Chico Stage Race in California

, October 19, 2013

Today I am sitting here next to a dusty bike and a pile of dirty laundry piled high with white crusted cycling gear.  It’s legitimately gross to think that I will actually wear that chamois again even after a thorough wash.  And it’s a good thing my lovely girlfriend is a cyclist and thus ravenously turned on by my laser etched tanlines earned from a weekend in the beautiful California college town called Chico.  And here is where my ballad unfolds:

The sacrifice was precalculated.  After a long week of deliberating the pros and cons of the situation, Matt Farhnam correctly and confidently decided that the only way to optimize his and my pre road race coffee drinking experience was to grind beans in the morning.  5:30 in the Morning to be exact.  Obviously this would retract any future invitation to stay at our host housing and place our out-of wheelchair-existence in danger from what I can only imagine would be a career-ending beatdown from our body building co-host/nicest guy in the world if he decided grinding beans that early to be undesirable. However the fractional improvement in the full-bodiedness of our fresh roasted Dominican Republic Medium Roast could mean the difference in the upcoming event.  We took the risk and sipped some of the best coffee the Central Valley has ever experienced on the way up I-5.  (Somehow my teammate, Jonathan had Starbucks and beat both of us.)

As the first sunlight penetrated the atmosphere, we were pulling our sexy ass Specialized Venges off the back of Matt Farnhamm’s’s Pontiac Vibe 5-door.  Maverick greeted us, hair greased back, Ray Ban Aviators perched on his head like a prom queen crown with that “Suffering is what I love” smile he wears while sitting on the front of the peloton pretending to fly his F-18 with Kenny Loggins casually dancing through his head. “Sup Cinnamon” I say as Josh has yet to pin the Maverick title to him at this point in the weekend.

Road Race Basic Info:

  • 90 mi, 2x45mi laps each with one 5 mi gravel section
  • Flat to rolling terrain
  • Field Size~40
  • We have 6 riders and are the biggest team
  • Mikes Bikes has 4 riders
  • Strava has 4
  • Sierra Nevada has 4-5

Metromint has 1 short red-haired kid that Josh calls the Ginger Rocket.

That really important guy who has the power to add 2:00 to your time for a centerline violation was mumbling stuff, but I think I was making fun of somebody Jonathan for having mis-length-matched socks and wasn’t paying attention. The whistle blew, and I struggled to clip in.   I can’t even claim to be a rookie any more.  I need to start clipping my shoes in putting my feet on top like we did in triathalon.

Before I even heard the snap of my Look KEO pedal engaging the cleat, Maverick is in a break with 6-8 other bold fighter pilots willing to fly 4 hours solo.  All big teams were represented.  ‘Hmmmm hmmmmm hmmmmmm…Hiiiiiiiiiighwaaaaaaaay to the DANger Zone…’ Maverick was said to be humming like a madman as he stared blankly out to the hoirzion.

30 miles later they were still away, but the gap was diminishing.  Maverick decided to fly back to the aircraft carrier when it got within eyesight leaving fuel for the next mission. (and with this, I decree that all references to afore mentioned teammate must include a Top Gun reference.

Jonathan and I had conveniently labeled ourselves as “General Classification contenders” before the race.  What this means we get to tell people “you do this,” “you do that,” at will.  I highly recommend calling yourself one of these mythical creatures as it is pretty much an invitation to be a bossy pre-pubescent teen.  “Matt Furmim, Nick, Josh!!1! Get up here!!” (yes I actually said the 1 part too, I was tired)  As Josh took the lead up and over the rollers, I remember commenting to him that he was becoming quite the mountain goat, which he didn’t seem to find incredibly amusing as I sat back in his goatish draft careening upwards.  I knew that the Mikes and Strava guys up the road were super strong, but those 3 red jerseys crushed the gap with amazing gusto.  When we came to within 30 sec, I stupidly told Matt Farnam to let me pull through and roll off the front.  It was like when you get really drunk, go on Expedia and buy yourself a one way ticket to Indonesia just because it was a good deal.  When I realized what had happened I was riding with Shawn (Mikes Bikes) and Chris (Strava) alone down a gravel road a long long way from home.

