Erica Allar and Kristin Sanders are not only teammates, they are good friends who share a love for bike racing and if combined, would equal one wicked bike racer. But nobody (or very few) sprint like Erica and climb like Kristin. So here is how Redlands went down for Team Vera Bradley Foundation, from opposite ends of the spectrum:
Erica: Once upon a time I preferred bunch finishes; but with the New Year, new team (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) new teammates, new pretty-in-pink clothes and a few too many glasses of vino, I came up with the brilliant idea that I, like my teammate Sandeyors, am going to be a climber. And that is how I got to Redlands (realistically team VBF arrived via airplane) but after some heckling and “reassurance” that I was sure to love the event - I found myself landing at the Ontario airport for 4 days of fun!
Kristin: Once upon a time, many years ago, I arrived in Redlands for the first time and fell in love. I love the hard racing, the prologue, the climbing and I love the Sunset Loop. It takes no prodding, no poking and no wine to get me to a stage race. I seek them out and this year, with the new Team Vera Bradley Foundation, I felt more excited than ever. Plus this year, I’d get to race with my Homey, Erica. I knew she was nervous and I knew we would have fun. I hoped that I could help her through the Redlands initiation process.
Erica: Teammate Sanders (more formally known as Dion) has had a long term relationship with Redlands. I, on the other hand, have no relationship and first developed a ‘pen pal’ relationship with Redlands. I wrote letters to Redlands many times. I knew all about Redlands- my friends assured me I’d love it. (they lied) Team mates like Sanders and Powers may get goose bumps of excitement when they see the road go UP
Kristin: Only a few special people get to call me Dion and I’m fine with it; however, I never lied to Erica about Redlands (Sanders is speaking the truth, she didn’t). I told her it would be hard and that it would be good for her. I knew it would be hard for me too, but I also needed the work. I will admit that I do get goose bumps of excitement when the road goes up.
I live in Florida, pancake flat Florida, here my biggest climb is a bridge of the Intracoastal Waterway and my climbing prep includes repeats of this bridge…a lot of repeats…so many repeats I find it hard to keep count. Is a lap over and back? Or just over? Do I count laps like a swimming pool or do I count round-trip laps as if it’s a NASCAR oval? I digress, but suffice it to say that I had not done enough laps, no matter how you count them. Yet a real climb is something I only see when racing and I just get happy abut them every single time!
Erica: Oh ya, the whole “I’m going to be a climber” thing…that is not true. Hills are most definitely not something I look up to! I much prefer the fast, technical scary races that leave cyclists (LIKE ME) with questions of doubt in their minds as to why “we” do this to ourselves?
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about training your weaknesses but my gosh, teammate Kristin Sanders gets googly-eyed at the sight of hills. I get more, let’s say, cross-eyed! I’m pretty sure when we roomed together at Redlands she told me to attack on the hill in her sleep…Sanders? You there? Wake up…you climbers are crazy!
Kristin: I love it that Erica calls me a crazy hill climber! And I’m so happy she’s so eager to risk life and limb in a knock-down-drag-out crit. Yikes! Bumpin’ is racin’ applies to my NASCAR life! Erica thinks this saying works for bike racing and that’s exactly why she’s good at her job!
Erica: Now let me start with the TT. You start. You go up. You turn right. You go up. You go down and take a fast left turn. That portion was awesome. Then you go up. Go right. Go up. The point is that there is a whole lot of up in that 3.1 miles. Good thing I had my long sleeve skinsuit and aero helmet. I forgot my climbing legs that day but survived. Multiple teammates cracked the top 10 that day. Team Vera Bradley Foundation established their GC riders and moved onto Beaumont; which, in case you were wondering, had some hills, too!
Kristin: I’ve ridden this TT course so many times I can do it in my sleep…and I do. I visualize and time my ride out weeks, even months before race day. I know exactly how to ride the TT at Redlands, at least how I should ride it and I start preparing for it early in the year. I know how I’m going to warm up, when and where. I don’t like the trainer so I sought out a route through the beautiful neighborhoods of Redlands and I use it every year. I do like this TT, quite a bit. Question is always if it will like me. This year, not so much, but I felt good about my effort and prep as I’m sure both will come back two-fold later in the season.
Erica: Beaumont had a nice fast finish and a cool descent somewhere in that loop but um, there was some climbing too. Pow-Pow (Alison Powers) established the mountains jersey. We had 2 riders in the top 10 of GC. The team was sitting pretty in their pink and I crawled my way up the climbs.
Don’t forget the climb just after the first 5 miles of the race. Alex Rhodes (the “Aussie”) flatted within those first 5 miles of the RR, I flatted at the top of the hill. Hey, at least I made it to the top, right? ? Sanders was brining it up the climb when we saw each other.
She gave words of encouragement as she barely huffed a breath of difficulty and said “COME ON, Erica”…I say “I’ve got a flat”. No worries. Change wheel. Chase field down wicked descent. Find Sanders, tell her I’m back (no radios this year makes this task quite challenging!) I gasped for air and Kristin was still singing versus from Lady Gaga or something.
Next: attacks, cover, recover, attacks go, get feed go up hill, go down hill, get told there’s more hill (sigh) suffer up hill…wonder if Sanders can spare some oxygen? Sanders? Recover, finish loops…cover attacks and realize my race fitness is non-existent. Go cross-eyed at the thought of climbing more.
Kristin: Last year’s Beaumont stage with cross-wind descent on deep dish wheels still haunts me. It’s onE of the few moments in my bike racing career that I wished I weighted MORE! But with the added climb to this stage, one that I had done in a past Redlands infamous Oak Glen stage, I was very excited. The start was fast, all tail wind, and easy, however the peloton was a thirty-plus mph ball of nerves as the first climb came early. Positioning seemed to be everybody’s priority.
