Updated: Mar 22, 2019
After the hectic sprint finish of the Highland Circuit race, the team had to change gears and ready themselves for the infamous summit finish on Oak Glen, an 8.5-kilometer climb with an average gradient of 6 percent.
To get to that summit finish, however, the team would have to traverse 6 laps of the Yucaipa Road Race circuit, a rolling 23-kilometer loop around the town to the east of Redlands, from which the course gets its namesake.
The day proved a game of positioning throughout the course of the circuit laps. The team wanted to prioritize keeping Sam Boardman as sheltered as possible to keep him fresh going into the finishing climb. Between him and moving up to a podium-position in the general classification was only 17 seconds, and every extra percentage point of energy saved would be crucial on Oak Glen.
Crosswinds sapped those out of position going into the last sections of the climb on the circuit lap each time they went through, but the team worked well to keep Sam out of the wind and behind a teammate as much as possible.
The first few laps would follow a familiar script: a break of 8 would get up the road consisting of riders low on the GC totem pole, allowing the peloton to relax a little bit while the leader's team, Hagens Berman Axeon, took up pacemaking at the front.
In the 5th lap, a large crash on the back sections of the course, past Sand Canyon and Crafton Hills College, would see Ryan Jastrab hit the deck. Despite the severe road rash, he would get up and continue the race, spending the rest of the day trying to chase back onto the group, working against the clock to make time cut.
The yellow jersey would be among those caught in the pile-up, which forced a slow-down and a subsequent increase in the time-gap between the main group and the break. But as soon as the leader made his way back, it was full-gas to the final left-hand turn going into Oak Glen. Finn Gullickson worked hard to position Sam in the group and out of the wind and was last teammate out in the front before popping off, his job complete.
Sam would ride a high and steady tempo in an attempt to save matches that would be burned in the first accelerations on the climb. He picked off riders as the hill progressed, but still finished 1:25 down from the winner, and would drop from 5th to 13th in the general classification.