For the third straight year the Pacific Premier Bank Cycling Team competed in the 5-day Redlands Bicycle Classic. The 35th edition of the race, often referred to as the race “where Champions are born,” began Wednesday March 13th and completed on Sunday March 17th.
Representing Pacific Premier Bank for the race were Omar and Reyes Aguilera, James Hilyer, John Jantz, Gabriel Mendez, Barry Miller, and Vitor Schizzi.
In the opening stage, a 7 mile Individual Time Trial, it was John Jantz from Boston, MA finishing 71st for a team best time of 16:58 cracking the top half of the list of more than 150 starters. Just 7 seconds behind Jantz was James Hilyer who finished 79th on the day.
Stage 2 was a 58 mile contest consisting of 20 laps around the city of Highland featuring a daunting climb on each go-round. When an early attack from Pacific Premier’s Vitor Schizzi failed to blossom, the team settled in for a sprint finish. Finishing atop the final climb, 23 year old Hilyer showed off his explosive finish securing the team a top 20 on the day.
Day 3’s Yucaipa road race would be a day for the climbers, finishing in the town of Oak Glen nestled in the nearby foothills. Before making the ascent the group would navigate 6 laps of a very challenging circuit in Yucaipa for a total stage length of 90 miles.
A big pile-up on lap 2 involving nearly every team in the race forced Pacific Premier Bank riders Barry Miller and Vitor Schizzi on the defensive requiring them to chase for more than 20 miles before eventually rejoining the group. Schizzi, who required a post crash bike change, would eventually be forced out of the race. Unfortunately more trouble for the team lay ahead when John Jantz crashed with 3 laps remaining. With a slew of flat tires keeping the support car busy and another crash involving Pacific Premier Bank’s Gabriel Mendez adding to the confusion, it was starting to feel as though it was not going to be the team’s day.
As the peloton began jockeying for position in the final kilometers before reaching the final climb of the day, Omar Aguilera, one of just 2 riders from the team who had avoided the day’s bad luck, put in a huge effort for climber Miller propelling him towards the front of the field. The work paid off when Miller crossed the line 9th at the finish in Oak Glen turning a day of misfortune into one of celebration.
Stage 4, the Downtown Redlands Criterium, provided 90 minutes of intense action for spectators as riders dove in and out of the 12 corners required to navigate the 1-mile course. Two massive crashes, both of which involved Pacific Premier Bank riders, caused rare race stoppages before the final laps of the stage. After the final restart the race was on for a massive sprint finish and again it was Hilyer finding a top 20 finish (17th) on the stage.
Heading into the fifth and final day on the infamous Sunset Loop, the team would again look to Hilyer and Miller to score in both the finale and overall GC.
With Miller holding 17th in the overall race standings there was much excitement when an early break containing Miller began to distance themselves from the group. With a total of 94 miles on the menu the move wasn’t given much breathing room and was eventually brought back by the chasing field with a half dozen laps remaining.
In the final laps of the event and with the group dwindling to less than 35 riders, the two remaining Pacific Premier teammates rode patiently awaiting the finish. In the final meters of the event again it was Hilyer coming in strong for an 11th place in the stage. The result was both his best finish of the week and the team’s best ever finish in the final stage. Miller would also climb to 15th overall capping of the best Redlands Classic ever for Pacific Premier Bank.