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Chico Stage Race

Illi Gardner

 

A few weeks ago Amy, Melanie, Liz and I headed North for a fun weekend at the Chico stage race. This was my first time doing it and all I really knew about it was the infamous gravel section of the Paskenta road race. But that was on Saturday, and first we had the Thunderhill circuit race on Friday. It was a rollercoastery hour of fun. The course was different than previous years, so the first few laps were spent figuring it out. Hagens Berman were pretty aggressive and grabbed all the hot-spot sprints, but no breakaways succeeded and it came down to a bunch finish. I tried to follow riders as they formulated their leadout trains and got into a good position for the finish. I came 7th with Melanie, Amy and Liz rolling in at the same time. It was a good start to the weekend but we knew that the next two days was where our position would be determined.

 

Saturday was the 90 mile Paskenta road race. The day was off to a good start with a delicious breakfast made by Melanie. That’s the good thing about stage races…you can eat as much as you want!

I was extremely happy to find out that the four-mile gravel stretch was shallow and apparently much better than previous years. The first lap was tame until a couple of miles before the gravel where everyone began fighting for position. A five-person breakaway group had gone very early in the race which contained a rider from every big team, so no one was working to bring it back. It was going okay until we hit the horrendous pothole section before the gravel, about two hours in. I hit a particularly bad hole and got a pinch flat right when the field was starting to split. Luckily I got it changed quickly and got up to a chase group–we worked hard to catch back on but it turned out that everyone was stopping for a pee break anyway.

By this point, the break was a whole eight and a half minutes ahead. Eventually the pace picked up and I started to regret not drinking or eating very much. We all stayed intact the last time through the gravel which ended just a few miles before the finish. Bottles were flying and energy was building. The pace surged on the little hill coming out of the gravel and Melanie and I just barely made it over with the first group and hung on till the finish. We were slightly gapped coming over that little hill and if Melanie wasn’t there to help bridge up I don’t think I would’ve made it!

I had been wearing the white jersey but lost it because another junior was in the 75 mile breakaway.

 

We were extremely thankful to Sara E for coming up to help in the feedzone and bringing our awesome Oakleys!!

 

The last day was the TT and crit. The TT was shortened to an out-and-back 8 miles due to flooding. This pretty much determined our GC positions, as our times were all close together leading into it. We all rode pretty well and then caffeine-loaded before the crit (thanks for the great mocha Amy…I basically spent the entire weekend eating other people’s food). The crit was just forty minutes of a six-corner L through downtown. I started at the back and was never able to move up, so I wasn’t too happy at the finish. Most importantly, we all stayed upright and our GC positions remained the same.

 

Overall I learnt a ton and had a super fun weekend. Thank you for being amazing teammates! Staying with a host family was also a new experience for me and I loved it.

Now we’re doing a few local races before heading to San Dimas at the end of the month!

 

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