Boulevard Road Race
By Dan Vinson
The 6th annual Boulevard Road Race, quickly becoming a southern California classic, can appropriately be called "Suffer-fest Kick-off 2006". This years field was the toughest and most competitive ever including several pro's from the teams of Successfulliving.com, Health Net/Maxxis, Jittery Joes, Kodakgallery/Sierra Nevada, TIAA-Cref and my friend Aaron Olson from Saunier Duval-Prodir. Also present were Chris Walker (former Pro and Elite National Champion), Thurlow Rogers (former Pro, Olympian, and 2005 Masters World Champion), and full squads from Kahala LaGrange, Hi-Tech Bikes, and even the Polish National Team. The race started with over 80 riders who would take on four laps of the 22.5 mile course totaling 90 miles with well over 10,000 feet of elevation gain during the day.
The plan for our team (Kahala LaGrange) was simple: go with the breakaways to take pressure off our team and keep Josh Horowitz and Rob Alvarez protected with myself (Dan Vinson) kept in reserve for threatening late race breakaways and climbs. The race started with immediate attacks from several riders including the Polish National Team. Less than half way into the first lap, a breakaway of about 5 riders was established including Victor Ayala (Kahala LaGrange). Andrew Padilla and I (Dan Vinson) went to the front and the groupetto permitted Padilla to set an awkward 15 mph pace - long enough for the break to extend their lead to over 4 minutes. However, once we made the final turn and hit the last series of climbs with about 5 miles to go in lap 1, the race was on! The pace picked up again and again until the first major attack was made by Aaron Olson (Saunier Duval). Within seconds the entire peleton went skinny and we were single file and we were flying up the climb at big-ring speed. I stayed close to the race favorites and went with any promising moves. The speed continued as we passed through with three laps to go and in a couple miles the breaks' lead was reduced to around two minutes. Many gaps had opened and countless riders were hanging on for dear life and some did not survive.
Attacks continued on lap two and the sheer speed began to pull back the break. Half way into lap two, the break was caught. I set tempo up a climb to ward off attacks but that did not last for long. There were more attacks that strung out the group. Successfulliving.com had the numbers with about 9 riders and were always in the mix. Neil Shirley (Jittery Joes), likewise, was never far from the action. Many riders discovered their VO2 max and pain threshold on the climbs of lap two. Large gaps started to open and some never closed. When all was said and done, we were down to about 45 riders in the lead group as we passed through the finish, half the race completed.
Lap three saw less talking and more breathing as oxygen became a valuable commodity on this mildly elevated course which reached over 4000 feet. Eric Saunders (Successfulliving.com) rolled off the front on the descent and had 10 seconds on the field. Rogers (Sonace) made a huge attack and bridged across. Next I (Vinson - Kahala LaGrange) attacked and Dan Ramsey (Successfulliving.com) came with me. Ramsey finished the job that I started and we made it across to Thurlow and Saunders and then we hit the climbs, set a hard pace, and began to pull away. Very soon Lucas Euser (TIAA CREF) bridged to us and we were five strong (Ramsey, Rogers, Euser, Vinson, and Saunders) rotating through and we continued to increase our lead. We made the final turn of lap three with about a minute and a half lead over the field. Rogers and Euser turned the screws a little tighter and Saunders and I lost their wheel. Now was decision time - go with the leaders and risk cracking with over a lap to go, or, continue at same pace? Instead of going around Saunders to bridge, I remained at the same pace. As we approached the top of the climb, Shirley (Jittery Joes) and Drew Miller (Successfulliving.com) came flying by up the climb at an unbelievable speed. I jumped on and quickly learned how fast the best climbers can really go. I stayed with them to the top where we were only around 30-40 seconds behind Rogers, Ramsey, and Euser.
As I recovered from the climb at the start of lap 4, we began to build up speed on the descent. Despite being pretty tired, I took some pulls in an effort to keep our group rolling but Miller had a teammate up the road and didn't go to the front. Shirley appeared to be the strongest as small groups of riders including Aaron Olson, Adam Livingston, and Chris Walker bridged across to us. There were many Successfulliving.com riders unwilling to chase which greatly slowed any efforts that were being made to close the gap. Soon, the final chasers made it across and we totaled about 18 riders chasing 3 and looked like the "who's who" group of southern California road racers. Unfortunately, my teammate Rob Alvarez flatted on this last lap and could not get back on. Once we hit the first climb on the last lap, more riders were dropped and we were down to 12 riders chasing 3. I had one teammate in the group, Josh Horowitz, who was going well and was pushing the pace to keep things tight. The gap to the break stayed between 35 and 50 seconds as we briskly climbed through the dry desert and made the final turn to the finish with just over 5 miles to go in the race.
Having been in the action most of the day and partaking in plenty of voluntary suffering, I fell off the pace with a few other riders and we each did our own time trial the final few miles to the finish. Similarly, the chase group fell apart as Shirley attacked with Miller and they rode away in pursuit of the leaders who were in sight. Just over a mile from the finish the leaders were caught by Shirley and Miller and Neil Shirley (Jittery Joes) powered to the line for the victory with Drew Miller (Successfulliving.com) taking 2nd. Dan Ramsey (Successfulliving.com), Thurlow Rogers (Sonace) and Lucas Euser (TIAA CREF) held on for 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively. 6th - Adam Livingston (Successfulliving.com); 7th - Ryan Yee (Successfulliving.com); 8th - Josh Horowitz (Kahala LaGrange); 9th - Chris Walker (Labor Power); 10th - Aaron Olson (Saunier Duval-Prodir); Ben Bradshaw (IE Bikes/California Pools), a Junior rider who I coach was the first category 2 rider to cross the line for an impressive 11th place. 12th - Charles Hill (Hi Tech Bikes); 13th - Scott Zwizanski (Kodakgallery/Sierra Nevada); 14th - Dan Vinson (Kahala LaGrange); 15th - Jeremiah Wiscovitch (Successfulliving.com).
It was a tough race with a stacked field - the likes of which, in my opinion, can only be outdone by National Racing Calendar (NRC) races. The next day was Red Trolly Classic where, unfortunately, I was taken out by another rider, hit the pavement at 30+ mph, and sustained a couple broken ribs and bruising/road rash/contusions to my left arm, hip, and knee. However, I will be back!! So, until the next race (which may be a little longer from now than normal) . . .