Chico Stage Race
Cat: Elite 3
Teammates: Scott Cox
CG Placing: 2/58
An awesome stage race weekend; my favorite of the year. Great job by the promoters, Chico Corsa, and by Michael Painter of Chico Corsa, in particular. He sacrificed his race season to put this event on. I really respect his willingness to give back to the cycling community in such a huge way. They can’t make much, if any, money on these races. Kudos. This is going to be a big event soon. Every stage is interesting and staying in downtown Chico is so much more fun that say, an airport hotel in Madera. Just saying.
Chico Stage Race –Paskenta Road Race
Place: 20/58 (pack finish, same time)
Distance: 88.45 (started Garmin late. Course is 92 miles)
Elevation Gain: 4281 ft.
Normalized Power: 293w
Energy Expended: 3275 kJ
Average Power: 233w
HR: 150 bpm avg, 184 bpm max
Speed: 43.2 mph max, 22.6 mph avg
The main reason why the Chico Stage Race is my favorite weekend of racing is the Paskenta Road Race course. It’s a 46 mile loop in the rolling pre-foothills west of Corning. At about mile 41 there comes 3.5 miles of rough gravel on very up and down rolling track. When you exit the gravel, there’s a small grade climb and then 3k of long visible rollers to a slightly uphill finish. The Elite 3 would do 2 laps of this epic course. In the two previous years I’ve raced this course, it comes down to the last time through the gravel section and then over the last grade.
Davis and Bicycles Plus Sierra-Nevada (BPSN) had big teams, with Chico Corsa, Metromint, and Stuzio with 3 riders. In addition there were some strong individual riders including Scotty Witthoff from Fusion and Oli Ryan with R4R. Clearly nothing would get away without representation from Davis or BPSN.
- Since it was only Scott and me on our team, we decided to let the big teams do the work and try and get into a break if both of those teams were represented
- Scott would work to get me to the front before the gravel section to make sure I was on the front safe from any craziness
- While I would love a win or top 6 placing, I was racing for the GC and would be fine with a pack finish and go same time as everyone. From looking at the field, I didn’t see anyone that was a real TT threat based on this year’s performances. But, you never know. (foreshadowing alert)
The race kicked off slowly, with some early small attacks gaining as much as 2 minutes. But going this early, you’d need Davis, BPSN represented and most likely 6-8 strong racers.
We made it through the small roller section and then the two large rollers without much serious attacking. At the end of the second roller (.3 miles at 7%), I needed a full minute to sit in and recover. I had to push 546w just to stay with the group. Note to self: take race weight a little more seriously.
Coming up on the gravel, Scott pushed to the front and I took his wheel as planned. Only issue is that we misjudged where the gravel started and started a hard lead in way too early. By the time we actually hit the gravel we both were already a bit cooked. Note to self: Don’t do that again. The gravel section was brutally hard. I was fighting just to remain in contact. This pace would have shattered the group last year, but everyone was hanging in. I was about 20 back and just trying to hold a good line. Jared Hudson from SquadraSF was on front and driving a hard big-ring, Paris-Roubaix style pace… and it hurt. For the whole lead in through the gravel (17:39), I pushed normalized 370w. Ouch. But, I hung on and recovered.
After the short grade and descent, I heard a very hard crash happen right behind me. Screams, carbon cracks, tires blowing up. Ugg. Dave Rossow from Webcor and 3-4 other riders went down hard. I hope they are all okay.
We got into the slightly downhill section again, and the motorcycle referee came up to the front and yelled if we didn’t pick up the pace we were in danger of being caught by the women’s P12 field. First off, he was joking. Second off, if we were caught by a hard driving Alison Tetrick, it would be no shame. At that joke, Scotty Witthoff launches an attack and Kyle Ashton from Iron Data-Thirsty Bear jumps on his wheel. Scott Cox (who I learned later had just chased back on after getting a new wheel after blowing a spoke) tries to go with them, but looks back at the group and me, and decides to kill the jets. Two non-Davis/BPSN guys are not going to get away with +40 miles to go. But on they went, and went hard. They soon had a minute gap. Then Michael Claudio of Davis and another rider jumped, and now we had 2 and 2 away. I then make my plan that if a BPSN rider jumps, I will jump on his wheel and drive us up, with the knowledge that neither Davis of BPSN would chase. In that situation, that could be the end of the race.
