After wrapping up one of the longest running and most prestigious stage races in the US, the Redlands Bicycle Classic, we chatted with Elite rider Andrew Shimizu about his experiences at the race. Andrew is also a keen classic photographer, and all the accompanying photos were shot on his vintage Hasselblad large-format camera.

What stood out the most about this race?

The speed of the field and with the massive size of the peloton was something I had never experienced before. For the Highlands circuit, I was able to hold decent position from the start and be in the front 20 guys for most of the race, I imagine that if I had been struggling at the back like the day before I wouldn’t have made it more than a few laps. The fast technical section through the neighborhood definitely took some getting used to. On the first turn off the downhill we flew over a series of rain channels cut perpendicular across the road, those things were always a crapshoot in terms of timing and making sure you can bunny hop over each section without bottoming out. I must have seen at least 20 people’s water bottles eject out of their cages on this section, one poor guy ahead of me got caught in the crossfire and took a full bottle straight to the dome. He stayed upright, barely.   

What is the biggest difference between racing at the top of the NorCal amateur circuit and these national level Pro races?

The main difference I’d say would be the organization by the bigger teams and seeing them really exert their power to control the race. It was pretty amazing to watch Holowesko take the front from the and control the whole race ensuring that T.J. would stay safe in the yellow jersey.

Cyclists are generally weird, what was the strangest thing that happened on the trip?

I think stage races are special in that they raise the bar for all the weirdness usually accepted as a part of cycling. The amount of silliness from being cracked that is normally present around bike races is dragged out over a series of days and continually raised till seeing things like Brad Huff post-race in nothing but his bib shorts hiked up to the length of a speedo devouring watermelon in the sun glistening in sweat in a slightly erotic manner is just blasé. If you’re into the strange, stage races are the place to be.

Was there a race plan for each stage or was it really "just try not to get dropped"?

Each day we had realistic goals for how we wanted to perform knowing where we matched up compared to our competition, and we tried in earnest to influence the race in some manner. Our plan for the Highland circuit was to try to get some representation in the break and hold out for a decent finish. That being said, I think ole Bob Burns sums it up best when he says that even the ‘best laid schemes o’ mice an' men, Gang aft a-gley.” That Scots for saying “Redlands is really F@&%ing hard, and things rarely go to plan.” We weren’t able to get anyone in the break despite some solid efforts, but in the end Cameron was able to put out a hard fought top 30 result.   

Do you have any Redlands traditions?

This was my first time at Redlands but I’m gonna jump on the haircut bandwagon (sorry Roman) and make Wilson’s Classic Barber shop a staple of my stage race diet. More specifically getting cleaned up by Garay (pronounced Gare-ay) if not just for the spectacular conversation he provides. The man is truly one of a kind, and an amazing barber on top of it. If you’re ever in the area look him up, you won’t regret it.

What was the best stage for the team, and not necessarily because of the placing?

I’d have to say results wise we did our “best” at Highlands, the shorter duration but yet still challenging circuit suited us pretty well. But I think as a team, looking at the week as a whole and how we grew together and worked hard as a unit was really where we shined. We started off with a time trial in over 90 degree heat, and finished with the Sunset circuits in freezing hail and rain. We endured a whole season’s worth of hurt in 5 short days, and I think everyone did a stand up job representing the team as well as our sponsors. We laid everything we had on the table, we all did our best to respect the iconic status of Redlands by giving nothing short of 100%.

Any funny anecdotes from the weekend?

Too many to count and possibly too incriminating to write on here.

Domestic Pros often complain that world tour pros don't give them any respect, is the same true between domestic pros and amateurs?

I have seen this of lack of respect from domestic pros to amateurs in a lot of races, mostly just by the pros giving the cold shoulder or being “too cool.” But I’d be hard pressed to say that I saw much of this at Redlands. Most of the time people in the peloton were pretty friendly. Sure when the going got tough people were short with each other and there would be shouting, but for the most part it was a good vibe.  

You guys get to ride the best products the industry offers, did any of them standout in this race? 

Specialized Tarmac with Di2. Period. When your full body is cramping and shivering from hypothermia on the Sunset stage so much that there’s a steady stream of drool running from our mouth you can’t do anything about, you’ll thank god that you have electronic shifting that requires the most minimal effort to change gears.  

The easy to eat on the bike GU Energy products were a god send as well this week. When you’re pushing the pedals real hard and need to fuel your body but don’t have the time or the oxygen to chew down a fig newton which will likely cause you to choke, a sleeve of Gu chomps will give you the instant carbs to make it through another lap.

What's the next big race for the team?

For those of us in Sacramento the Tuesday night South River Ride is always a big goal for us. If you want to talk about legendary races, this is as real as it gets. But as far as USAC sanctioned races, Elite Nationals in late June and Cascade in July are the next big targets for us.