In Southern California, Boulevard Road Race has a reputation for many things……foul weather, an uphill headwind finish, a field of motivated racers ready to race hard, and a course profile that’s arguably the hardest on the SCNCA calendar. For me, its reputation of being a tough race and the fact it’s my hometown race are the reasons why I love Boulevard. Prior to last weekend, I’ve raced Boulevard four times. Once as a Cat 4 and three times as a Cat 1. The first time racing the pro race was in 2010 and I DNF’ed. In 2011, I made the break finishing 3rd, and in 2012 I finished 7th. After finishing top 10 two years in a row, it became a big goal to win Boulevard in 2013.
I’m not a fan of taking too much time off the bike in the off-season, so I typically clip in sometime in early October. Additionally, I met with my coach to figure out which races to target in 2013. Because Boulevard is held in early February and near my hometown, El Cajon, it only made sense that it was first on my target list.
Historically, there is always a break at Boulevard. Sometimes it stays away and sometimes it’s caught on the last lap. Our plan was to ensure good odds by stacking the break with as many CashCall riders as possible. After the first lap, CashCall rider Logan Loader initiated a move with one rider from the U23 National Team. Shortly after his attack, our teammate Michael Olheiser attacked and only Connor McCutcheon from Get Crackin’ followed. They bridged the gap to Logan and the U23 National Team rider forming the first real break of the day. The field immediately sat up allowing the break to gain more time and become established.
Having both Logan and Michael representing CashCall in the four man break, the rest of us were left to cover attacks from the field as the field turned to climb the first riser of the course. At the top I noticed the U23 National Team rider from the break stopped on the side of the road. Then a few minutes later, I see Logan coming back to the field. I found from Logan that the U23 rider crashed, gapping him off from the break. At this point, Michael was on his own with Connor and they quickly gained 2 minutes on the field.
Over the next 2 laps, CashCall continued to cover moves while the U23 National Team rode the front. Everyone in the field wanted to be in the break so every small group, except for one with 2 riders, that formed eventually came back. The third time up the climb, I found myself part of an 11 man group with a gap on the field. With Michael still off the front solo with 1:30 on our chase group and the two other riders closing in on him, I knew there was still a chance all three of them could stay away. Since I was the only one in the chase group with a teammate up the road, I was able to sit on the back of the group keeping my legs as fresh as possible.
On the final climb, the front group containing Michael and three others (Stefano Barberi- California Giant managed to bridge the gap before starting the final climb) were 20 seconds up the road. Since Michael had been off the front mostly solo and in the wind all day, I knew it was my job to win if his group was caught. Shortly after starting the climb, Christian Varley from Node 4 got on the front and began closing the gap on the front group. Christian brought our group to about 10 seconds from Michael and just before the KOM, one of the U23National Team riders attacked. I immediately jumped to grab his wheel and was towed up to the front group. The front group ultimately ended up being Michael, two U23 National Team riders, Christian Varley, Stefano Barberi, myself and two others. With 1.5K to go, Michael somehow still had enough to launch multiple attacks, forcing the U23 riders to cover. Michael eventually single handedly broke the front group into four riders, Stephen Leece and Ryan Eastman from the U23 National Team and us. With 500m to go, Stephen got on the front and lifted the pace. After passing the 400m to go sign, Ryan jumped and I quickly followed. We were the only ones left and he had two bike lengths on me as we hit 200m to go. I stayed patient with my sprint to ensure I didn’t blow and once I saw the finish line, I kicked with everything I had left. With 30m to go, I passed Ryan and raised my fist in celebration as I crossed the line.
Michael Olheiser’s commitment and sacrifice to helping me win my hometown race truly represents the power of a team. He set the race up perfectly for CashCall Cycling Team to take home its first win of the season. Having my name added to the list of other riders who have won Boulevard and the feeling of crossing the finish line in first place is an experience I will never forget.
Michael placed 6th at the finish with teammates Michael Weicht and Cole House finishing in the top 25. It was truly a team effort to solidify the win. Along with Olheiser’s 6th place, he won the KOM (King of the Mountain) jersey for the event. This was a new addition to the race and it proved to help create more activity in the race. Since Michael spent the majority of the race off the front, he easily collected the highest points as well as the jersey. He had the team sign it and give it to Gary Rennie, longtime supporter and sponsor of the team who spent the weekend with us wrenching on bikes, working the feedzone, and helping after the race.
Thank you to our sponsors: CashCall Mortgage, KHS Bicycles, Jakroo Custom Clothing, Kenda Tires, iRT Wheels, Velo Saddles, Xpedo, Serfas, Shimano, Praxis, Finishline, Hammer Nutrition, Rennie and Associates, World Oil Corp.
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