A month on the road with your teammates is every cyclists dream come true. Heading out from racing in Southern California in search of great experiences, results, and comradery, the CashCall Mortgage Cycling Team took to the road in April. We bookended the month with two NCC events – Presbyterian Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, NC at the beginning of the month and Dana Point Grand Prix in SoCal at the end of the month. Our travels took us from Orange County to Monterey – Fayetteville, AR – Silver City, NM – Orange County. Our exploits covered Sea Otter Classic Stage Race, Joe Martic Stage Race (NRC) and The Tour of The Gila (UCI).
This was our first time racing at Sea Otter and it did not disappoint! With an atmosphere that rivals InterBike, we were able to network with and hang out with many of our sponsors. This is a very unique opportunity for us to get to know the individuals behind each of our sponsored products and learn more about each of their products. Our riders had autograph sessions at Jakroo Custom Clothing and Serfas, which were both great. Having time to visit sponsor booths after our events was really key on all levels.
The team was very successful at Sea Otter. With amazing team work, Cole House won stage 1, the criterium with Fabrizio Von Nacher placing 2nd on his heals. The team was able to successfully defend the leaders jersey, as well as the green Sprinters Jersey, until the final stage. Cole placed 3rd in the road race and the following day time-trial specialist Mike Olheiser sealed 3rd place in the Time Trial. In the final stage, the team fought hard for another stage win and gave it their all, ultimately finishing off the podium. For their efforts, the team retained the Sprinters Jersey which Michael Weicht had won on stage one. A great weekend of racing by Olheiser, Barton, Loader, Santos, Holloway, Weicht, Von Nacher, and House.
Our travels took us next to Fayetteville, AR for the Joe Martin Stage Race. We competed in this event last year and had a blast. One of the great things about these events is the host housing and being able to reconnect with them year after year. Our gracious host Dori from 2012 opened her home to our team again and we were able to set up shop. This event spanned 4 events and began with an uphill Time Trial. The next two stages were road races that had the riders covering 90-110 miles per stage and to add to the intensity, both days were in the mid-40′s with rain the entire day. Thankfully our Jakroo rain jackets kept us as comfortable as possible.
Our roster for this event included McCulloch, Barton, House, Loader, Weicht, Olheiser, Von Nacher, and Santos. Stage 2 was an exciting road race that finished in downtown Fayetteville with a fast uphill sprint. Olheiser made a valiant attempt to break away in the last 20K leading to the finish with one other rider, only to be reeled in over the finishing kilometers. Leading into stage 3, the team was focused on a stage win and with a threatening breakaway up the road, they did an impressive job working with Optum and other teams at the front to whittle down the deficit to 15 seconds. Despite great efforts by the team, the break stuck. This stage race served as a great learning experience for the team as they worked diligently together for a team result. These efforts will undoubtedly pay their dividends at future races.
After the last stage of Joe Martin, we loaded up the trailer and began our drive to Silver City, NM for the Tour of The Gila. This would be our first UCI race to compete in and at 6,000+ ft of elevation accompanied by dry heat, Gila would be a very challenging event for all who raced it. This was also our first 5-day stage race which would include two road races, a time trial, the downtown criterium, and capped off with the fabled Gila Monster road race on Sunday.
CashCall rider David Santos recounted his experience at the event:
“After racing the Tour of Gila, a five day UCI race held at altitude, I have an all new perspective on stage racing. Historically, I have always had trouble performing at altitude. But when you mix five days of racing against the country’s best cyclists, up and over thousands of feet of climbing, mostly at altitude, I had never been so humbled.
Throughout the five days, we battled high winds, heat, cold, dehydration, bomb threats, and 19% climbs. After the first stage climbing to the top of Mogollon, I knew it was going to take everything I had to finish the race. For me, it was the altitude that caused the most difficulty. I quickly learned I only had one match to burn, and when it was time to use it, I had better make it count. Unfortunately, the moves I went for didn’t stick and I nearly imploded my lungs trying.
By the time the final stage came around on Sunday, the Gila Monster, I was wrecked. From the gun, riders relentlessly attacked as we raced across rollers that never seemed to end. Just a few miles in, nearly half the field was already dropped. I continued to fight with everything I had, and once the rollers finally ended, I found myself still in the main group. With 50 miles and over 8,000 feet of climbing to go, I knew I had my work cut out for me. As soon as we hit the stages first big climb, the pace lifted. I made an effort to stay with the group and immediately found my lungs exploding as I fell off from the pack. I felt as if I had all of a sudden dropped a 50 pound anchor. From that point on, it was survival mode. I found the best group I could which included my teammates Chris Barton and Michael Weicht and for the next 50 miles, rode tempo. My group contained the Green Leaders Jersey as well, so to ensure he made time cut, his teammates helped keep a steady pace. The last 5k felt like an eternity but ultimately I finished with the group.
Overall, the scenery, the town, the people, the coffee, the racers, and all the support of my team made my week in Silver City one will never forget.”