Looking at the online race predictor the night before the race, it had myself listed as the predicted winner. Cycling though, is never such an easy prediction. If you scrolled down the race predictor it listed a full team of ten riders from the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling team. They were down here for a training camp and added the Boulevard Road Race to there agenda. Boulevard is fairly tough local race as it consists of 4 laps of around 23 miles with close to 2,500 feet per lap of rolling up and down terrain. Not a simple course. I’ve had some pretty epic come a parts on this race before in the past, but have still been looking for that elusive win here. Coming into the race I was going to have to be patient, but also smart with which move to tag onto as there would be a solid ten guys hitting it out. I did for once have a teammate which was nice, I picked my teammate Miguel Byron on the way to the race. He’s more of a solid sprinter but still knows how to race a bike like the best of them and could be a big help on my end.
The Boulevard Road Race started as I predicted, Jelly Belly attacking with riders one after another. I followed a couple moves, but made sure not to get too crazy and wear myself down too early. After a bit of commotion a move got up the road as we hit the descent and just when they had a good gap Miguel jumped across on the descent winding it up good enough for nobody to be able to jump on his wheel. Once I saw him get up there I got to play a bit of defense and jump on moves as riders tried to attack. Maybe eight or so guys got up the road and probably around 3 Jelly Belly riders made it in there. The race was still early so I knew there would be much more racing to come. To my surprise as we kept descending riders kept trying to attack and get to the break. Not the best idea as these riders were attacking full gas and since we were descending it was fairly easy for anyone of the five or so Jelly Belly riders; including myself, to jump on there wheel and shut them down. Different riders kept going though until we hit the bottom. I knew after all this attacking with the pace being kept high the race would really blow once we hit the climb. Basically, the first half of the lap is somewhat descending and the second part of the lap is climbing.
Once we hit the climb, pretty quickly Lachlan Morton of Jelly Belly attacked and I followed his wheel. There were about five of us that got away as we went to bridge across to the break. For all those riders who were attacking off the front of the field on the descent, its better to attack when the race is hard and not when its easy. At this point all of those riders were more or less off the back, I imagine. We bridged to the break fairly quickly and now it was a descent size group with maybe 15 riders and probably half of that was Jelly Belly.
We hit the final climb of the first lap and Jelly Belly put some good pressure on the front to thin down the move. Riders were getting dropped out of it and I more or less sat 5-6 riders back just working on conserving. It was at this point which I felt I was in a good position as the rider in front of me started to come off a bit and went to stand out of the saddle to punch it and in doing so his rear wheel went straight back into my front wheel and knocking me down. I got taken out going up hill by the rider in front of me, not pro. And it wasn’t just a simple oh I fell let me get back up, my chain was off, my bottles fell out, my brakes were tweaked which needed adjusting. It took me way too long to get going again and at that point that front move was not going slow. I regrouped and got back going with two other guys, one which I unfortunately took down with me.
I figured our chance of being in the front group was gone now, but I didn’t want to give up just yet. We chased pretty damn hard for the entire second lap and once we hit the final climb, where I crashed one lap earlier we could see the front group not too far up the road. We completed lap 2 and turned down the one fairly straight flattish road and I could see now that there were two groups instead of one. Shit. Apparently there was an attack which broke that group up while completing the second lap. We caught up to the second group and just before reaching them I attacked hard and blew past them. I knew my only chance to get to the front group was by going through them and not waiting to get riders to try to help, as some of them would be playing defense. Unfortunately though we hit the descent and being the smaller guy I am I’m not the best at making up much ground on the descent. I looked back and saw the group I passed chasing me down as they had riders from Jelly Belly there and they were defending there guys up the road and didn’t want me to go across. Towards the bottom of the descent they caught me and I knew it was time for a new game plan. The front group was 7 riders and 4 were from Jelly Belly. My group had 5 from Jelly Belly and there were probably about 10 of us. This is where our pace slowed down dramatically. Upon completing the third lap what was left of the main field caught up to us and I just sat in conserving to make a move later. At this point it would be too early and the front group was already minutes up the road now. Coming into completing the third lap up the last climb someone set a pretty hard pace going up the climb and once we got to the crest I attacked over the top. Luckily I got away solo and rode the next few k’ms on my own before starting the final lap. At this point 2 more riders from Jelly Belly caught me and then attacked me. Fortunately I had a bit left and was able to sprint back onto their wheel. At this point we were on our last lap and the front group was 5 minutes or so up the road. It was myself, Josh Berry, and Taylor Sheldon, my former teammate at 5 Hour Energy/Kenda.
This last lap was pretty awesome because we were all on the same page, the front of the race is gone, we were basically there for training, so we all just went hard and rode well together. We started to catch a couple guys from the break and one rider actually bridged up to us from the field which was damn impressive, a SDBC rider I believe. So coming into the final climb there were a total of 5 of us. I didn’t want to sprint or anything and was curious how much I had left in the tank. I attacked about half way up the climb and Josh was able to follow. I didn’t have as much left as I thought and over the top started to feel it and then Taylor caught back on as well. And then there were the three of us again. Right after this we picked up another one of there teammates out of the break; Jacob Rathe, and at this point we were coming into the finish. I was pretty done at this point and my finishing kick was rather pathetic. I was surprised though we would be coming into the finish for 7th on the road and I ended up 9th.
Jelly Belly took 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, myself 9th & 10th. Pretty stellar ride by those boys and a good day of training we had. The next day; Sunday, I linked back up with a few of them as they are doing there camp by my house and we had another stellar day hitting out 6 hours with just 10,000 ft of climbing. I remember just a few years ago I would take the day off after Boulevard, then it would later become an easy hour spin, then a couple years ago it turned into a 4 hour day. Now its turned into some real big training. Funny how things change. Well now its time to pack up and get to my own training camp with Team Hincapie. Stoked to get back with the boys!
Jon Hornbeck, rides professionally for the Holowesko | Citadel Racing Team p|b Hincapie Sportswear Team and is also is the owner of Spandex Stampede Cycling Fundo Events. You can follow Jon on social media at @JonHornbeck.