Chris Parod of BPSN and another rider jump, but it catches me off guard. They get 20 sec, but all the non-represented teams, including Scott and I start to go to work. We quickly reel back in Chris and then Metromint sends 3 riders up to take the small rolling section hard. I join and spin my legs fast over each small rise, and let my fat pull me downhill. My plan is to be on the front for the feed zone climb, get 2 waters and then kill the downhill and sag climb the next harder roller. All goes to plan, but the second roller hurt hard again. This time 558w ave to make it over in the group, and now I needed close to 90 sec to recover and gain back my position.
Once we cleared the downhill, BPSN went to work, killing their guys on the front to pull back the lead group. They were now together at 4 riders with 1:50 going down to 1:30 then :50. We were going to catch them as long as we kept the pace driving. Once we got to the lead into the gravel, it was clear we’d get them. The pace picked up as people jockeyed for position. I looked up at the gravel. Looked at the riders around me. And impulsively shouted, “I LOVE THIS F***KING SPORT!” I do shit like this sometimes. Forgive me. I think I scared some riders around me. Not very safe. I won’t do it again so loud.
We hit the gravel and I was in about 10thposition, this time not already gassed. I keep it in the 53 ring and powered though the gravel. We soon caught the lead group. I gave Scotty some congrats and he slotted right into the group. Damn. I’d be cooked if I were him. Great effort. He really gave it a shot.
This time through the pace was a little more sedate, but it was still hard. I felt great and contemplated attacking, but I knew I had to make it over the climb after the gravel to have any shot. So I stayed within myself. Coming up to the lead when I could to pick my own line.
We came out of the gravel as about 28 riders. I was ready for the attack up the hill, but the headwind now was very strong and anyone that went to the front found out how tough it was, saw the pack holding wheels, and though better about attacking too early. We cleared the hill and made the descent into the final 3k of rollers. I moved up into the top 10. Some attacks launched and I fought hard to hold wheels on the front. Nothing would get away. I would allow no time gaps. At 1k I knew I’d be same time as the group. I thought about attacking a little under 500m, but felt the entire group on my wheel and decided to save my legs for the TT. I look back at this decision now and realized I need to have the killer instinct to put races away. This was my kind of finish, slight short grade with a flat sprint end. In hindsight, I should have attacked after the 500m sign, but I didn’t. Oh well. The sprint was on, and true sprinters came up and won. I took same time. Perfect. Time to recover.
Chico Stage Race –River Road TT
Distance: 9.905 miles
Elevation Gain: 59 ft
Normalized Power: 345w
Average Power: 345w
Energy Expended: 441 kJ
HR: 174 bpm avg, 179 bpm max
Speed: 27.9 mph avg, 31.8 mph max
New course this year. We pre-rode it yesterday and the wind was a headwind out, tail back. But we got to start and it was opposite. Time to change my plan. Stay within myself out, kill the return.
I woke up feeling awesome. My legs weren’t even sore. I started my warmup and my HR popped right up where it should be. Wow. This could be a good day.
What can I say? It’s a TT. I went hard. It sucked more, I went harder. I drooled. I finished very happy with my time. Here is about how it broke out:
- Outbound leg: 10:24, 28.1 mph, 342w (slight cross tail wind, slight downhill)
- Northbound leg: 5:01:00, 28.6 mph, 337w (tailwind)
- Return leg: 5:54:00, 27.0 mph, 359w (headwind slight uphill)
I knew my time would be a top time. From everyone else I spoke with I was 15-20sec up… until I spoke to Michael Claudio. He said he did 20:48. Wow. That’s an incredible time. It’s a P12 time. It came out of nowhere to me too. His times this year haven’t been that fast. He seriously has figured something out. Good for him. Turns out Erik Nelson from BPSN went 3.5sec faster than me too. He just won Copperopolis RR and I heard that he just got a TT bike. Impressive. He’s going to be an animal… no scratch that, he IS an animal. Oliver Ryan R4R and Isaac Sparling of Dolce Vita put in some great times as well. There’d be some battling for places 6-10 to be sure.
