Amidst a season of firsts, the Redlands Bicycle Classic is likely to stand as one of the most memorable for the Pacific Premier Bank Cycling Team. From the opening stage, the boys knew they had their work cut out for them. Every rise, dip, and descent, presented a new challenge. A swarm of bees to navigate during the opening stage Time Trial. Unusually high temperatures combined with sharp, steep ascents on day two. Incredible speeds, presented in a seemingly new form during the stage 3 Highland Circuit. And a crash for the team’s youngest rider, a crash that occurred even before the race had begun.
For the more accomplished, there were other challenges. As luck would have it, the team’s most experienced rider, Ian Holt, would miss the race completely due to a run-in with a tree a few weeks earlier in New Mexico. Luck, it seems, will always find it’s way into the bike race equation.
Hailed the breakout rider of this year’s Classic by retired Pro Frankie Andreau, Pacific Premier’s James Piccoli, who had crashed out of the race in 2016 during the stage 4 downtown criterium, was forced out of the bike race in the final stage of 2017 after luck drove his rear derailleur through his spokes, ripping it from his bike. Piccoli, who was moving off the front of the dwindling pack at the time of the incident, was sitting 5th overall with less than 30 miles remaining. The race caravan should have been just behind, with James’ spare bike waiting seconds away. But on this day, as luck would have it, the organizers had disallowed the caravan due to safety concerns on the narrow circuit.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Ironically the team’s one and only finisher would come in the form of 22 year old rider Anthony Fitch. Residing just 30 miles west of Redlands in the town of Glendora, the local rider’s form was in serious question just a few months earlier when he failed to finish the team’s first race of the year, Valley of the Sun. At VOS, he was the only rider from the team who failed to finish.
Amidst a season of firsts, the challenges and lessons to be learned come thick and fast. Training tweaks, recovery routines, dietary adjustments, race scheduling, travel, equipment selection, just to name a few. The reality that adversity is the plight of the competitive cyclist, a familiar lesson reconfirmed.
But the greatest lesson of all? Perhaps it is that much like the weather, which can shift from blistering heat to freezing rain in just a few days, as it did during this year’s Redlands Bicycle Classic, luck is certain to change.