The Redlands Bicycle Classic thundered into downtown last weekend. The area was a blur of spandex, carbon fibre, and colors as expensive bicycles whizzed past the start/finish line.
But the event is more than just a race. I knew that when I arrived and saw two little kids rock-climbing on a wall above the outdoor garage.
I also heard the strains of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” coming from a rock ‘n’ roll cover band. Yes, Redlands’ moveable feast is beyond racing. I knew it too when I got a whiff of the jumbo hot dogs and funnel cakes, and twisted taters for sale atop the parking garage.
There was also a booth dubbed “The Everything Cannabis Emporium.”
Had that been next to the truck peddling deep fried Oreos they really might have had something.
Eventually I found my way to the podium area where the top finishers go following their rides. I ducked inside an enclosure where race officials milled about and took a seat in the shade to observe.
The racers roared past and public address announcer Brad Sohner said, “If there’s a group of guys with more swagger than these six in front, we have not seen them yet.”
This was Stage 4 of the five-stage event. It’s known as the Redlands Criterium. Lisa Cordova won the women’s race and sang the city’s praises.
“I love it,” she said. “I used to live in Loma Linda. I went out to Smiley Elementary (during the week) and we did a visit with those kids. They were awesome. This town is so friendly. The race is so well organized, and the race is legendary. I love coming here.”
Then the men’s race was poised to start. Hundreds of racers on their expensive bikes crowded together like so many sardines in a tin can. Then they were off. Cameras clicked.
There was a long table to my right. On top I noticed a full container of Red Ropes. I’ve been trying to get more Red Dye 50 and citric acid into my diet, so I grabbed a handful.
About 90 minutes later, the men zoomed to the finish. Tyler Williams was the first across and Hugo Scala of Dallas, Texas, was third.
“I love it here,” Scala said. “This is probably my favorite race on the whole calendar. It was a big bummer that it wasn’t here for the past few years (due to the pandemic). The course and the loops we do are super iconic. The Sunset Loop is historical. It’s an honor to be able to race here.”
Scala also visited a school and spoke about bike safety and racing. Some of the students found their way to the race.
“They were cheering for our team,” Scala said. “They remembered some of our riders’ names and were cheering for us. That was super special.”
Then media relations guru Scott Welsh appeared. He said hello and apologized that the previous days results were posted so late. I agreed that it interrupted my strict regimen of lollygagging.
Welsh was ecstatic. “It’s fantastic – better than I imagined,” he said of the race. “The weather is beautiful, and the pandemic is over, and the town of Redlands was just ready to come out here and move about. We have the best athletes in the world, and food and beverage, and entertainment. It’s like the first garden party of the season.”