In what has turned out to be a Canadian battle at the Amgen Tour of California, Sebastian Salas (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) made his way into the early break on stage 3 to garner points to take over the KOM jersey from David Boily (Spidertech p/b C10).
The same teams but different riders, also fought it out last year when ultimately Jonathan Patrick McCarty (Spidertech) won the overall KOM classification.
“From the beginning of the Tour of California, one of our goals was to get the King of the Mountain jersey. I was in the breakaway on stage 1 and me and David Boily had a battle over all the climbs.” Salas said. “I was going into the day with a five point deficit, and once I got into the break at the start I took the opportunity that he wasn’t there and rode the break and got some points over the first KOM and Mt Diablo as well.”
With tired legs in the tightly controlled field, the break escaped early with the first climb coming 10 miles into the stage. Four men were off the front including Salas and McCarty who was trying to protect his teammate’s jersey. Salas crested first and the four settled down, pushing the gap until the next climb up Mt Diablo. Salas sprinted to take the top points putting him in the polka-dot jersey. He the sat up and rejoined the field, mission accomplished for the day.
Though unknown to most, the neo-pro proved that he could climb at the SRAM Tour of the Gila last week when he finished fouth on the tough first stage.
“I knew I was going in with good form, I’d been in Boulder for two weeks training at altitude so I was acclimated, that helped a lot. The first stage was really tough, it really set up the move for the rest of the race.” Salas told podiuminsight. “I still have some work to do on my time trial to be a real GC contender but it’s improving year to year.”
Losing time in the time trial, Salas took a top 10 on the final Gila Monster stage to finish 6th overall. Not bad for a 25-year old racing only for three years. After doing triathlons, he raced two years as an amateur including racing with Team Exergy at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge last year before signing with his current team.
What makes the Vancouver native such a good climber? “Probably genetics,” he laughed, “and I just like going uphill.”
Salas was a late addition to the roster after Jesse Anthony pulled out due to sickness. “I only found out maybe four or five days before the race, so it was touch and go there. I was waiting for that last minute call-up, and then when I got it I was really excited. Now I’m hoping to make some sort of impression for the team and on the race as a whole.”
His goal for the next years is to simply keep progression. “If the opportunity arose to sign for a bigger team.” he mused. But he quickly added, “But I still have so much to learn, my teammates are helping me learn the ins and outs of cycling, how to handle my bike, how to position myself in the pack. Being on this Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies, all the guys are so experienced and they’ve been helping me out so much during the last few months.”
Basically he feels that he needs to do more. “Just getting more riding in the legs, more tours, more time trials, more racing, just maturing as a person.”
One of the hardest part right now in the race is to make sure that he eats enough. “It’s not that I forget to eat, sometimes you don’t feel like eating after a hard effort so I just have to eat as much as you can and recover.”
Through it all however, Salas is having fun at the race. “It was amazing the crowds up there, I’ve never really experienced anything like this.”
Salas holds the record for the fastest time at the Grouse Grind Mountain Run (2008,2009,2010). “I do some mountain running and I have a record up in Vancouver of the Grouse Climb, it’s a pretty big deal up there.” he said with a smile. The run is a 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.
Salas holds a four-point lead on Boily with still a lot more climbing to be done starting with stage 5, 130.2 miles from Sonora to Clovis with six KOM opportunities.