Redlands Bicycle Classic: Chaos averted at the finish in Oak Glen on stage 2
After catching the women's race, the men's race was neutralized for half an hour, but again the races came together at the finish.
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Freddy Ovett of L39ION of Los Angeles and Emily Marcolini of 3T/Q+M Cycling both crossed the finish nearly at the same time to climb into yellow for the second day of racing at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.
The City of Yucaipa Road Race began on a 14.1-mile circuit before turning up Oak Glen Road, for a 5.4-mile climb to the finish. The men raced 6 laps of the circuit while the women completed 4. It has often been a juggling act for race officials, having to time the racing gaps just right so that the men’s and women’s races do not collide with one another. It has not always worked out, and Thursday was no exception.
With 40 miles to go (60km) the officials opted to stop the men’s race. The women’s race continued on, while the men sought shade nearby to keep cool while they waited to restart. The wait would end up lasting just over a half-hour before they were asked to line up again, with a lap to go before heading up the finish climb.
“The reason why we stopped the race is that we got separated from our marshals, and weren’t able to contact them,” Jeff Wu explained, chief referee of the race. “We had to pull those marshals back to make sure the riders were protected.”
Once the race got going for the second time, they began catching stragglers from the women’s race. They made the turn up Oak Glen and were soon right alongside the women’s peloton. Caravans were side by side as the riders maneuvered their way safely through the cars, racing up to the finish. The lead men caught the women’s chase group and then within the final 500 meters, nearly caught Marcolini.
The men’s team Project Echelon had been animators of the race throughout the day, but missed reaching the podium in the end. Ovett praised their tactics for making the race hard, allowing him to make his move.
“Our goal was to control the race, give a clean run into the race finish. I think that was accomplished, regardless of the stop,” said Project Echelon team director Isaiah Newkirk.“The comms did a good job in telling us why we were stopping. We had the women coming up from behind to our field, they needed to be let through and we needed to give them a gap. It was a significant time, probably about 30-45 minutes. Mentally it was one of those things that you just have to remind yourself that nothing changes.
“The 15 minutes that was given for the field – it just wasn’t enough given the nature of what was going to happen in our race. We needed to close that gap. I’m not too worried about what happened today. That’s bike racing.”
“A situation arose and things were becoming too dangerous,” added Redlands Bicycle Classic race director Eric Reisner. “Safety of the riders is paramount, so the officials made the right call.”
VeloNews caught up with the women’s race, speaking with one of the team directors who requested not to be named.
“We didn’t stop, I think the riders got a little confused because the men were all stopped by where the women’s parking area was. They carried on, then it was just chaos going up Oak Glen. Both the men riding past the caravan on the left, with all the cars too, and then on the right, initially all the women were hugging the right side of the road. Eventually, we told them to go where it’s safest to ride. They went on the right side, and they asked, ‘on the same side as the men?’ ‘Yes! It’s your course, too!’ We told them.
“It was chaotic, but it finished. It’s just tricky driving a caravan up through a narrow canyon road with riders getting dropped and you have to pass them. But then you have another peloton and caravan on your left, you just had to be really careful.
“It would be nice to avoid it, but it was okay. Everybody just has to be safe.”
In the end, the front of the race was not affected and the winners were not impeded in any way.
Both Ovett and Marcolini were smiling, standing tall in their yellow leader’s jerseys on the podium, ready to defend them in the time trial on Friday.
“We added some more buffer time to try and not catch the women,” Wu added. “We just didn’t leave enough time. We tried but it just wasn’t enough.
“The story is the men were stopped, the women’s race passed them so the men were stopped for 30 minutes. The women passed them and then we added some more buffer time to try and not catch the women, we did add some buffer time between.
“I don’t know if we would have caught the women. We just didn’t leave enough time. We tried but it just wasn’t enough. The restart was on Oak Glen, near the parking area where we staged, right after that. Right after the turn onto Oak Glen, right on the circuit, that’s where we stopped it and that’s where we restarted.”