Earlier this month, the City of Redlands also announced it would waive fees for providing services to the race, including emergency workers, traffic-marking devices and and the use of a parking structure. The amount of the waiver is about $39,500, according to a report in the Press-Enterprise.
Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar told Cyclingnews that the city views itself as a partner of the non-profit Redlands Bicycle Classic committee and considers the in-kind contributions a sponsorship.
“We're telling them that we're comfortable as a community picking up those costs for the activity because we feel we derive cultural as well as financial benefits from those visitors and participants who come here,” Aguilar said.
The Redlands Bicycle Classic is the second-oldest stage race in the US; only the 31-year-old Cascade Cycling Classic in Oregon has been around longer. Thurlow Rogers won the first Redlands Bicycle Classic in 1985 when the city initiated and owned the event. Linda Brenneman won the first women's race in 1993.