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Cycling Team

Redlands Bicycle Classic is a monumental goal for our team and a great chance to mix it up with some of the best pro talent around. This year we brought a beast of a squad down to play with the big boys. After all of us made the long drive down to SoCal and checked in with our awesome host houses, we got together for a little pre ride of the the Highland Circuit Race (Stage 1). We had our team meeting and discussed goals for the week to come and bedded down for the night.

Jared Kessler aka "The Shetland Pony" or just "Pony" looking for a nice spot of grass to bed down for the evening.

Jared Kessler aka "The Shetland Pony" or just "Pony" looking for a nice spot of grass to bed down for the evening.

I woke up for stage 1 with the dreaded phone call from my wife. My Boxer and first born child, Max, had passed away from a heart attack.

Max Rossi...faithful, obedient, loving, playful and always there for you.

Max Rossi...faithful, obedient, loving, playful and always there for you.

I held it together the best I could and carried on with the day. We lined up in Highland, California for our circuit race that promised to be interesting with a 120' 10%+ climb each lap...with 21 laps. Nothing too exciting happened. The most exciting part of the race was the ridiculous neutral start that culminated with us stopping in the middle of a neighborhood, waiting for a guy that mechanical-ed in the role out and dudes pissing in peoples front lawns...total shit show!! A break got away and stuck it for almost the entire race (Colin Daw Mike's Bikes Shout-out). I was happy to sit in as much as possible, but holding position into a the downhill 40 mph right hander, caused me some consternation. Luckily I had Jared glued to my wheel, speaking words of encouragement the entire race. With about 2 to go things got strung out. I went from a top 10 position to 120 in seconds...amazing how much jockeying goes on with 200 meatballs fighting for wheels. The race was strung out into the final climb and I dug deep to move up. I crossed the line safely in the main group...with what I thought was no time gaps. I was wrong. Apparently the officials missed some decimal points when they were counting time gaps...and split the entire lead group up. I lost 20 seconds. Max was just up the road with a 13 second time gap and the rest the team was just back with a few more seconds added to their day.

Day 2 was the Big Bear Time Trial that would promise to switch things up. It did...I was able to make up some time and put on the top amateur jersey after the race. It's a time trial, what else should I say. Highlights include 7000' elevation, technicality that almost caused me to crash multiple times (Jared told me that was good because it meant I was taking chances), perfect 50 degree crisp air and a mountain lake in the background.

Yup, that's our sponsor Zealios sunscreen I'm holding...It saves my ginger ass on a daily basis.

Yup, that's our sponsor Zealios sunscreen I'm holding...It saves my ginger ass on a daily basis.

Stage 3 was the Beaumont Road Race. 120 miles of pure hell. People say, it's not that hard, but this was my second go at it...and the 2 hardest races of my life have been Beaumont 2013 and 2014. We had a plan to keep me protected and allow Max some freedom to get up the road and maybe snip some KOM points. The first 2 laps were crazy...avg speed of 28 MPH. Constant attacking to get a break formed and every meatball in the race trying to chase it down. I had all my teammates serving and protecting me as if I was royalty...water, pulling in the wind, back rubs you name it. On lap 3 the break was established and Optum took over pace making which was like molasses for awhile. The break ballooned to 5:30 and I, along with many others were wondering if this was it. Lap 4 brought some interesting dynamics. The chase was now happening, meatballs were flying everywhere for position leading into the climb...and boom what happens...you know it...one meatball bounced off another meatball and went down hard. Luckily I have a knack for finding that 1 guy and managed to go directly into him. I went down with a pretty soft landing with my back on the ground and my legs towards the field of crashers. I leg pressed as hard as I could to prevent getting rolled on (this brought me back to my true meatball days when I was 220 lbs and stacked the leg press machine with all the weight possible and then made people stand on it as well). Either way I was unscathed. I got up fast and jumped on the bike...and my main man Jared "the pony" Kessler was pushing me to get going. This was about 3K before the climb so I went into time trial mode and caught on at the base. Luckily Art "butter smooth" Rand was there to pace me up the climb. I was good to go and back in the race. Unfortunately, Jon "Franken" Teeter, went down hard in the crash and had to limp home on the neutral bike. Fast side note; That guy rode his fucking ass off for me yesterday...very grateful. I found Max "Watts" Jenkins and told him to calm his buggy whips and to stay with me no matter what happens on the last climb. I was in a spot of bother. We crossed the start finish with 1 to go and the break was down to 2:30...wow 3 minutes in less than a lap...it was coming back. We motor paced into the final climb...so hard that no one had the ability to break away. I was on the very back of the final 30ish guys. I was yoyoing and had to yell at Max. He sat up and detached from the group to get me and slowly paced me back on. We made it back on and just hung in there until the finish...I had the stupid thought of attacking and thought better since we were just flying at that point. I finished safely in the group...no time gap and held the White Jersey.

I have never been happier with my teammates than yesterday. They all sacrificed themselves for me, and I am truly grateful. I literally cried like a little girl multiple times while racing. I don't think anyone noticed, but the loss of my dog, along with selflessness of my teammates made me a soft pile of mush. No need to test my T levels...but the estrogen is on full flow.
Author and team member JUSTIN ROSSI can be found breaking records on STRAVA and racing via USA Cycling license #298550.

Read all 58 Blog Posts by Justin Rossi


Reader Comments (1)

Must be nice to have a team full of fast guys that can also write. Great combination of humor and emotion. Sorry about your dog.

Apr 5 2014

Audrey Biehle says...


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