By Esther Walker
Boulevard is hard. Typically, we host this race at the end of January, and so it’s usually the season opener for many racers. This year, we held the race a month later. As a result, the weather was much more pleasant, but people were also in a lot better shape, making the race’s nickname “bully-vard” particularly appropriate this year. The race starts with a long descent, followed by some painful rollers, and topped off with a 4 mile or so climb to the finish. Most racers get the pleasure of doing this 22 mile loop multiple times. This year, as it was UC San Diego’s home race, I raced with the Collegiate As, rather than with SDBC. The collegiate A’s were put in the field as the P/1/2 women, and there were some heavy hitters on the pro roster (notably Katie Donovan and Gretchen Stumhofer of Colavita). Luckily, we only had to do 2 laps, while they did 3, but as a result, it made race tactics for the two fields interesting.
The first lap was mostly uneventful. We navigated the decent, worked through the rollers with no major attacks, and then hit THE HILL. The field suddenly split into two main packs, with Kat and two other collegiate girls in the front back, and me and some other P/1/2s in the chase pack. I don’t consider myself a particularly strong climber, so I was just happy to have company on the climb. After the first half of the climb, it leveled out a bit and the group I was with decided to start to chase hard. We eventually caught the lead pack at the beginning of the decent and the pace slowed down again. I sat in the pack and for the most part, it was really uneventful. At some points, it felt like we were going at a crawling pace.
This gave me a lot of time to think. I started wondering what would happen if I attacked, since there were technically two completely different fields racing together. One possibility was that I’d immediately get swallowed pack up by the P/1/2 peloton. The other possibility was they’d let me get away because I was in a collegiate field and so wasn’t actually racing against them. Ideally, the other collegiate girls would chase me down and we’d start our race to the finish. Thankfully, the latter is exactly what happened. I attacked just before the turn to the rollers. At first, no one followed. I got further and further away. Then, I looked behind me and saw a red jersey flying towards me – it was Amy from CSU Channel Islands. Perfect. Then UC Davis came flying in. Finally, I saw Kat chasing Davis and I knew we were good to go. The P/1/2s continued at their mellow pace (after all, they had a whole other lap to complete after we were done) and we set our sights toward the finish. We rotated through the rollers, nothing eventful happened. We hit the hill and started rotating up it at a good pace, but nothing too fast. After finishing my pull, I started to pull off and noticed a light green jersey fly past me – it was Katie the super-climbing-pro from Colavita. Davis seized this moment to make an attack and jumped to catch Katie’s wheel. Amy and Kat followed suit. I was caught by surprise after my pull and was toast. I let them go, happy that Kat was in there, as she’s a strong climber and had a good chance of winning in that pack. A few more pro riders caught me, and I tried unsuccessfully to hold their wheels. My legs weren’t having it. Jo (my SDBC teammate) came by and I sat on her wheel for a bit, only to be shot back off soon after. Finally, a group of four other P/1/2 riders came by and yelled at me to hop on. I dug deep and worked with them to the finish. I made it to the line and was overjoyed with the thought that I didn’t have to do another lap. Kat got 2nd (yay!) and I rolled in for fourth. Not a bad day for the UC San Diego Women’s A team!
Rock’em Shock’em Crit
The collegiate women’s A’s raced in the same field as the women’s 3s, so, as at Boulevard, we had to be vigilant about paying attention to what riders were collegiate and what riders were in the 3s, as they were scored separately. To be honest, I really don’t have much of a memory of how most of this crit went down. We were tired from a long, full day of volunteering and racing at Boluevard, and had just finished a team time trial, followed by more volunteering that morning.
