A weekend of race training turned out to be the best weekend of racing on U.S. soil yet for young Quinn Simmons.
The 17-year-old from Durango won the fifth and final stage at the Redlands Bicycle Classic professional road race in California. He entered Sunday’s 94.1-mile Sunset Road Race in the green jersey as the top sprinter, a jersey he earned with a valiant effort during Friday’s third stage. He held onto the jersey during Saturday’s downtown criterium in Redlands and kept it with his impressive performance Sunday.
Simmons, who was a guest rider for the Landis Cyclery/Trek Team out of Arizona in an effort to get in-race training before spring races in Europe, won Stage 5 in 3 hours, 39 minutes, 55 seconds. He finished four seconds ahead of 31-year-old Cory Lockwood of the Semper Porro team. Alexander Cowan of Floyd’s Pro Cycling was third, 2:17 behind Simmons.
The stage win came one day after Simmons finished seventh in the Redlands downtown criterium.
“The crit, we were close. We could have won that if we played it a little different,” Simmons said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “I went into the last day pretty motivated with a lot of tired people in the race, which suits me. I typically feel better as people get tired. I knew the course was a good one, and the last day had been the target going into the race. I knew if I was going to have a good day, it was going to come here, and to have it all come together finally was pretty good.”
The Redlands Bicycle Classic is part of this year’s USA Cycling Pro Road Tour. It started in 1985 and is the longest continuous professional stage race in the U.S. Known for hosting young talent, the race prides itself on being a place “where legends are born.” At only 17, Simmons’ star was born in road racing last season when he won the junior road race at Valley of the Sun to earn a place on the USA Cycling national team. He then put together strong junior results in European races before he returned to the U.S. and won the junior road race national championship one week removed from winning a pair of mountain bike national titles.
Simmons said Sunday’s stage win at Redlands was even better than his national championship ride a year ago, and the performance only added fuel to his passion for the road in his first season racing road full time.
“This is probably the biggest thing I’ve won in the U.S. I’d say even more so than nationals, partly because I’m still a junior and the other part because it’s Redlands,” Simmons said. “It’s such a big race that’s been around so many years. The Sunset race is probably the most famous stage of the race. To be able to do it there was pretty cool.
“This was the same weekend as mountain biking at Bonelli. It’s the first time in four years I haven’t been there, which was a little weird. At the same time, I’m having a lot more fun on the road than I did racing mountain bikes. I think it’s just a bigger world and there’s more opportunity to have a career. I want to do whatever I can to make that happen.”
Simmons, son of Holly and Scott Simmons, finished with 60 points in the sprinter competition to easily claim the green jersey at the end of the five-day event. Michael Hernandez of Aevolo was second with 39 points. Simmons won all three bonus sprint zones during Sunday’s final stage to claim 21 points on the day.
He also won the final climbing bonus section for another seven points. He finished with 25 climber points, tied with Kevin Vermaerke of Hagens Berman Axeon, and Simmons was awarded the red climber’s jersey at the end of the race.
“That was an accident, to be honest,” Simmons said. “I didn’t even know I had it until they announced my name for the podium. I was standing across the street and heard them calling me. I was definitely surprised, but to take two jerseys is obviously better than one. I’m pretty happy with it.”
Simmons finished 16th in the general classification standings with a five-stage total time of 11:22:27. That was 4:28 behind Lockwood’s winning time. Lockwood’s strong Sunday ride along with Simmons helped him claim the yellow jersey on the final day of racing, as he finished 1:25 ahead of Vermaerke for the overall title.
Fort Lewis College cyclist James Hilyer finished 27th in the GC, 8:23 back of Lockwood. Former FLC cyclist Griffin Easter was 55th, 22:46 back.
Amber Neben won the women’s race in 9:02:34, 39 seconds ahead of Lauren Stephens. FLC’s Charlotte Backus finished 50th, 1:07:56 behind Neben.
Simmons, who will turn 18 in May, will depart Sunday for Europe. He will represent the U.S. at the Junior Gent Wevelgem in Belgium and Ster van zuid Limburg in Holland, a pair of races he placed third in last year. He then will race Junior Paris-Roubaix, where he was seventh a year ago. Five of the six junior men going to Europe with USA Cycling are LUX Cycling Development Team riders. Simmons is one of them, and he hopes a strong team will help the U.S. land big results.
“The biggest thing that came out of the week was knowing that the form is good enough to be competitive,” Simmons said. “So much of racing in Europe is luck and seeing how it plays out. Knowing I have the legs to do it makes going over there a little less stressful, but there’s still a big job to do over there.”