55 miles (and 2 miles from the finish line) later I stopped winning and started losing.  Shawn (Mikes) and Chris (Strava) caught the freight train of a peloton as Matt Farhnmam and Jonathan BLEW past me, gravel flying.  Well, when you are riding at 9 mph, even anything seems fast.  I tootled across the line in severe pain, and Maverick safely landed his F-18 soon after.

Results after the Road Race:

Jonathan and Matt Farnhahhm: Same time finish, top 15.

Rest of us: Honorable Mention, AKA somewhere near last place.

Day 2

Sam being the wise sage that she is, mandated that we pre-grind our coffee on Day One.  We parted ways with our host family on speaking terms, but both Jonathan, I and even Shawn (Mikes Bikes) Missed our TT starts.  I blame this on first-and-a-half-rate coffee.

This is a plea to anybody with a TT bike: PLEASE DONATE IT TO MATT FAHRNAHM!!! His is total junk.  It even looks slow.

TT Results: Triathlons without a swim and a run are still triathlons.

Matt Faarhhmmemmmm, however, was forced to shave his legs in order to borrow my TT bike being our number 1 General Classification (GC) contender.  That is a huge win to everybody.  His wife even gave me a personal “Thank You” phone call last night.

After watching an inspirational Women’s crit where our team annihilated the field winning all the time bonuses including the 10 second bonus for WINNING we were off.

Josh and Maverick were first to get to the front, which turned out not be the easiest task as people were attacking from every angle driving the pace to be one of the faster crits I have experienced.  At this point, Jonathan and I were vying for a stage result, Matt FranHam was aiming to maintain his stage position, Josh and Maverick were covering early moves and Nick was saving up for a sprint finish.  I like racing with Josh, because I can count on him to race smart and aggressively until he explodes.  If you can see him, he’ll be attacking, bridging and generally signposting people at will.  He somehow starts the race already with one of those handy mushrooms from MarioKart.  (caption 1: picture of yellow MarioKart Mushroom)  You know what I mean.  Maverick is obviously getting more comfortable flying his F-18, as multiple times during the race I was swooped by an unknown cyclist who turned out to be this very crafty aviator on his way up to the front with his sights locked on Jester.  It sounds stupid, but it is hard to do: Nick was “perfectly lazy” in this race holding onto the coveted 10th wheel as if it was a poptart.  In this group at these speeds with this course, this is near impossible, and he was ready to pounce if a sprint finish unrolled.  Matt Farhmamammmm hung on like a girl at the skating rink who is mercilessly at the wrong end of “the whip” at her older brother’s 10th birthday party.  But he proved to have a very tight grip.  (see GC results)

Midway through the race, Jonathan and I started alternating getting in moves trying to find the right break.  Ultimately it was me that closed the gap to the breakaway and escaped the peloton.  It was a 5 man breakaway that started 45 min into the hour long crit.  We were charging, rotating well, I was starting have a good feeling that I might be able to get a good result out of the weekend rather than looking to Matt Framerheizen and Jonathan to impress the crowds/ladies on my behalf.  Coming into the last turn I opened up a little gap in front to the lead rider, then hit the corner accelerating into his draft and sprinting through.  My imaginary power meter clicked into the 4th digit right as I crossed the line.  And the first thing I thought was That’s what Rand Miller gets for announcing to the crowd that I was looking tired.  Correction: I was looking GOOD!  We all looked good.  And as every cyclist knows, that’s what it’s all about.

As we loaded the vibe and headed back to Berkeley, a quote from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road slips into my mind,” What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”  “Word,” I say out loud to myself.

For more racer information, look up Chico Stage Race on Facebook (they’ve lost access to their web domain)

Craig Fellers is based out of Santa Cruz where he is the owner and optometrist at Midtown Optometry.