This weekend, the team made the trek up to the WeatherTech Laguna Seca Mazda Raceway in Northern California to take part in the 2019 Sea Otter Classic Cycling Festival.
As part of the festival, the team met with sponsors, signed autographs, and, of course, raced! Throughout the weekend, the three-man roster of Colby Lange, Camden Vodicka, and Sam Boardman participated in the criterium, road race, and circuit race hosted by the event. Read on for race reports and photos from the festival.
THURSDAY (Apr. 11th): Criterium
The race started out early in the morning at 9:00am, which played to the advantage of the racers, who avoided the worst of the wind gusts that would pick up through the rest of the day as the temperatures heated up.
That being said, the morning was chilly, which made the aggressive racing from the gun that much more difficult. A break of three would get up the road early after a flurry preliminary attacks tried to separate the small field of about 20 riders. Camden would make the move, alongside Kevin Girkins of Meteror x Giordiana and Phil Tintsman of Monster Media Racing. The course, reminiscent of a hotdog whose ends had bent during the cooking process, was just technical enough for the break to gain second on the pack quickly.
During a quick lull in the field, as riders sat up looking at each other, Sam attacked and began a bridge to the break that would take around 4 laps. Colby sat in the pack and would monitor attempts to chase down Sam and readied himself for a counterattack.
Once he made the junction, the group of now-four would work together to keep the pack at bay going into the final 20 minutes of racing, while Colby patrolled the field and stayed fresh sitting in and monitoring late moves. Camden and Sam would work for a sprint, and in the final turn, Sam would take the turn going in third wheel, but wouldn’t be able to get around Girkins and Tintsman, who had already launched. He would finish 3rd on the day with Camden in 4th, and Colby winning the bunch sprint for 5th place.
After the race, the team visited the local chapter of the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) for Monterey County, located, conveniently, right across the street from the Laguna Seca Raceway. There, the team toured the facility where animals that local residents rescue receive treatment and rehabilitation in preparation for either release back into the wild or introduction into programs as an educational animals for school programs. Riders and staff saw opossums, red-tailed hawk.
FRIDAY (Apr. 12th): Road Race
The team was wary of the road race course, notorious for its rolling parcours that offers virtually zero chance for respite. Racers were set to tackle 9 laps of the 10.7-kilometer circuit, with a 5-kilometer finishing climb with a steep 200-meter kicker through to the finish line.
The riders set out from Laguna Seca raceway down the same hill that they would finish on to make their way to the circuits. From the first left-hand turn to the first climb on the course, a 5-minute climb, it was guns-a-blazing. Team Illuminate brought teammates to the front to drive the pace, and they would string the field out over the top of the climb into the rollers.
From there, the Wildlife Generation boys would monitor moves launching off the front. With Illuminate bringing six riders to the race, they were now the team to watch for when examining the composition of a breakaway. Halfway through the first lap, Camden Vodicka made his way into a breakaway of six, including Illuminate. It seemed promising, but Kevin Girkins of Meteor x Giordiana, who had won the crit the day before, had missed the move and was looking to bring it back.
Going into the second lap on the main climb, the break had been brought back from a flurry of attacks from individual riders, and the pack was back together on the hill. Over the crest, Sam Boardman attacked and was briefly solo heading into the rollers before Girkins, Camilo Castiblanco of Illuminate, and fellow Wildlife Generation teammate, Colby Lange, bridged up to him.
This would be the day’s breakaway, with the gap feathering between a minute and a 1:30 between laps 3-6 before ballooning out to 2:30.
During lap 6, however, the break got word that there was a chase of two making the bridge, at about 1:30 back. Over the course of the next laps, the gap would drop exponential and by the time the breakaway reached the crest of the main climb after going into lap 8, the two, Felix Del Castillo and Cam Piper of Illuminate, had reeled in the escapees. It was now a group of six, with Sam, Colby, and Girkins against three Illuminate riders.
The group would circulate more or less smoothly through the rollers, but everyone knew that an onslaught of attacks was bound to come during the final ride through the circuit to try and split the group.
In lap 9, Colby had been distanced on the main climb, having covered moves in the previous lap. On the rollers, Sam and Girkins traded responsibility for covering attacks from Illuminate as they tried to make a final selection. The elastic was just about to snap, but in a freak accident, as Del Castillo attacked, he mis-shifted, lost his chain, and wiped out on the pavement, bumping his teammate, Castiblanco, into the dirt on the side of the road. This would create the podium selection of Girkins, Piper, and Sam.
As the riders exited the circuits and made their way to the finishing climb, Sam had nothing left and was quickly gapped on the climb and would ride it in for 3rd place, his second in as many races.
SUNDAY (Apr. 14th) – Circuit Race
After a training ride Saturday, the team was ready to finish off the weekend with the circuit race on the famous WeatherTech Laguna Seca Mazda Raceway. The course, known for its blazing-fast corkscrew descent, offered a similar level of difficulty to the punchy parcours of the road race on Friday. There was little opportunity for rest on the course, and it would be a race of attrition in the first 30 minutes of the 75-minute race.
A selection of 10 rolled away on the steep climb leading into the corkscrew at around minute-35, consisting of Camden, Sam, and Colby, Cam Piper, Camilo Castiblanco, and Rodolfo Torres of Illuminate, Chris Reikert of Mike’s Bikes, Tim McBirney of Team California, Aiden McNeil of Team Swift, and Kevin Girkins of Meteor x Giordiana.
They would work together to establish a gap, but then it would be a matter of trying to split the groups. Attacks would alternate between the three Wildlife Generation riders and the three Illuminate riders, but the wind on the course would prevent any reduced group from getting away. It would have to come down to a leadout to a sprint.
In the final lap, on the back-section of the course, Wildlife Generation would line it up at the front to position Sam for the bunch kick. Colby would throw in one last attack with about a kilometer to go to encourage riders to chase and allow Sam and Camden a more sheltered leadout, and as soon as he was caught going into the downhill to the swooping left-hand turn, Kevin Girkins attacked and got on the front, and Sam got on his wheel.
With a tailwind into the short 200m stretch to the finish, being as close to the front while not eating wind would be important, and with about 100m to go, Sam came around Girkins’ left to take the win ahead of Chris Reikert, with Girkins rounding out the podium.