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Photo: Casey B. Gibson




May 7th, 2017

We knew he was a good crit racer. We knew he was fast in the sprint. And we knew he was eager. Nineteen-year-old Gage Hecht, a first year U23, combined all that into winning the Redlands Bicycle Classic stage four City of Redlands Criterium on Saturday. It's the first victory for Aevolo Cycling in its maiden season.

Hecht won the sprint of a breakaway of nine after the 90-minute timed race. The breakaway formed just beyond the mid-point of the stage.

"People were starting to look at each other because they were getting tired," said Hecht. "It's stage four of Redlands, so of course they are going to be tired. I saw them jump and I didn't want to miss out on something like that. I didn't know if it was going to stick, but it did."

When it became clear the breakaway was the winning move, Hecht began to focus on the finish.

"I had talked to my friends that had competed in the race and they all said the same thing: the second one through the final chicane will have the best entrance to the sprint," Hecht said. "Tyler Stites and I agreed with that assessment after viewing the final corner the morning of the race. If I wanted to win, I knew where I needed to be.

"Like with almost every break, the last lap was hard to judge. It was definitely the hardest physically, mentally and tactically. The gap back to the pack was narrowing, but conservation is important. It's always hard to tell when to sit at the back and conserve and when to work to keep a gap."

Early in that final lap, two riders attacked. Hecht followed their wheels, sitting on until the last all-important corner.

"Before the final chicane, Ulises Castillo (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis) came around to the front," Hecht said. "I grabbed his wheel, and coming around the final corner, jumped out of the saddle.

"About halfway through the final meters, I remember being almost in shock at the position I was in," Hecht added. "I was so excited and happy to be able to compete on such a prestigious level with people like Danny Summerhill (United Healthcare). These are racers I have spent my entire junior career looking up to. I am so happy and proud to have been able to compete with them yesterday."

Hecht's victory comes after only 13 days of racing for Aevelo Cycling Team.

"It's relieving to get that win," said sports director Mike Creed. "The guys could be forgiven for not getting a single high level win all year. But to get it in our third race? It's exiting."

Aevolo Cycling has been getting stronger throughout Redlands. Luis Villalobos slotted into the top 20 - just - on the opening uphill time trial on Wednesday. Jokin Extabe joined Villalobos in the top 20 overall after stage two.

In the stage three Highland Circuit Race, Hecht showcased both his form and his motivation, as he bridged across to a lead group with another rider. The peloton caught the breakaway with only one lap to go, but Hecht had made his intentions clear.

While his performance might suggest otherwise, Hecht was far from confident that he could contest a stage at Redlands.

"I didn't quite have the time trial I was hoping for in stage one, and the heat really got to me on the big road stage in Yucaipa - I was one of the last finishers to make time cut," said Hecht. "I was able to bridge up to the break one stage three, the Highland Circuit, but was caught before the finish. I also wasn't feeling like I had been able to contribute much to the well-being of my teammates.

"After the week I had been having, I was a bit discouraged," Hecht explained. "I was having a hard time telling how I would feel. I remember going on a spin yesterday morning with rest of the team and thinking to myself: 'my legs feel awful.' Luckily that spin seemed to open everything up.

"A few laps into stage 4, I still didn't feel stellar," Hecht added. "But I really had the desire to do something. By the time the break had been away for ten laps, I began to feel more confident in my ability to compete with that group."

As for Creed, he considered Hecht's inclusion in the breakaway a box ticked. The win both surprised and delighted the team boss.

"I knew he was riding well and based on his Gila crit performance, I thought he could get in the breakaway," Creed said. "But to best some of the most experienced pros in the country? That was impressive!"

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