Redlands Bicycle Classic shakes things up for 2017 - Preview

The Redlands Bicycle Classic returns this week for its 33rd year with a new spot on the calendar and a reshuffled route.

The sixth stop on USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour, the five-day race starts May 3 and concludes May 7 with the iconic Sunset Loop Road Race. The new dates come almost a month after the traditional spot in April, providing a lead-up to the Amgen Women’s Race that starts May 11 in South Lake Tahoe.

The Route

Although all the stages remain the same as last year, organisers have shuffled the order by moving the Green Spot time trial from stage 3 in 2016 to the opening day this year, a move that will establish the general classification contenders earlier than normal and add a new dynamic when the peloton tackles the Yucaipa Road Race and its summit finish at Oak Glen on stage 2.

The roughly 11km out-and-back opening time trial gradually climbs to the turn-around before the fast run back to the finish. Axeon Hagens Berman’s Neilson Powless won the stage last year in the pouring rain, while Twenty16’s Kristen Armstrong took the women’s win on her way to overall victory.

The Yucaipa Road Race takes place on a 22.5km circuit with a moderate climb that comes early in the loop. The real challenge of the day comes when riders turn off the circuit in the finale and tackle the 15km climb to Oak Glen. Rally Cycling’s Sepp Kuss, riding for the Gateway Harley Davidson amateur team at the time, won the stage last year ahead of Lachlan Morton and Janier Acevedo. Mara Abbott won the women’s stage.

The Highland Circuit Race moves from its opening spot to stage 3 for 2017. The 4.5km suburban circuit features a fast descent and a short, steep climb to the finish on a wide boulevard. Ruben Campanioni won the race with a daring solo move last year, while Scotti Lechuga won the women’s stage with a dominating finishing kick.

The Downtown Redlands Criterium returns for the penultimate stage on Saturday evening, with the men’s and women’s pelotons competing on the familiar near-figure-eight course that features multiple technical corners. KHS-Maxxis rider Ulises Castillo won a crash-marred men’s finish last year, with Colavita-Bianchi's Lauretta Hanson taking the women’s win.

The 2017 race concludes with the Sunset Road Race, the notoriously difficult circuit race on a suburban loop that lacks any noticeable flat ground. The peloton starts in downtown Redlands before heading up to the tony Redlands neighborhood for the bulk of the racing.

The stage ends with multiple circuits of the criterium course from the night before. Armstrong held off all challengers on the Sunset Loop last year to take the overall win, while Silber Pro Cycling’s Matteo Dal-Cin [now with Rally Cycling – ed.] unseated Jamis rider Acevedo for the final general classification victory.

The Riders

The race’s move to May and its proximity to the Tour of California and Amgen Women’s Race, which start May 14 and May 11, respectively, impacted the start list for Redlands this year.

Among US Continental teams, only CCB Velotooler and Team Illuminate, both competing at the Tour d'Azerbaïdjan this week, are not sending squads. Dal-Cin will likely be competing with Rally at the Tour of California and is not on the roster for Redlands, while Armstrong retired after winning gold in the time trial at the Rio Olympics.

The big surprise among the 25-team men’s roster is the inclusion of UnitedHealthcare, a Pro Continental outfit that would normally be prohibited from racing non-UCI events like Redlands. However, the UCI and USA Cycling reached an agreement that will allow Pro Continental teams to race national calendar events, according to a UHC spokesman.

The women’s 14-team roster includes all the US-registered UCI teams except Cylance Pro Cycling and Team Illuminate.

As the sixth stop on the Pro Road Tour, series points and a possible change of leadership will be on the line. Rally’s Evan Huffman, who currently leads the men’s standings after winning the Tour of the Gila last month, will be saving his energy for the Tour of California and won’t be at Redlands.

Joe Martin Stage Race winner Ruth Winder (UnitedHealthcare) leads the women’s standings ahead of teammate and Tour of the Gila winner Tayer Wiles, with Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank’s Lauren Stephens in third.

Complete rosters for the men’s and women’s teams were not available as of Tuesday morning.

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