I’ve learned some patience over the years and at the last second, I followed (teammate Alison) Powers to a nice spot near the front on the protected side of the peloton, the perfect spot to start the climb. Erica was in there somewhere but I have to admit, I didn’t even look for her! This was the first climb of my season and in my mind, my turf. Game on- let’s go up!
Things did settle in a bit as the race developed and Team VBF handled the objectives for the day and we rode in safely and same time for all the GC contenders. I have to mention that Erica’s return to the peloton after the flat is quite impressive and I’m proud of her. She’s better at this road racing thing that she thinks, for sure.
Erica: The criterium was technical, fast and fun. Lots of corners and positioning skills are a must. The crit was the best part of Redlands. Alex made the break away and moved herself up in GC. It was a bit of a rough day for VBF. 30 minutes before the start of the crit, teammate Leah Goldstein was hit by a car and had to go to the hospital. We were all a bit shaken up but thankfully Sunset proved to be far more worthy for the team.
Kristin: The crit…yeah, ok, the worst part of Redlands. This is why I really like having Erica as my teammate. As much as I love flying around the course, this is HER turf! Our teammate Alexis rode like a champ, she is so smart and strong and I’m proud that she’s my teammate. She is “strong like bull,” as they say. She was definitely the hero for Team VBF for the day.
Leah’s accident weighed heavily on our minds, for sure, and after the crit, we were not only deflated by our racing but also deeply shaken and concerned for our teammate. Not a good day, in general, but I must repeat, Alex rode better than the rest of us combined. Hats off to her for that.
Erica: Sunset had a neutral which may or may not have been necessary. Once the car pulled off the peloton went speeding fast up the hill into the circuit. Immediately understanding I wasn’t going to be contesting the finish of this stage, I crossed my fingers Team VBF would make up for hope lost in the criterium.
Sanders was all about it and Alex, Robin and Alison worked very hard to regain some momentum in the overall GC. I watched the finish and was ecstatic to see Powers taking part in the sprint finish and to find out that Alex clawed her way into 3rd place overall in GC. Alison and Robin were 7th and 9th respectfully. It was a tough race but team VBF’s climbers grabbed Sunset by the horns and took charge.
It’s really exciting to be a part of a team that has a balance of skill and ability. And it was, in my opinion, the hilliest of the courses at Redlands and my least favorite Team VBF came out on top.
Kristin: Ahhhhh, the final day of Redlands, the day we raced my beloved Sunset Loop. I love this course so much that I have a route at home in Palm Beach that really doesn’t resemble Sunset at all, with the exception of big beautiful houses en route, that I now call it “my Sunset Loop.” FYI, my Sunset Loop at home is flat, but pretty and the road does curve around a bit…it’s a stretch, I know.
The real Sunset started off fast- real fast- as several teams led the charge up Cajon Blvd to the Loop itself. As soon as we hit the climb, the attacks started…and it seemed as though they never stopped…for nine laps. It was hard, and I didn’t ride per my usual, but I still loved it.
Erica: You will never hear me say “I am a climber” with any sense of sincerity to it. What I will say is that I learned a lot, got great experience and am proud to be a part of Team Vera Bradley Foundation. Leah’s accident shook us up but we came out on top (some of the girls came out on top of the hills- me, not so much!). We came home with a 3rd in Individual GC, 1st on Team GC win as well as Powers maintaining the Mountains Jersey. It was the first BIG race for the team and I feel it holds promise for the rest of the season.
PS-Dear Redlands, don’t worry I don’t hate you. You and I will be friends one year. Right now, I think you and I are simply acquaintances. Thanks for being nice to my teammates!
Kristin: Team VBF had a stellar day at Sunset, motivated to not feel again as we had the day before. In the end, my contribution wasn’t as I had hoped but the Team secured three spots in the top ten, the overall Best Team and the climber’s jersey. It was quite a team effort and a great start to our season.
One of my favorite things about this year’s edition of the Redlands Bicycle Classic will always be sitting in our host family’s freezing cold un-heated pool with my roommates Erica and Alison soaking our throbbing legs to aid in recovery. It was torture but peer pressure, and wanting to do the right thing, made us do it. Powers is a great leader and proved to be an awesome influence on me and Erica alike!
I think we all left Redlands with a lot of pride and joy from our successes, a little and heartbreak and a list of what needs to be done to prepare for our next races. Erica was a trooper, albeit a bit out of her element, but I, for one, was glad to have her there. She’s my friend and my teammate. She helped me tremendously and I believe her experience at Redlands helped her too. I guess we’ll have to stay tuned to see what race she’s writing pen pal letters to next. I’ll be again on my turf at the Tour of the Gila, she’ll be back on hers at the crit series so for now, on to the next…
About Team Vera Bradley Foundation:
The Vera Bradley Foundation was founded in 1998 by the owners of Vera Bradley, manufacturer of stylish quilted cotton handbags, luggage and accessories. To date, the Foundation has contributed $10 million to breast cancer research. More information about the Foundation is available at their website, www.verabradley.org.
Other sponsors include: Specialized Bicycle Components, SRAM, LOOK, Champion System, Michelin, Rolf Prima, Kurt Kinetic, Hudz, Qoleum, GT's Kombucha, PowerBar, Betwixt, Zealios, DeFeet, Dr. Vie Superfoods, Ninkasi Brewing Company, Nossa Familia Coffee, Showers Pass, Thule, The Jump Rope Store, Correct Toes, Wholesale Nutrition and Vibram Five Fingers. For more information on Team Vera Bradley Foundation, contact team director, Lisa Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org Or check us out on Twitter at and Facebook