Up Base Line

Nearly 200 cyclists speed up Base Line in a tight peleton in the first few laps of the Highland circuit of the 2019 Redlands Bicycle Classic on Thursday, March 7.

Bad news up front: Don’t expect that Highland Circuit Race running through the area for 2021 Redlands Bicycle Classic.

Nothing’s been officially announced. Not yet, anyway. It’s probably coming. Hoping that, somehow, the event gets saved for next April. A Thursday night, Oct. 15, executive board meeting, along with members of the race classic committee, was on tap.

How can anyone expect this cycling event to come off with so many question marks?

President Marc Shaw will tell anyone within listening distance, “It’s not a bike race. It’s a community event.”

In order to have a community event, well, there’s got to be community involvement. All of that is on tentative grounds for one reason: COVID-19.

Here’s some evidence:

Pro racers show up at Redlands early enough to make visits to area elementary schools. Since that particular event is sponsored by Stater Bros., which has a strong community reputation, such a matchup of school visits and sponsorship might best wait until 2022.

In recent years, Dan Rendler, plus his wife Michelle, has doubled from 20 to 40 the number of school visits. (More on Dan Rendler a little later.)

The schools race? Saturday kids racing downtown. It would take an act of elementary humanitarianism to get that one rolling.

What if there’s still no school attendance? It would be nearly impossible to reach out for students to get signed up for that event.

If they’re not in school, pro riders’ visits won’t take place.

Like we said, it’s a community event. That’s just one part of it. 

Redlands could run a pro cycling event. Easily. They’ve got it down. All the connections. Expertise is there. Where this event committee makes its mark is the non-professional events.

Expo.

Para-racing.

Public races.

School races.

School visits.

We could go on.

Sponsors probably couldn’t tell you the difference between Cadel Evans and Brian McCullough, Jeanne Longo or Mara Abbott.

But they’ll spot the number of participants in all those other events.

Redlands Classic has to protect its sponsors. Highland is backyard to its key sponsors ⎯ Beaver Medical Clinic over on Orange, Stater Bros. in a few locations and, of course, San Manuel.

Beaver has been a keynote sponsor for years.

How would it look in these pandemic times for a health provider to be sponsoring a race while largely ignoring COVID-19 health hazards?

Yeah, right. I can’t see it, either.

The city’s relationship with the bike race has largely been amicable.

For years, the city has waived fees in order to pull off this community event/cycling race.

Take a deep breath. Cynics balk at public monies being spent on events like this. You want to run a public event? Go ahead. You’ll want fee waivers, too. Except your event won’t bring enough people to this city ⎯ hotels, motels, restaurants, stores and other businesses ⎯ to generate tax money back into city treasury accounts to pay back those fee waivers.

Permits? Any road used in the course of this race needs to pull permits ⎯ from city, county and state.

Costly? Will sponsors step up? Can they?

Can spectators converge at race day? Around the Highland course? To watch. To circulate around Redlands' Expo. To spend money, paying back those fee waivers. 

Plus this: If there’s a pandemic still in effect, we’d be certain to claim a hefty health hazard in all that midst.

Hefty health hazards? Try this one: One of the race’s well-known treasures to the cycling world is its homestay benefit. Does anyone want strangers sharing their homes with possible COVID-19 threats in the air?

That could get shaky.

Cycling teams on short budgets save a few hundred dollars alone in homestays. Redlands has always been celebrated for that.

Speaking of cycling teams? How are their own sponsorships going?

On the pro cycling scene, yes, they pulled off a 2020 Tour de France ⎯ better late than never, one supposes ⎯ but Paris-Roubaix 2020 was ultimately canceled.

That cobbled classic was set for Oct. 25 from its April 12 start date ⎯ gone.

Just like the 2020 Redlands Classic.

The vaunted committee probably needs to start thinking of 2022.

Speaking of Dan Rendler, consider that he’s apparently recovering nicely from a serious bicycle crash out on San Bernardino Avenue, close to the Loma Linda/Redlands city boundaries.

Rendler is a former Classic president. To hear other members of the committee share memories and stories about Rendler, you get the impression he’s as special to this race as anyone.

“He is, Obrey,” said Craig Kundig, a past race director in his own right, told me.

Since the Classic has a Carole King Sportsmanship Award plus a Legends Award ⎯ annual honors bestowed on a contributor and a cyclist ⎯ it’s a quick reminder to anyone that they’ve got their next nominee.

Something good has to come out of all this.

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