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The race after the race

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Amber Neben

Amber Neben (Image credit: Mitch Friedman)
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A pretty scene

A pretty scene (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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A group tries

A group tries (Image credit: Jon Devich)
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Amber Neben (SC Velo)

Amber Neben (SC Velo) (Image credit: Jon Devich)

Redlands Bicycle Classic - California, USA, March 24-26, 2006

The last day at Redlands brought the hardest course, the famed ‘Sunset Loop’. The circuit starts downtown on the crit course and then heads up through the neighborhood for a 10km loop that has some good climbing and descending. The women were scheduled to race 9 loops, based on the predicted pace, this would take about thre hours. The girls all asked to go back to the 12x25 and 12x27 cassettes for this race, as they sought to save the legs at every chance during this race.

The pre-race meeting was pretty simple: get ready, as there was a QOM on the first time up the climb, and then settle into a pace for a long day in the saddle. We were trying to preserve some individual GC positions and move up a little on the team GC.

The course requires that the feed vehicles all leave before the race starts to get up to the feed zone on the course. With all the girls set for the race, we popped in the van and headed up. When we got there a small gathering of team staff had already set up in place along side the road on this residential street. One resident even came out to offer us some freshly brewed coffee.

That's what I have to like best about this race; the community really embraces the event. While I was in the grocery store earlier in the day getting some snacks for a long day in the feed zone, a fellow shopper saw my team clothing and wished us luck on the stage. Even better is the host families that housed our athletes, they were awesome. One of our two families even held a neighborhood party during the race, as their house sits on the descending side of the Sunset Loop. Great people in Redlands.

Back to the race, or more correctly the race as seen from the feed zone. Note to all future potential team staff: when the day requires long periods stuck in the feed zone, remember to bring enough food to share with the other teams. This will always help to make you more popular. I brought chips and pretzels, but was jokingly lambasted for forgetting the bean dip.

We were setup across from T-Mobile [Bernard Kocis], Colavita [Tim, Doug Berner, Jim Williams], Victory [Mike Tamayo] and Lipton. Lots of time to catch up with all these boys and discuss the off-season. Bernard was pounding the chips, Lipton needed to borrow some drink mix halfway though the race, and Amber Neben’s husband needed a little help feeding his wife. Amber was off the front early and came through the feed zone each time looking for a bottle. Each time on the five feed laps, her husband Jason tried to hand her a bottle and it got dropped. I was a little higher in the feed zone, so a couple of times I passed a bottle up to Amber. After the race Jason said to me that it was going to be a hard drive home for him, as he missed all the handups. With Amber’s win, I hope that she went easier on him. I got in a few stories from Bernard about surfing in Oz while down there for the early season World Cups. Doug told me of the two engines that blew up in the Colavita van on the trip out to California...plenty going on to keep us busy between feeds.

Well, Amber pretty much shelled everyone in the race; her form looks good as she heads to Europe this week. Our girls all rode really well, above our expectations. Post race they were all pretty wasted, as the heat and the climbing took its toll. That and Amber’s killer pace. As soon as we got everyone cleaned up and headed back to the host housing, the real race was on! This is the race to the airport.

It always seems like the is are range of departure times on the Sunday of a race, and given any particular location [travel time to airport, packing bikes, post race awards and drug control] there's a good deal of stress to get everyone off. The post race hoopla quickly dissipates into the fastest paced period of the weekend. For me that meant back to the hotel to check on parts needs for Kelli Emmett who is going to the first MTB WC next week. Next was repack the trailer, get out travel cases for the other riders, and reassess equipment needs for the home training bikes. My phone rang in the middle of this and the Colavita boys, who were giving me a lift to Ontario Airport, moved the schedule up by one hour. I had exactly 15 minutes to shower and pack out my hotel room.

I had to turn over some of the bike wrangling duties to fellow staff and attend to my luggage. The Colavita team car pulled through the parking lot of the hotel just as I emerged from the room, still wet from the shower. Off to fight the traffic on I-10 and the airport awaits. I followed up on a few phone calls in the car and in a short 45 minutes I was at my gate awaiting my flight. I am pretty confident that I covered all my bases with the bike stuff; I hope everyone else got to their destination on time. Thanks to the Colavita women’s team for the lift, always good to have friends among the other teams. Next time I will remember the bean dip for the feed zone, sorry guys.

Next up the Ford Team heads to Sea Otter, then the NORBAs start in May. I hope to have some more things going on with the Women’s Development Programme as well, as this event is the first time that we matched development riders with an existing pro team. It was a really rewarding experience to work with these deserving athletes.

Finally, Redlands rocks. The race was a little shorter this year, but they promised that the Oak Glen stage would be back next year and that the race would be longer. The community in Redlands really gets behind the race and it really shows. What a great environment - I can’t wait till next year.

More soon,
Chris Davidson

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