HIGHLAND, California (April 12, 2023) — Marlies Mejias stormed to victory to open the Redlands Cycling Classic for Virginia’s Blue Ridge Twenty24 in Highland. The race is celebrating one of the largest women’s fields in over a decade, with close to 130 riders in the peloton.
The Cuban sprint sensation is racing her first Redlands, with a special fan that waited at the finish line – her 3-year old daughter. Alia Shafi finished not far behind for second after animating the race alongside her teammate, Kathleen Abadie who notched enough QOM points to earn the first QOM jersey. Marcela Prieto of Patobike crossed for third.
“It’s my first time racing Redlands, but I am happy,” Mejias said. “We will see what will happen tomorrow.”
Mejias let her legs do most of the talking as she heads into the Queen stage tomorrow in yellow. Long-time Virginia’s Blue Ridge Director, Nicola Cranmer was proud with the team stealing the opening stage.
“We actually have a lot of cards to play,” Cranmer said. “Today Mejias was feeling good. It wasn’t without the hurdles coming into this – her daughter got really sick the last two weeks, so it was a really stressful buildup. After the win, you may have seen her, she was sobbing for quite a few minutes…she puts a lot of pressure on herself but always pulls out a result. The team rode great, we’re really happy to be back at Redlands. I’ve missed it for a few years.”
From the start, crossing the finish for kilometer zero, the field was anxious not to let anyone escape. All the big teams were represented on the front, with both Fount Cycling and Patobike seeking to animate the race. With 10 laps remaining, ROXO Racing decided it was time to make their move. Climbing sensation, Emily Marcolini moved to the front, hitting the Baseline climb as one by one, riders were losing contact in the back of the field. Her pace ended up splitting the field into several groups, creating a slight advantage with roughly 15 riders at the front of the race.
“It was really hard,” Former WorldTour rider and teammate Emily Newsom said at the finish. “Those last few laps were made a little extra hard with my super climber teammate, Emily Marcolini. Part of me wanted to be like – stop it! I’m dying! Todays was not necessarily a make it or break it day.”
Only a few laps remained when a slight touch of wheels send several at the head of the race crashing to the pavement, including Marcolini. Luckily, the riders involved were all able to get up and continue racing. Marcolini was at the finish with blood trickling down her elbow, though happy with the team’s performance this first stage. The Canadian is racing her first stage race since suffering a concussion at the Vuelta a Colombia last summer, prematurely ending her 2022 season.
“I was really nervous coming into it but I’m starting to settle in and everything was going well,” Marcolini said. “This happened [crashing), but that’s part of bike racing. The team is awesome; we have lots of cards to play tomorrow. We’ll evaluate our situation coming into tomorrow and formulate a plan. I just love Oak Glen. We’ll have to see how I feel tomorrow but hopefully I can have a good one tomorrow.”
Marcolini finished over 5 minutes down, ending her GC ambitions. Roxo Racing had Maeghan Easler as their top finisher, ending up 8th on GC. Skylar Schneider was 4th on the stage for L39ion of Los Angeles making her Redlands debut, while Anet Barrera of DNA Pro Cycling finished just outside the top ten in 11th. The Mexican National TT Champion played a valuable role for her team, racing in her first role as the GC lead for DNA, eager to finish with a really strong result.