Being a part of the Amy D. Foundation’s Redlands Classic team is one of the highlights of my cycling career. The racing was some of the hardest I’ve done, the staff support was unending, the sponsors kept us set with gear, my teammates were something of a dream team, and most of all, it was an honor to be a part of such a fantastic organization. I had heard other riders rave about the program before I got a chance to be a part of it, and now I know why. Riding with Amy D.’s name our backs and top tubes brought a bit of extra motivation and inspired us all to race with an integrity that would honor her legacy. Both Des and Katheryn did an amazing job of keeping the many logistics straight while always having the perfect thing to say when any one of us needed encouragement. I learned so much from the racing, staff, and my teammates.

   For most of the team (including myself), Redlands was the biggest race we had ever done, and there was a steep learning curve. Lining up against many of the pros that I’d only ever read about or seen on race broadcasts was intimidating, to say the least, and I had to learn throughout the week that despite my being younger and less experienced, I still belonged in the group just as much as the next rider. Dressed as a united front, thanks to Pearl Izumi,we all had an extra boost of confidence. We were a team in spirit, and looking the part helped us know that we were taking on the race as a group, not just as individuals. By the last day, though I was still plenty nervous at the start, I had learned to count myself as being as qualified as the next rider to be racing in that field. Racing in a pack of 90 riders presented a constant battle for position,  which I had fun working on improving each day. It was hard to pick out anyone in such a large field, so I was glad that we had neon Lazer bullet helmets which made us the most visible riders both from inside the group and from the sidelines. My mom even told me she appreciated being able to spot them so easily on the live coverage. They were the unmistakable mark that I relied on to find my teammates during the race.

As far as the racing itself goes, it was hard, fast, and hot. The first day I stayed in the group all day and gave all that I had left (which didn’t turn out to be much) on the brutally long final climb. The next day, my legs were completely dead from the beginning. I thought I was going to get dropped in the (not so) neutral zone, so I was very happy just to make it past the timecut. After that day, we held the best amateur jersey which gave us all a sense of purpose. Day three was crit day and about 100 degrees, but my legs came back! I rode comfortably in the group getting some good positioning practice until I was caught behind a crash with about 15 minutes left. Unable to catch back onto the group after that, I was disappointed to be pulled but happy with how I was riding and to have made the time cut with ease. The final day of racing was the infamous Sunset Road Race loop. Another day with a brutal (not so) neutral zone had the group splitting up before we were even officially racing. CarboRocket drink mix kept us going through the 3.5+ hour race where the temperature never dropped below 95 degrees. It wasn’t one of those mixes that was “just tolerable enough”, it was actually really good! I loved the grape endurance drink! I am happy to have finished all 68 miles of the stage and was so proud at the finish to have completed Redlands Classic. It was eye-opening to see what it takes to compete at the top level of U.S. women’s stage racing and left me motivated to come back stronger next year. Through each long hot stage, I discovered things that I needed to improve on and enjoyed being able to work on them in a race setting the very next day. I learned so much from this race, and I know I am a much-improved rider because of it.

   My teammates were one of my highlights of the whole experience. I was nervous about a group of six riders who had never met coming together to form a cohesive team. It was so much better than I could have imagined. Despite our wide range of age, experience and abilities, everyone was ready to support each other as best as we could in whatever way possible. We each had struggles of our own, but when any one of us was down, the whole group rallied to support and encourage her. Our mentor rider (also my housemate), Amber, imparted so much wisdom to me.  She had good advice about everything from team contract negotiating, to car buying and breakfast eating, to the best ways to move up in the group. The example she set for all of us newbies paired with the bits of advice and encouragement she had for each of us really set a positive tone for the team. All of our grocery runs, ice cream stops, and coffee rides have left me with so many fun memories. Our Handlebar Mustache shirts and socks were sharp enough that we got solicited for a team picture at YogurtLand for their social media accounts. That’s right, we blew up the YogurtLand Yucaipa Instagram account. We looked that good. I love the random, fun, and unexpected experiences that bike racing always brings.

   The sponsors are who keep the Amy D. Foundation running so well, and I am so grateful for their support of such a fantastic organization. Not only that, but boy did they set us up well with race gear, casual clothes, nutrition, trainers, spare bikes, bike transportation. . . we had it all. A very sincere thank you to all the brands who have partnered with the Amy D. Foundation.

   I was ecstatic when I got the email that I had been selected to race Redlands with the Amy D. Foundation. If I had known what was in store for me, I would have been even more excited. It was such an honor to be a part of this program, and I am so excited to see the foundation continue to grow and give more women cyclists opportunities like these. If my experience was any indication, it’s going nowhere but up. The chances that it gives to female cyclists like myself trying to break through to the professional ranks are once in a career, and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it all. Thank you to Des, Katheryn, Dan, Scott, my teammates, and all of the sponsors for putting together such an excellent week of racing and organization as a whole. It was a wonderful week!

 

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