Last Friday night, two weeks ago, I piled my road bike and TT rig into my minivan and began the journey up to the illustrious town of Paskenta. For those unfamiliar, Paskenta is west of Corning and north of College City… Maybe that doesn’t help? Just imagine a faraway hamlet, tucked against the foot of the coastal mountain range on the westside of the Central Valley. The sort of place that you might drive past without noticing if you blink at the wrong time.
I slept in my van alongside the river, woke up, and leisurely made some oatmeal on a camp stove. Keith, Nick, and newbie WIllie Myers showed up one by one. Willie and I bonded over the incredible versatility, style, and class of the mid-90’s Chrysler/Dodge minivan series (He has a Chrysler Town and Country and mine is a Dodge Grand Caravan).
Pretty soon we were rolling out for 90 miles of mostly flat terrain, some rollers and bumpy roads, and the infamous Paskenta gravel section, which is rolling and about 5 miles long. Keith was nice enough to glue on one of my tubulars while we were hanging out before the race, so I promised him I would attack first so he wouldn’t have to, so I rolled off the front with a representative from every team, except Bicycles Plus/Sierra Nevada. The large break was unable to force open a serious gap on the first lap, 1:00 was the widest margin before we started riding through the narrow twisty roads leading to the first time over the gravel section. At this point, Shawn Rosenthal from Mike’s Bikes began sitting on, in anticipation of us being brought back. I took a series of hard pulls to keep at least 40 seconds for the break, and I was very pleased when Good Guy Craig Fellers from Red Peloton bridged up.
We hit the gravel and immediately Rosenthal attacked. Good Guy Craig was on his wheel right away, but I was having trouble finding the punch to get onto their train immediately. I rode 5 bike lengths off of them until I finally clawed them back near the end of the blueish-white gravel.
So then it was just us 3. Good Guy Craig, who has earned his name from our collegiate days for his positive attitude and willingness to organize chases and breakaways, did some massive pulls while Rosenthal and I gasped for air and prayed our legs would come back to us. We got the gap up to 3 minutes, but as the 2nd lap ticked by, it was eaten up more and more. As we hit the rollers, Craig and I were considering sitting up, the peloton was really close, maybe 25 or 30 seconds, when Rosenthal attacked. Craig and I chased after him with the peloton breathing down our necks. We saw a rider bridging up to us, it was Matt Rodriguez from DBC. Matt and I chased hard and eventually got Rosenthal back. After that, it was the Rodriguez Show, as Matt rode eyeballs-out to keep the break alive. We all recovered enough to help him out and pretty soon we had 1:40 on the peloton.
Everyone was in pretty dire shape when we hit the gravel. I attacked hard and cornered through the gravel at high speeds, a skill I had acquired from riding my road bike on dirt with Keith in the Santa Cruz Mountains. For a little bit, it looked as though I had dropped Good Guy Craig and Matt, but if you dig a little too deep on the gravel its hard to sustain a move. I attacked again, but it got shut down pretty quickly. Rosenthal, Rodriguez, and I emerged from the gravel totally battered and exhausted.
We looked back I saw Keith bridging up to us with Roman Kilun from Mike’s and Chris Riekert of Specialized. I was stoked.
Without speaking, I knew Keith was feeling great, the finish suited his uphill sprint perfectly, so I took the pace up on the front. Rosenthal gave it one last go and I followed him and refused to pull through to defuse the attack. I was that confident Keith was going to win from this group. Keith pushed me back up to the front and I lead out the sprint at the foot of the hill. Keith came by me with the others following him, there was still 400 meters to go. He was weaving around the road, then flipped another gear and dug in harder. I was getting nervous watching the whole thing unfold, Keith was trying to take this one from a long way out. Matt Rodriguez opened his sprint all the way and Keith responded, staying in front of him. Roman opened up on the right and Keith flipped another gear staying out front. It kept looking like he was going to be passed, but Keith held on all the way to the line. I was so pumped!
Willie finished in the main group, his first race back since his win at Bariani. Nick was in the 3rd group, his first race of the season since his cyclocross campaign.
It was sweltering outside, so we grabbed some towels, lathered ourselves in gobs of all-natural and highly protective Zealios sunscreen given to us by Personal Best, and rolled down to the river. We spent at least an hour and half just hanging out in the river under the sun, having a post-race victory brewski. Good times.
After the action-packed road race. The TT was much more straightforward. Keith was leading the race and was doing his best to persuade me he cannot time trial.
“I’m a mountain biker, I need someone to chase or someone chasing me!”
I agreed with the motivation factors, but I was unpersuaded that Keith is a mountain biker.
“I won Downieville dude!”
He also has a record of crashing every time Frank Spiteri lets him lead on singletrack descents. Keith is roadie, with a penchant for riding dirt, like a true NorCalian. I rest my case.
Anyway, Roman Kilun was right behind Keith so the motivational factors were at an all-time high. In fact, Keith held off Roman until 1 mile remained in the TT. He saw him creep into his peripheral vision, no doubt uttering, “Oh God, he’s here now”. Keith gave Roman a complementary 5 bike lengths, then counted to 3 and buried his head in his aero bars, riding up alongside Roman, and drag racing him to the finish to limit his losses.
After that, we all rolled back to Mike Painter’s house. Mike hosted us and Jen and Juliette from Argon 18 p/b Pinnacle. He is a super rad guy who loves grueling 24 hour mountain bike races, which was like a foreign concept to me. He helped organize the Chico master’s team and played a huge role in putting on the stage race. I ate lots of his pasta. Thanks Mike!
Mike’s empty pool made my heart skip a beat, as I remembered my middle and high school days when all I wanted to do was be a pro skateboarder. And finding an empty pool is like stumbling upon a nugget of gold in the Sierra foothills. In the end, Willie’s frontflips off of Mike’s trampoline were more dangerous than my latent desire to find a skateboard and ollie off the deep-end wall into the bank below.
Pretty soon, it was the evening and it was crit time. We wanted to get time bonuses and get Willie in contention for the win. I won a time bonus prime (my first prime I have ever won), but we kept missing the breakaway moves. There was a lot of chasing done by us.
Ultimately a breakaway of 4 escaped with a break of 2 riders 15 seconds behind. We got disorganized and couldn’t catch either of them. Luckily they didn’t impact Keith’s 3rd spot on GC, although Ariel Hermann of Metromint passed me to move into 5th.
It was an awesome weekend up in Chico and much of the drive back wasn’t too bad either! Thanks to Chico Corsa for putting on a great race, we’ll be back next year!