The (Real) Season Openers of SoCal


Every region has their unofficial season opener of the road racing season. For the Euro Pros it is Qatar, for NorCal it is the Snelling Road Race, and for Southern California it is the Boulevard Road Race in East San Diego County. Sure, there are earlier races on the calendar, but Boulevard is the first race where everyone shows up and the results start to matter. To win Boulevard is to add your name to a long list of cycling’s greats: Neil Shirley(2006), Russell Downing(2007),  Ben Day(2009), Floyd Landis(2001), Trent Klasna (ahead of Chris Horner in 1995, and ahead of Van de Velde in 1999). Just the top 20 from years like 2006 and 2007, when local pros were getting ready for a much earlier Tour of California, are a Who’s Who of cycling in SoCal.

The course is 22.5 miles long with over 2,500 ft of elevation gain per lap. In short, first race of season + a very deep field +climbing = one tough race = Boulevard.

This year the deep field consisted of full squads from my team, SPY-SKLZ-Swamis, the deep CashCall Mortgage Cycling Team, and Simple Green, with plenty of other riders from SoCal and Arizona, including mountain bike legend Steve Tilford.

As always, the first few miles were tense as we flew downhill and riders jostled for position. The first half lap was extremely fast, with CashCall pushing the pace on the front and early attacks. However, the pace changed drastically as we hit the climb and a stiff headwind. After the railroad tracks and the first attacks on the climb were over, there was a lone rider from CashCall off the front. Former Toyota-United rider Stefano Barberi found himself on what would either be a suicide solo attack or a brave start to the winning break. The field was content to let him dangle out in the headwind as we crawled up the climb, but as we crested and began the descent things changed once again as people fought to be the ones who would join Stefano up the road.

Over the next two laps, three small groups would bridge up to Stefano and push a 3 minute gap on the field before final lap. The break was a total of nine riders, with CashCall having the best numbers with Barberi, McCulloch, and Lee Muse, with other riders from Landis/Trek and Simple Green.

In the last 2 laps, there was a steady chase from the field coming from SPY-Swamis, Eric Marcotte of Elbowz racing, an Optum/Kelly Benefits rider, and Sean Mazich of Jelly Belly.

By the time the field hit the bottom of the final climb, the break had whittled down to just six riders; three still from CashCall, Napalotino, Kriek (Simple Green) and Travis McCabe of Landis-Trek, but the field was only 40 seconds behind and was coming up fast.

Halfway up La Posta, Cory Bruno (SPY-Swamis) put in a big attack and drew Eric Marcotte (Elbowz) out with him, but with the headwind it was too early and the two were reeled in, but continued to work to bring back the leaders.

Inside of the last kilometer, Eric Marcotte led the field up the climb hot on the heels of the remaining five riders. But the break was able to hang on long enough to finish less than 10 seconds ahead of the charging field, with South African Kriek (Simple Green) winning his second road race this year, followed by Travis McCabe (Landis-Trek) and then the two remaining CashCall riders, Stefano Barberi and Lee Muse.

It was a very suspenseful day of racing with a new kid on the block taking a somewhat unexpected win.

Red Trolley Criterium

Red Trolley is always a hard criterium because of the hard 4 hours that most racers put in the day before at Boulevard and because of the small power hill that the riders must go up each lap. Any hopes we had of easing into the first few laps of the 75 minute crit were dashed when Ralph Elliott announced that Pista Palace and Crank Cycling had put up $10 primes for the winner of each lap of the first ten laps. Thanks, I guess.

The pace was fast from the gun with Eric Marcotte (Elbowz) grabbing the first two cash primes and making his presence known. I was able to get the right wheels for a couple of the first few laps and get a couple primes for myself before the real racing started.

A lot of moves went up the road in the first half of the race but with nothing sticking. It was not until half way through that a break containing Stefano Barberi (CashCall), Austin Carroll (Simple Green) and Travis McCabe (Landis-Trek) established a gap on the field. Before they were away for good though two riders – Lars Finanger (SPY-Swamis) and Devan Dunn (CashCall) successfully jumped across the gap.

With most of the big teams being represented and happy with the break any bridge attempts were shut down quickly and a concerted chase effort was absent, allowing the break to extend its lead to over 30 seconds.

With 10 laps to go the break had whittled down to just 4 riders – Barberi and Dunn of CashCall, McCabe (Landis-Trek) and Austin Carroll (Simple Green).

I had a very untimely flat with 7 laps to go, right when there were no more free laps, so I was forced to watch the end of the race from the sidelines.

With 5 laps to go the break still had nearly 30 seconds on the field, but now a chase from the field was finally organized and gradually closing it, as the break was starting to mess around. The first attack came from Barberi (CashCall), but it was quickly shut down by Austin Carroll (Simple Green). Devan was either slow to respond or his move was quickly covered because with two laps to go the break was still all together and the field was inside of 20 seconds of them. The next attack would come from McCabe (Landis-Trek) and both CashCall riders hesitated to respond.

But with 1 lap to go the break was still all together and the field was within 15 seconds and closing fast. Eric Marcotte (Elbowz) put in a powerful acceleration that could not be matched by the field on the last lap and everyone was going full gas. Coming into the finishing straight the break was all together, with Travis McCabe (Landis-Trek) leading the charge to the line to take the win ahead of Austin Carroll (Simple Green) and then the two CashCall riders. Marcotte (Elbowz) held his gap for the whole last lap, finishing a few seconds ahead of a CashCall led field and only a few seconds behind the leaders.

Another suspenseful race with a somewhat unexpected rider taking a well deserved win against some strong teams. For next weekend, we get to take the racing to Arizona for the Valley of the Sun Stage race.

By Lucas Binder, SPY-Swamis

Lucas Binder races as a Category 1 for the
by SPY-Swamis Development Elite Team.
Photo by David Su
Photo © Frank Sarate / SoCalCycling.com

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