A few notes about last week’s Redlands Bicycle Classic:
There were plenty of places to park and plenty of wide-open spots to watch world-class bicycle racing take place last Thursday on Base Line.
Truth is, the numbers of racers seemed down this year — women’s racers were at around 90 with only a handful of professional teams. Any time Amber Neben shows up, there’s something special taking place.
The men’s portion had eight pro teams show up, about 160 total, with some up-and-coming cyclists ready to fire up on those $10,000 bikes.
Few locals care to watch; plus, area media isn’t all that interested. There was a NASCAR event in Fontana on Sunday. That’s always a spectacle.
It was quite a spectacle to watch Cory Lockwood, racing for first-year Semper Porro — a self-funded squad, incidentally — beat the living legs off every other rider in last Sunday’s final stage to claim the yellow jersey.
It was something to see.
Just when it looked as if the Hagens-Berman Axeon boys would cart off the heavy metal, Lockwood fired up on Sunday’s Sunset loop race.
Axeon’s Sean Quinn scored in the time trial and Highland circuit, but a cramp in the climb to Oak Glen resulted in 18-year-old teammate Kevin Vermaerke resuming the yellow jersey. Safely tucked into fray in Saturday’s criterium, Axeon suffered devastating losses on Sunday.
Defending champ Thomas Revard, plus Quinn, were caught up in a crash, which left Vermaerke and teammate Cole Davis alone on a vicious Sunset loop.
Plus, said Semper Porro rider Rex Roberts, “That team had done a lot of work all week riding on the front. They lost firepower.”
It was something to see. Lots of folks showed up in downtown Redlands to watch that race.
There are some interested cycle-watchers. Wildlife Generation team owner Leah Sturgis, a model and occasional actress, anted up a reported $120,000 to video-stream the weekend races to an apparently vast cycling audience — for free, in fact.
That was something to see.
Highland didn’t seem to want to watch. Sure, the kids from Beattie Middle School walked a block up to catch a glimpse, or two. Arroyo Verde Elementary kids probably snagged a discarded bottle, or two, from the passing cyclists.
Anything to get out of class, though, right?
There was something to see.
Axeon, though, had a stacked team. Or so we thought. When KHS Elevate’s Eder Frayre and Jordan Cheyne ran 2:03 into the Sunset finale, you’d have thought they’d have been clamoring for yellow.
No one could outgun Lockwood, who shared the lead with 17-year-old Quinn Simmons, the Sunset road race winner who also claimed both the red (climber’s) and green (sprinter’s) jersey.
That’s something you rarely see.
Then there’s Neben, always a sturdy contender. At age 44, Neben’s still got pep in her legs. It always seems like she shows up with a less-than-skilled team, while pro teams like Tibco, Rally, Hagens-Berman Supermint and Twenty20 are loaded with fully talented teams.
A world time trial champion and 3-time Redlands champion, Neben’s individual win at Crafton Hills College was predictable. By 24 seconds. Tibco’s Lauren Stephens was second. There was still plenty of racing left. Next up: Highland.
Highland’s onlookers probably didn’t spot Neben’s brainy play. She lost the race, but won the jersey. That’s the goal.
It’s also something to see.
While another teen sensation, 17-year-old Megan Jastrab, second in the Redlands Criterium as a 15-year-old a couple years back, won the Highland stage, few probably caught Neben’s consistent, solid and laid-back finish.
Holding onto the yellow jersey was strategy No. 1.
“I wouldn’t have gone for the stage win,” she said, “unless I didn’t have the yellow jersey.”
In Sunday’s Sunset finale, racing fans were treated to Stephens’ breakaway in hopes of breaking Neben’s 1:08 lead. It was great for fans to see an effort like that. Neben, at one point, was virtually trailing Stephens, who’d built a three-minute lead.
Stephens couldn’t maintain the pace. Neben’s consistent ride left her 39 seconds ahead. Fourth yellow jersey at Redlands, tied with Chris Horner.
There’s always something to see at the Redlands Bike Classic.