This year’s Redlands Bicycle Classic concluded its 31st year in 2015 with one major observation in looking ahead. There will be a 32nd year – April 6-10. Two of the stages will be on Highland roads.

Good for them.

Cycling is still suffering from a major black eye dating back to the Lance Armstrong years – he wasn’t the only one doping, by the way. Who knows if the public still holds the sport hostage on that one?

But the Classic still attracts a ton of downtown spectators for its weekend finales – Saturday’s criterium and Sunday’s Sunset road race.

The Classic wants more attention. Some ideas:

• Billboards prominently and strategically placed – Pomona, Victorville, Murrieta/Temecula, Corona, Anaheim, among other spots – along Interstate 10, 15, 215 and maybe even Highway 111 that runs through most Coachella Valley high points.

• Aligning itself with NASCAR. There may be nothing more identifiable and huge than those million-dollar stock car racing machines. Do that and you’ll get some attention.

Classic President Bob Peppler, who’s been at this for a few years now, recalled meeting with two-time legend – both NASCAR and NFL – the late Les Richter when connecting to run a couple of stages at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana over a decade ago. It’d make a great story.

• TV and radio spots. Can the Classic afford such high profile visibility?

• Aligning itself with the mega-event Tour of California won’t work. That’s completely a money-making enterprise while the Redlands Classic works just the opposite – seeking goodwill and assistance from the cycling community.

Racers roll in here, race, create fan-friendly interaction, visit schools, compete, sweat, put on a great show for those who care, and move on to the next city.

One racer, Yucaipa’s Brian McCulloch, says the biggest difference between Redlands and most other races of this type is this:

“In other cities,” he says, “the cycling community puts on the races. In Redlands, it’s the non-cycling community that puts it on.”

The Classic has lasted since 1985 because of that.

You’d think Southern California press would be knocking down doors to come and cover. Not quite.

A few area newspapers try to stay away from covering the Classic – an event with national and international champions, Olympians, Tour de France regulars, among others.

SoCal press, which knocks itself out while reporting a trade of minor league pitching prospects, will ignore a once-a-year spectacle.

That’s right. They stay away. Intentionally.

Editors disappear. It’s too big a story. Too much going on. You cover three things and miss two, you look bad.

Years ago, one area sports department assigned its staff, literally, to cover the race by drawing straws.

If that writer’s name came up again the next year, they’d protest. “I covered it last year.” Usually, that was enough to duck it.

Other writers beg off assignments.

They’d rather cover a flower show. Or write a restaurant review. You know, an easy assignment.

This race has so many stories to tell.

No journalist, of course, worth his paycheck wants to be caught dead in the middle of a marketing scheme. In many respects, that’s exactly what the Classic really is – it’s a look-at-me self-stylized tribute.

That sounds really bad, I know, except for this: Attracting attention is kind of the point.

I want to know:

Who are these athletes? Some of their backgrounds are phenomenal.

Why hasn’t Redlands-Highland-Beaumont-Yucaipa area produced any nationally-prominent cyclists?

Cyclists stay with host families. Imagine the stories from all that.

How much this thing really costs to put on.

Is this taxpayer expense?

What is the Classic paying the police for its patrol?

Who’s coming up with these race courses?

How do you shut down streets, avenues, rural roads to properly run a bike race?

Check out those mechanics that fix bikes in record time.

Final question: How do you ignore the biggest stories about this area’s biggest spectacle?

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