From what I remember, the start was pretty uneventful. Not many attacks. Not many surges. There were a couple of sprints for primes, but that’s about it. I tend to get antsy when the race is uneventful, so I eventually went for an attack. It was chased down, which I was happy with because it was still early in the race. Then Pat Murray (of SDBC) went off the front with a LaGrange rider. Since they were both in a different field (racing for the 3s) and since I race with Pat on my other team (SDBC), I had absolutely no desire to chase it down. Neither, it appeared, did anyone else. We let them go and I was excited for the opportunity for Pat to potentially win in a breakaway. However, Pat eventually trickled back into the field to rest up for what would be a great sprint finish for her! The LaGrange rider continued soloing at the front. From this point to the last lap or two I don’t really remember much. But with about two to go, I launched another attack to see if I could get any separation. I got nothing. Then, coming into the last lap, I went to the front, hoping Kat or someone from UC San Diego was on my wheel. I drilled it at the front for a bit, but was starting to get tired. Then, like an angel from nowhere, Holly accelerated right up next to me and I hopped on her wheel. She rode smooth and fast, and delivered me at a good speed to the third corner before pulling off (thanks Holly!). Then I saw Matea and was about to jump on her wheel when I noticed the field starting to accelerate. Building off of the momentum and rest Holly had just provided me, I did something I never do – I accelerated to full speed and dove into the final corner, just ahead of the field. I sprinted and sprinted (and probably once again forgot to stand up and sprint) until I hit the line. After crossing, I saw Kat (UC San Diego) and Amy (of CSU Channel Islands) right there with me and so I was unsure of the finishing order. We then heard someone say UC San Diego got the 1-2 punch, with Kat coming in just behind me, followed by Amy. Another good day for UC San Diego!
Big shout out to Fred for organizing an awesome and well-run race weekend and to the entire UC San Diego team for working dawn till dusk all weekend to make this possible! It was great to see many awesome UC San Diego results at our home races despite all of our volunteering hours!
By Ben Kurtz
As usual, getting to the start line on time was the most stressful part of the race. Normally it’s because we drove a long way and were up late the night before and getting anywhere for a 7am race start is a pain. This time I’d _arrived_ plenty early, but then spent the next hour driving the rented flatbed truck around to get the last few signs set out. With only 35 minutes to go to my race, I parked the truck and warmed up by jogging back to reg.
In the C/D field, there’s not much by way of strategy to Boulevard: don’t crash on the descent, and then don’t get dropped once the climbing starts. Part 1 (don’t crash) proceeded pretty much according to plan. As we started into the rollers, I noticed that my rear tire felt a little squishy, but I told myself I must be imagining it and to keep on going. Between the three hours of sleep and lively competition, I had to work hard to keep up, but as we started up the bottom of the big hill I was still solidly in the lead group. However, by this point it was clear I wasn’t imagining my squishy tire; now the race was against physics as it was the other racers. I made it about half way to the KOM point with the leaders, but the pace was just too much and after that I couldn’t keep up. I yelled some words of encouragement to Jeff and Matt and Matthew as they passed me up, but it was clear I was done racing for the day. By the time I made it to the top of the hill, my tire was down to probably 15 psi, and I didn’t even get to sprint for the line. On the bright side, I still managed a top 10 finish!
Rock’em Shock’em Crit
Sunday’s Crit started off uneventfully enough. There were some early attempts at a break (I pulled one back, and took a shot at going with another) but nothing stuck, and soon enough the cards were up and we had six laps to go. Then five, and then I lost track for a little bit, and then two. The next time I came around, the pack slowed up, and I found myself moving easily up to the front. I didn’t really want to spend the last lap pulling the field, but it was clear no one else did either, so going into corner 2 I decided to just go for it and see if I could make it to the finish in front. Somehow as we rounded the final corner I was still in the lead and I was going as hard as I could and no one was coming around me even though I don’t have a sprint and I’d been at the front the whole lap. Then I was across the line and thinking “wow, my first victory; that seemed like they let me have it way too easy” when I heard the announcer: “2 laps to go.” NOOOOOOO! I must have miscounted the laps. Needless to say, my race was pretty much over at that point, and I finished off the back of the pack a ways, though I did manage to edge out another rider at the last second.
As my consolation prize, the rest of the team did _really_ well all day: Katherine won the women’s Cs, while Alex and Rachel were first and third in the Bs and Esther and Kat took the top two slots in the As. Jeff and the guys pulled off some awesome strategy for a win in the Men’s Ds, and Eric had a spectacular race in the As, bridging huge gaps multiple times to get with a breakaway that lapped the field, and then sprinting to take the win! All in all an awesome weekend!