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By Mark Johnson
Fly V Australia rider Ben Day won a snowy and rainy Boulevard road race in east San Diego County Saturday while Floyd Landis used the hilly 90-mile hometown event to quietly return to racing after a two-year suspension.
Landis’ Canadian OUCH teammate Cameron Evans took second while Fly V Australia riders and Amgen Tour of California invitees David Kemp, Charles Dionne, and Bernard Sulzberger rounded out the third through fifth.
The race rolled out in a driving snowstorm that had barreled into the mountains 60 miles east of downtown San Diego the morning of the event.
Two laps into the four-lap race, a group including Day, Evans, Kemp, two-time San Francisco Grand Prix winner Dionne, Sheldon Day (Bissell), and Carson Miller (Land Rover-ORBEA) bridged up to Fly V Australia rider Sulzberger, who had attacked on the first lap.
When the break caught Sulzberger, he countered and only Day, Evans and Kemp were able to respond. By the time the group topped the rolling, but deceptively hard climb up La Posta Road, it was down to Day, Evans, and Kemp to decide the winner on a final four-mile climb to the finish line.
“We had safety in numbers there and we worked well together coming into the finish,” Day observed of his winning attack, which he launched at a kilometer and a half to go. “It was a nice way to start the year for the team.”
With four riders in the top five, Boulevard was a good showing for new sponsor Fly V Australia, which joined the U.S.-based Successful Living squad as a title sponsor for 2009. This is especially true as in the last four years more European and domestic pro teams have been racing Boulevard as a leg-loosener for the following week’s Amgen Tour of California.
Asked about the snow — which comes on the heels of three weeks of 80-degree Southern California sunshine — Day noted that it was 125 degrees in Australia, which he left two days prior to Boulevard. The snow is a “a little bit different — but it was a good workout for the Tour of California. The team is still getting to know each other and learning to race together.”
Day, who rode for Toyota-United in 2008 and only got his team bike the day before the race, added “Hopefully by California we can get up there and show the team. We are a new team, but we have big ambitions and we have a great sponsor behind us with Fly V Australia and also the Successful Living Foundation.”
With an OUCH teammate up the road for most of the day, Landis — who rode in the frigid conditions without leg or knee warmers — had no reason to chase, and he rode comfortably at the front of the field with Aussie teammate Rory Sutherland.
While Landis rolled across the finish line in 16th place and immediately bundled himself into a car and drove off to warmth, Sutherland hung around in the cold rain long enough to give his opinion of the race, which is organized by the University of California, San Diego cycling team.
Boulevard is “always a hard race,” Sutherland said. “We needed to do it just for racing for next week at the Tour of California and kind of see how we were going and to race with Floyd again for the first time. And we had fun! It was cold and shitty, but you can do it.”
Of racing with Floyd, Sutherland said “He’s a guy just the same as everyone else. He’s just got a different history than most of us. We had fun and it was good to be in a team environment with him.”
Second-place getter Cameron Evans has been training with Landis in Temecula — not far from Palomar Mountain, the 5000-foot feature climb on the final stage of the Tour of California. The low-key, 25-year old Canadian was unequivocal about racing with Landis: “It was awesome! Floyd is a rad guy.”
Of OUCH’s plans for the Tour of California, Evans said “We want to do a pretty aggressive race all the way through, but we are all going to be behind Floyd for the overall.”
1. Ben Day, V Australia p/b Successful Living
2. Cameron Evans, OUCH presented by Maxxis
3. David Kemp, V Australia p/b Successful Living
4. Charles Dionne, V Australia p/b Successful Living
5. Bernard Sulzberger, V Australia p/b Successful Living
6. Carson Miller, Land Rover-ORBEA
7. Chris Barton, U.S. National Development Team
8. Sheldon Denny, Bissell
9. Luis Zamudio, Kahala La Grange
10. Vincent Owens, HDR p/b Lombardi Sports
11. John Murphy, OUCH presented by Maxxis
12. Evan Hoffman, HDR p/b Lombardi Sports
13. Ken Hanson, Team Type 1
14. James Gunn-Wilkerson, Nytro Racing
15. Chris McDonald, SDBC-Acqua Al 2
16. Floyd Landis, OUCH presented by Maxxis
17. Rory Sutherland, OUCH presented by Maxxis