Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 Victorious at 2023 Redlands Bicycle Classic

April 18, 2023

Individual GC, Team GC, and Individual Time Trial podium sweep

ROANOKE, Virginia — April 18, 2023  /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 pro cycling team could not have written a better outcome for the 37th edition of the Redlands Bicycle Classic, presented by San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. After five stages, Emily Ehrlich stood atop the GC podium in the yellow jersey, with teammates Melisa Rollins in third, Laurel Quinones in fourth, and the VBR TWENTY24 squad brought home the Team GC overall win.

After 37 years, the Redlands Bicycle Classic continues to be the longest, continuously running invitational stage race in the country and is well known throughout the world. The race has hosted riders who have gone on to compete and win Olympic medals, Tour de France, and World Championships, and has certainly earned the tag line “Where Legends are Born.” This year’s event took place April 12-16 in the cities of Highland, Yucaipa, and Redlands, CA.

“Redlands was a real test to see what we could do as a team,” said Emily Ehrlich, 2023 Redlands Bicycle Classic GC Winner. “It was our biggest and most challenging race as a team so far. We set out with the expectations of learning to work as a team, communicate, and understand each other. Everybody performed exceptionally. We worked off of each other’s strengths, communicated concisely, worked for each other, dedicated and made sacrifices for each other. In the end our result was the culmination of excellent teamwork.”

“The race had an incredible atmosphere,” said Ehrlich. “Every day was a unique challenge that tested us to the limit in different ways. The courses were epic and the venues were high energy with so much community involvement. Redlands was a combination of everything that makes a race feel prestigious, memorable, fun and challenging. I’m very much looking forward to coming back next time!”

Virginia’s Blue Ridge (VBR) TWENTY24 arrived ready to kick-off their season with both experienced and newcomers to road racing, and it was the first time for these ladies to race together as a team. The seven-member roster for Redlands included Sophia Arreola Navarro, Emily Ehrlich, Caleigh Filmer, Marlies Mejias Garcia, Laurel Quinones, Melisa Rollins, and Nicole Steinmetz.

The five-day stage race began with the 41.3-mile City of Highland Circuit Race, where VBR TWENTY24’s Marlies Mejias Garcia took the win. Unrelenting team support from teammates Ehrlich, Rollins, Quinones, Arreola Navarro, Steinmetz, and Filmer was instrumental in Mejias Garcia crossing the finish line in first and claiming the first yellow jersey for the team. Ehrlich and Rollins also landed in the top 10, both just five seconds back from Mejias Garcia.

“”It’s my first time wearing a leader’s jersey for a stage race,” said Marlies Mejias Garcia. “I’ve done some stage races years ago but only to prepare for the track events, so having the jersey feels good. In this race, great teamwork is essential and each one contributes to achieve the final result. Our technical director is great. He values each point of view of each athlete and that is important in a team race, and it feels great to win because only people close to you know what we’ve been through to get there!”

Next up was the 61.8-mile City of Yucaipa Road Race, where Rollins and Quinones finished fifth and sixth respectively, and Ehrlich rounded out the top ten in tenth place for stage two. At the end of the second day, VBR TWENTY24 had three riders in the top ten for general classification—Rollins in fourth, Ehrlich in seventh, and Quinones in eighth.

“I’m so proud to have finished fifth on stage two of Redlands!” said Melisa Rollins. “It feels so rewarding to have finished well on such a hard day, and I’m taking away a lot of confidence. The whole team fought hard to have a few riders in contention at the bottom of the Oak Glen climb, and I feel lucky to have had the legs to deliver a top-five result.”

It was a podium sweep for VBR TWENTY24 on day three for the 9.1-mile Individual Time Trial—otherwise dubbed the “race of truth.” Ehrlich took the top step with a blistering pace of 20:10.2, with Rollins fifteen seconds back in second, and Quinones in third with a time of 20:39.4. The time trial is no stranger to the athletes and coaches who have come up through the TWENTY24 team over the course of their careers. The team was founded and is managed by Nicola Cranmer, also co-founder of KX3 Lifestyle + Coaching. Two of the three athletes on the time trial podium on Friday are coached by KX3 coaches—Kristin Armstrong (3x Olympic gold medalist in the time trial) and Emma White (Olympic Bronze medalist and 2020 World Champion in track team pursuit). At the conclusion of stage three, VBR TWENTY24 had three riders in the GC top five—Rollins in second, Ehrlich in third, and Quinones in fifth.

“I rode my heart out today for a win in the Redlands Time Trial,” said Ehrlich. “It feels fulfilling to leave it all out there for such a wonderful team. I couldn’t have even come close without all the brilliant support.”

