Updated: Jun 9, 2019
The Tour de Murrieta, a local two-day omnium held in the small Southern-Californian town about an hour north of San Diego, wrapped up this weekend and marked the first team race of Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling's 2019 calendar.
The race consisted of two stages: a 75-minute criterium held on Saturday in downtown Murrieta and a 55 mile-long circuit race through the neighborhoods surrounding the city on Sunday.
After spinning to the start from their house in Fallbrook, the team put on their race radios, toed the line, and as soon as the gun went off, they were to the front. Team directors, Danny Van Haute and Matty Rice, designated Ryan Jastrab as the team's protected sprinter, so he sat in the pack and saved energy while other riders monitored the front. Camden Vodicka would make the day's breakaway, consisting of him and three other riders, Tyler Locke of Guttenplan-Support Clean Sport, Sean McElroy of Legion of Los Angeles, and James Piccoli of Elevate-KHS.
McElroy, having two of the top sprinters in the race in Cory and Justin Williams, would sit on all day, while the other two riders would assist in pacemaking in order to try and stay away. Camden would put in massive work during the early stages of the race to keep the pack away so Ryan could sit in while Quinten Kirby, Sam Boardman, Finn Gullickson, Maxx Chance, Kent Ross, and Ryan Kingsolver could manage any potential moves that went off the front and reel them in so Ryan Jastrab could sit in and relax.
With the final laps closing in, McElroy made a solo dig to get away from his breakaway companions, who would become enveloped by the charging pack as they contested the field sprint. The closing kilometers were chaotic, but provided the team a valuable opportunity to start honing in their leadout. They tried to match the train of Legion, who were shuttling Cory and Justin Williams through the course, but would end up having to settle behind them in the last turns. Ryan Jastrab would finish 9th in the bunch sprint, and 10th overall, as McElroy rolled in alone for the win.
Camden would earn the coveted "Best Rider of the Day" honors, an award issued within the team to the person that riders and directors believe exemplified excellent leadership, panache, and class-act bike racing. It comes complete with a victor's belt straight out of a WWE special, and all the bragging rights that come with it.
On tap for the day was a 55-mile circuit race, which traversed the lumpy surrounding neighborhood roads just outside of the Murrieta Town Square Park. The team lined up confidently, bolstered by their aggressive racing from the day before and the adrenaline of getting the season underway.
They would be active on the front as soon as the gun went off, following each move that went up the road. Going into 6 laps to go, a little more than halfway through the race, slight but noticeable crosswinds forced a field split, leaving with 17 riders up the road, including Kent, Maxx, Sam, and Camden.
It was a tricky hand to play. With the best sprinters still in the field, and the split dangling at 30 seconds ahead, the team had to decide whether they would drive the break, or sit on and let others do the work. Legion had three riders in the split, as did Elevate-KHS, so the bigger teams within the race had little incentive to pull.
Cory Williams would soon be on his way though, latching onto a chase move of three riders, and putting the candle to the toes of the split. If ever there was a time to drive the break, it was now, so Camden and Sam got to front and started setting steady tempo with Elevate-KHS riders, who were equally as discourage at their prospects of winning the bunch kick, with their sprinters missing the move and still stuck in the field.
Going into the last lap to go, James Piccoli of Elevate-KHS sent a flyer through the twistiest part of the course, closely followed by Sean McElroy and Evan Harting of Project Echelon. This proved the most threatening move of the day, with no rider form Wildlife Generation represented, so Sam attacked out of the pack and bridged up to the break, sitting on through the rollers on the backside of the course and finally slotting into third wheel behind McElroy and Piccoli, respectively, going into the last turn. It would be a long, slightly uphill drag to the finish, but Sam would tough it out to take the team's first win of the season.
It would be a bit of a redemptive moment for Sam, who crashed twice the day before, once on the way to the crit, and again during the race. He would end up having to get 6 stitches to mend a hole that had been torn in his elbow the morning of the circuit race.
The team looks to carry the momentum of a fantastic debut to 2019 into their first stage race, The Redlands Bicycle Classic.
We hope to see you there! But if not, we hope you see us there!