Lined out at the start of Friday's Highland Circuit Race in order to position KOM leader Cullen Easter for one of the three intermediate climbers' points sprints on the day.
Editor's Note: Frequent RoadBikeReview contributor Dillon Caldwell is a first-year pro cyclist with the newly formed 303 Project UCI Continental team based in Boulder, Colorado. Throughout the 2018 racing season, he's sharing tales from his endeavors, providing a behind the scenes look at American professional bike racing.
Last week, our team made the trek out to Southern California for the 34th annual Redlands Bicycle Classic presented by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Despite a rocky start, with the opening stage being cancelled due to an overnight blizzard at Big Bear Lake, Redlands featured some spectacular weather and more than enough hard racing to make up for the lost day of competition.
Shocking the children with the number of granola bars consumed during a 4 hour road stage (hint: it's not five).
The 303 Project was off to a stellar start to the week, with Cullen Easter winning every King of the Mountains sprint out of the breakaway and his brother, teammate Griffin Easter, taking 6th place in the opening stage. We all worked our tails off to make both of these results come to fruition, and we made sure to do the same for the next three days in our best effort to hold onto these results. Despite letting the KOM jersey slip through our fingers on the final stage, we had a tremendous race, with Griffin holding on for a 6th place finish on general classification and a 2nd place finish on the final stage.
It was another tremendous race result for the team, but more importantly we had a great time and furthered the team's mission of community engagement. Between hosting community rides in the days leading up to the race, filming public service announcements with San Manuel, and doing school visits, our team left with a ton of new supporters and a lot of great memories.
Cullen (left) and Griffin (right) Easter were the team's top riders at the Redland's Bicycle Classic, and they were also runners up for the biggest smiles at the race.
The Redlands Bicycle Classic has a long-standing tradition of hosting school visits with the many professional athletes that come through this community just northeast of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. This year, the number of school visits at the RBC hit an all-time high, with teams visiting over 40 different schools across the region. Falling right in line with our team's mission, we made time to visit three elementary schools in the days leading up to competition, inspiring the students to live healthier lives and reach for their dreams.
My teammates Cristhian, Flavio, and I rolled into an amphitheater filled with cheering elementary students, impressing them with wheelies and bottle handoffs, but also conveying to them the importance of safety protocol in doing what we do. We each took turns discussing individual pieces of our race performance that apply to elementary school students just as well as they do to professional cyclists.
To perform at our best in whatever it is we choose to focus on, we told them, we need to set a foundation of healthy living with proper nutrition first. Eating a good breakfast, low in sugar and high in all those nutrients that keep us energized through the morning makes a huge difference in both race and test outcomes. Proper hydration, especially when the thermometer hits 95 degrees (as it did multiple times throughout last week's racing), can turn a terrible day into a personal best. Wearing a helmet on our ride, whether that be in the race, to the race sign-in, or simply to class, can save a life. Almost everyone on our team has cracked a helmet in impact at least once during our racing careers, and surely would have suffered severe injury had we not been protected.
Our team had a phenomenal race from start to finish, setting us up well for consistent results going into the summer racing season, in which we're excited to line up for our first Tour of Utah and first bouts of overseas UCI competition. But more importantly, we made a positive impact in the lives of many of the students in the Redlands area that may not otherwise get a chance to visualize what it might mean to be a professional athlete.
It's our hope that whether or not they choose to pursue cycling, or any other professional sport, they'll continue to think about the basics of healthy living and pursue more active, enjoyable lives as a result. We can't thank the RBC and San Manuel enough for the opportunity to engage the community here, beyond just the competition inside the barriers.
Take a look at the stage recap videos on our homepage for a closer look at the weekend's racing action: 303project.com