You just have to remember that doing a TT effort less than 24 hours after racing 92 miles is an experience your body is just not ready to comprehend. Some react better than others.
So, I go into the crit in third place in the GC. Second place is just 3.5 second ahead, and fourth and fifth places are only 2-3 seconds behind me. Then there is a 20 second gap. Looks like barring any mishaps, the top 5 was set, with some movement to be made within if anyone got any time bonuses.
Chico Stage Race – Downtown Criterium
Distance: 15.933 miles
Elevation Gain: 0 ft
Normalized Power: 352w
Average Power: 325w
Energy Expended: 705 kJ
HR: 171 bpm avg, 187 bpm max
Speed: 26.4 mph avg, 33.9 mph max
Short crit for a E3 race, only 40min, but that was fine by me. My goal was to do something to gain back 3.5 seconds on 2ndplace GC placer, Erik Nelson of BPSN. Going for 1st place for GC was not really an option, as Michael Claudio had a large team and for sure would cover anything dangerous. But, you never know with bike racing. And early crash or mechanical could change everything.
We started off fast and furious. With the crit being short, we’d make it up by going fast.
There would be 2 sprint prime time bonuses of 5 seconds each. That was my first goal: get me one of those. It would not be easy. I am sure BPSN had me marked and the fourth and fifth place GC riders were within 3seconds of me – they’d be gunning to get one too. Racing is fun.
The first prime went down and I could not get positioned to get it. Someone not a threat to me took it. Fine by me. Scotty Whitthoff took some attacks and many of the merchandise primes. Fine by me too. He’s on killer form.
A hard crash happened right in front of me, and I barely escaped going head over my handlebars. Whew. I jumped back on the group and kept pushing. The final sprint prime bell sounded, and I moved up to 10thwheel going though turn 1 and 2. Then moved up a few riders on the backside. Through turn 3 I picked up more speed and then into turn 4, I saw Oliver Ryan on the front. He was not just going to lead everyone out, so they looked slow. I jumped hard on the inside staying in my saddle. I went into the final turn very fast, taking a shallow line to not allow anyone to jump me inside. I barely made the turn and came out in a full sprint up to 1154w. I had a BPSN rider on my tail, but I had gapped him on the turn, not from my weak sprint. I didn’t look back any more. I went head down and took the prime. Yes! 5 second bonus won, I was now in ‘virtual’ second place in the GC. I soft-pedaled and let the group catch me. I’d play for the finish now, maybe trying the same gambit again.
We got down to the last lap, we were going through turn 4, Isaac Sparling’s took the turn going over the sidewalk and his back wheel skipped out and his tire blows. He goes down hard and is sliding out. I’m on his outside and just barely… by the smallest of gaps, miss him and keep rolling past. It threw me out of my game and a small gap formed. I got back on it and caught back on, but I wasn’t focused on the win. I went for the same time and just finish. Top 30 finished same time. No one around me in the GC placed in top 3 of the crit, so no more movement in the GC.
Weekend done. I placed 2nd out of 58 starters. Second time in 3 weeks taking second in the general classification of a stage race. I need some rest. I think we can safely cal the first 3 months of the season a success.
Thanks a million to Scott Cox for all the team support. I could not have done it without him.
Congrats to Michael Claudio for the win. Impressive weekend. Heal up Isaac, you raced hard for a just a young kid. Awesome job Scotty Witthoff. Huge efforts and gambles that almost paid off. Way to finish the RR in the led group Ken M and pull 12thin the GC, I think you get points for that.
I am not sure what’s next for me. Maybe Panoche RR, maybe Cat’s Hill, maybe Turlock RR. Who knows.
I now have my 25 upgrade points, so going to cat 2 is in the bag for the season. But, I need to try and actually win some races before I feel confident going up to “where good racers go to die” as Jason Grefrath once spoketh to me. I’m also going to hang out and help my teammates. My goal was to upgrade at the end of the season, and that’s what I’ll do.