REDLANDS CLASSIC WOMEN: A WHO’S WHO OF FEMALE CYCLING

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Just take a glance at the past female champions at the 34-year-old Redlands Bicycle Classic.

Mara Abbott and Kristin Armstrong. Genevieve Jeanson and Lyne Bessette. Judith Arndt and Ino Yono Teutenberg. Don’t forget Amber Neben, Mari Holden or Ruth Winder, either.

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A typical pose for 2016 Redlands Bicycle Classic champion Kristin Armstrong, who has three Olympic gold medals for winning the time trials (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

It’s not 34 years for the women, by the way. Women’s racing didn’t join the Redlands Classic lineup until the early 1990s.

That glance at the overall Redlands Bicycle Classic championship lineup is a Hall of Fame list, a stunning one, to say the least.

Name the gal and, chances are, she’s raced at Redlands.

Holden, along with Jeanson and Bessette, a pair of Canadians, are just part of the list. Multiple Olympic gold medalist Armstrong signed off on a brilliant career by winning the 2016 RBC.

Throw in Neben and Abbott – great climbers, racers and mountain cyclists.

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For Amber Neben, a two-time Redlands Bicycle Classic champion, she has been a multiple national and international time trials champion while showing form on a time trials bike like this (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Until this year, 2018, purses haven’t been the same for women as they are for men at Redlands. Is it shorter races, perhaps?

Some of racing’s most powerful female cyclists have shown up to beat the RBC field.

Some, like Jeanson, were caught doping – and penalized. She was never disqualified from Redlands, however.

Since Redlands officials did not erase its own histories – no one seemed to test positive locally – Jeanson goes down as a two-time champion.

She beat Kimberly Bruckner one year.

A year later, the great German champion, Judith Arndt, beat the sensational Jeanson.

But Jeanson returned a year later to edge Bessette, her countrywoman.

But Bessette, in 2004, got Jeanson back in another 1-2 finish.

Don’t leave out Jeanne Golay, who proved superior in a variety of events. The 1994 RBC champion was a national criterium champion, national time trial champion, plus a three-time national road racing champion – with plenty of overseas success.

Then there was French Olympian Jeanne Longo.

Perhaps past her prime in showing up at RBC, or maybe she just wasn’t on form, the remarkable Longo was a multiple world champion in both road racing and time trials. She won a few national titles as well.

As for the Olympics – second in 1996 Atlanta time trials, third at Sydney 2000, 10th in the Athens 2004 road race, fourth in the Beijing 2008 time trials – Longo had no podium finishes at Redlands.

Another European, however, Germany’s Ino Yono Teutenberg, deserves prominent RBC mention.

A two-time Olympian, who retired in 2013, racked up more than 200 triumphs over 15 racing seasons. Count Redlands, in 2009, among those victories, beating multiple RBC champion Neben by one second.

Teutenberg raced for the dominant Saturn Cycling Team, from 2001 to 2003, where she and her teammates – Arndt, Petra Rossner, Bessette and Bruckner, among others, rode together to some fairly legendary results.

As for the Olympics, Redlands paid the price to host the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials at which eventual 2005 Redlands champion Christine Thorburn won her way to Athens.

Ruth Winder, the 2017 RBC champion, is only 23. She’s bound for the European classics with a new team, Sunweb. Winder probably hasn’t yet scratched the surface of her cycling future.

As the new cyclists head off to promising careers, the older cyclists have wound down.

Armstrong (no relation to Lance, incidentally), for instance.

There were a few Redlands podium spots for Armstrong, the USA Olympian who won gold medals for the time trials in 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and in the 2016 games.

Third overall to Bessette and Jeanson in 2008, Armstrong came to Redlands in 2016 in preparation for the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Her lone Redlands stage victory turned out to be at Highland. Chasing her all the way to the end was Neben, a three-time RBC champion, along with the remarkable Abbott.

Mara Abbott
Mara Abbott, a Redlands Bicycle Classic champion, was considered the greatest women’s climber in the world during her lengthy career (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Armstrong beat an injured Abbott (broken collarbone) by 32 seconds.

A few months later in Brazil, she won her third Olympic gold medal.