Competitive Cyclist's first-year pro Mike Olheiser got his rookie season underway with an impressive solo win Tuesday at the first stage of the Rutas de Americas, a UCI 2.2 race in Uruguay.
Olheiser rode away from the fractured bunch in an effort to take a three-second KOM time bonus about 99 km into the 146 km opening stage from Montevideo to Minas. When no one in the field reacted to Olheiser's move, the 37-year-old multiple masters time trial world champion pressed the issue and zeroed in on his first professional win.
"They gave him a good-sized gap, and I was like, 'hmmm, they don't know this guy can time trial like we do,'" said Competitive Cyclist director Gord Fraser. "It was really difficult terrain with a lot of up and down. He was able to get his momentum up on the downhills and really carry it over the rollers. So he just did a great job."
The Rutas de Americas marks the team's first foray into international racing after team leader Francisco Mancebo won the USA Cycling National Race Calendar individual title last year. Fraser said Olheiser's first professional win in as many tries has already set the tone for a major team goal this season.
"I've been big on this word diversification of results, and we've certainly got it the very first race," Fraser said. "So I couldn't be happier for the guys. It's good for the morale. We're having a great time here already. It's quite an adventure, and it's certainly different than what we're used to, so we're rolling with it and having a good time. This will just set us up for the rest of the week without any pressure now."
Mancebo started the fireworks Tuesday for Competitive Cyclist, soloing away from the bunch to win the first intermediate sprint at 28 km and grabbing the time bonus. The team continued to force the issue for the next 30 km, working with Porongos de Flores of Uruguay to keep the pace high over the rolling terrain.
Olheiser made his move after the peloton split into two groups. While teammates Mancebo and Chad Beyer rode heard on the ever-shrinking chase group behind, Olheiser battled to an eight-second gap at the finish. With time bonuses, Olheiser climbs into the overall race lead with a 14-second margin over Pablo Pintos of Uruguay. Fraser said Beyer was in position to take second on the stage when a Brasilian rider altered his line, causing Beyer to unclip to regain his balance and losing his spot.
The race continues Wednesday with the 150 km stage from Jose P. Varela to Melo. Fraser said his team will not be aggressively patrolling the front of the peloton to defend Olheiser's lead, but will look for others to animate the race in the coming days.
"I still think it's kind of a crap shoot, honestly," Fraser said "There are so many factors that can go into it. We're just really happy with the win. We're not going to ride the front by any stretch. We're going to play a more passive defense and try to engage the competition as much as possible and count on some local rivalries to see what shakes free."
The six-day stage race ends February 26 with a stage from Trinidad to Montevideo. After the Rutas, Competitive Cyclist will split into two squads, with half the team contesting the Tour of Mexico while the other half heads to the San Dimas Stage Race and then Redlands Bicycle Classic for the USA Cycling National Race Calendar opener.