The City of Redlands Criterium, 75 minutes on a 1-mile course, was fast and furious with a strong pace from the very start. The best in criterium racing show up for Redlands, and much relies on strategy, cohesive teamwork, and sometimes a little bit of luck to succeed in this discipline. There were favorites coming into the race, specifically the L39ION of Los Angeles team. VBR TWENTY24’s stellar teamwork and drive was unrelenting as Arreola Navarro, Mejias Garcia, Rollins, Filmer, Quinones, and Steinmetz helped shake things up and keep the pace in check for Ehrlich to once again land on the podium between two L39ION of Los Angeles riders, while taking back the yellow jersey in the general classification for the team. Ehrlich finished with the same time as race favorite, Skylar Schneider, and 42 seconds ahead of third place finisher, Samantha Schneider.

“The team stormed the castle in the criterium and got the yellow jersey back!” said Nicola Cranmer, VBR TWENTY24 General Manager. “Skylar made a solo move for several laps, then Emily countered with a giant solo move drilling it for 30 minutes on the front to take GC and extend the time as much as possible. With criterium racing her forte, Skylar took the win at the line, but it was really an epic day on the bike for Emily—I’m so proud of her grit and determination for this hard-fought podium and her overall performance at Redlands.”

Sunday’s Beaver Medical Group Sunset Road Race took the athletes on a grueling 68.1-mile road race, which includes four intermediate climber competitions on the legendary Sunset Loop. Athletes rode nine laps of the 6.5-mile Sunset Loop, with considerable climbing especially during the first 2.6 miles. It was pure teamwork that secured the GC yellow jersey for Ehrlich, while Mejias Garcia put the hammer down to finish on the podium in second place for the fifth and final stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

“I’m so incredibly proud of my teammates,” said Sofia Arreola Navarro. “What a fantastic week at Redlands—Emily with the GC win, VBR TWENTY24 with the Team GC win, and Marlies snagging a second place today on the Sunset Loop after helping Emily secure the leader’s jersey!”

“The team was extraordinary this week—we had a lot of unknowns, that’s the exciting thing about working with developing athletes as we don’t know where their potential plateaus are,” said Cranmer. “There is such strong cohesion amongst the team members and I largely attribute this to the constant communication and strategizing for Zwift Grand Prix and Zwift WTRL racing.”

Final General Classification:

  • 1st – Emily Ehrlich – Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24
  • 2nd – Marcela Prieto Castaneda – Pato Bike
  • 3rd – Melisa Rollins – Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24
  • 4th – Laurel Quinones – Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24
  • 5th – Shayna Powless – DNA Pro Cycling

Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 Results at 2023 Redlands Bicycle Classic:

Stage 1 – April 12 – City of Highland Circuit Race (41.3 miles)

  • 1st – Marlies Mejias Garcia
  • 6th – Emily Ehrlich
  • 9th – Melisa Rollins
  • 22nd – Laurel Quinones

Stage 2 – April 13 – City of Yucaipa Road Race (61.8 miles)

  • 5th – Melisa Rollins
  • 5th – Laurel Quinones
  • 10th – Emily Ehrlich

Stage 3 – April 14 – Individual Time Trial (9.1 miles)

  • 1st – Emily Ehrlich
  • 2nd – Melisa Rollins
  • 3rd – Laurel Quinones
  • 11th – Marlies Majies Garcia

Stage 4 – April 15 – City of Redlands Criterium (75 minutes on 1-mile course)

  • 2nd – Emily Ehrlich
  • 5th – Marlies Mejias Garcia
  • 6th – Sofia Arreola Navarro
  • 15th – Melisa Rollins

Stage 5 – April 16 – Beaver Medical Group Sunset Road Race (68.1 miles)

  • 2nd – Marlies Mejias Garcia
  • 9th – Emily Ehrlich
  • 10th – Melisa Rollins

For complete race results and more information, visit: http://redlandsclassic.com/

About Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24

When the team was formed in 2005, the goal was to create a pathway for athletes to the 2012 London Olympics. In 2009, the team’s name became TWENTY12, changing every four-year cycle, followed by TWENTY16, TWENTY20, and now TWENTY24, representing the Paris 2024 Olympics. The TWENTY24 program is responsible for developing many of the most successful American female cyclists to date. It has created opportunities for elite, junior development, and para-cycling athletes. TWENTY24 has established a consistent athlete talent pipeline for road and track cyclists and additionally provides opportunities for athletes who excel in the virtual world of Zwift eSports and the relatively new dynamic discipline of gravel racing. The team identifies and develops high-performance athletes and the next generation of competitive cyclists, and is committed to successfully aligning student-athletes with college scholarships through cycling and academics.

Key sponsors and partners of Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24 include Virginia’s Blue Ridge, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Felt Bicycles, Zwift, Berglund Automotive, Kenda Tires and Velotec.