The Redlands Bicycle Classic in California is one of the premier early season road races in the U.S., attracting some of the top teams from across North America, as well as international riders from Australia, South America and Europe.
Whistler's Will Routley, riding for Team Jelly Belly presented by Kenda, had the ride of his life, winning one stage and placing third in the general classification.
In the prologue on the first day, March 25, Australian sprinter Ben Day of the Fly V Australia team took an early lead of more than two seconds on a five kilometre course. Routley's teammates Carter Jones and Kiel Reijnen were second and third respectively. Routley was a solid seventh, 18 seconds back of Day's time and five seconds back of the top five.
Routley won the following day's first stage, a circuit race around the City of Beaumont. He got into a breakaway with a few teammates and they worked together to put Routley out front at the finish.
"The whole Jelly Belly presented by Kenda team rode exceptionally well in the prologue, which put us in a good position going into the road race," said Routley by email. "It was a 172-kilometre day, and basically all I had to do was stay safe all day and attack on the final climb at about the four hour mark. I got away with two others, and three of us just blasted the final 10 kilometres to the finish.
"I was second on this exact same stage last year, and had that final corner in the back of my mind for the last 12 months. So I knew exactly where and when to sprint, and fortunately had the legs."
Routley finished the tough stage in four hours, 13 minutes and 21 seconds, pulling within a second of Day, who held onto the leader's jersey.
Routley then played it safe in the 45 km criterium the next day and although he was officially ranked 30 th there was no time difference between the lead rider and the pack, which allowed him to hold onto third in the general classification and stay competitive on the last stage - a hilly course considered among the toughest in the North American Elite Road Cycling circuit.
The final stage was 94.1 km road and Routley again managed to stay close enough to the leader to finish with no time difference. That maintained his third place in the final general classification.
Routley wound up just two seconds back of Benjamin Day, while his teammates Kiel Reynen and Carter Jones were fourth and fifth in the general classification - both one second back of Routley.
"This was both my first win at a race of that level and first podium in the overall GC at a race of that level. Pretty great start to the year," said Routley.
The Jelly Belly team boarded a flight to Thailand almost immediately after the race.
"I stood on the podium for third overall GC and got sprayed in the eyes with Champagne (it stings), then burned home, had a shower and jumped in the car (Los Angeles airport) to catch a 15.5 hour flight at midnight," wrote Routley. "This was followed by two more flights, and before we knew it we're in southeast Asia. It is hot!"
Jelly Belly will be racing in the six-day Tour of Thailand from April 1 to 9 against a field of 25 international teams. After that it's the Tour of Korea from April 22 to May 2, and then the Tour of California, from May 16 to 23.