In the photo: Travis Keeney
Written by Travis.
Chico Stage Race is the pinnacle of stage racing in NorCal and as it approached, I felt like a grizzled veteran with three years of experience. 2014, ‘15, and ‘16 were all successful years in their own right, but for one reason or another I had never quite achieved the GC results I knew were possible. After playing a support/growth role on the Elite Dev team for the past three years, I raised my hand to be the GC rider and teammates graciously answered with nearly everyone showing up.
Preparation was methodical. Ingmar invited the team to the Specialized Win Tunnel to learn how to trim a second here and there, we started a TT focused chat led by Ingmar and Theo, I finally got the equipment necessary to compete at the highest levels thanks to Justin B. and Matt A., and my fitness/restedness was well timed. The team created a robust plan in advance and everyone went into the race knowing their roles.
Stage 1: Thunder Hill Circuit Race (3rd)
Despite calls for rain all weekend, the weather cleared and we were ready to roll for the first stage of the weekend - Thunder Hill. The stage took place late Friday afternoon. A combination of the time of day with an unstable weather pattern made for very windy conditions. The goal was to maintain position in the top 20 for the entire race. Despite a lot of movement within the peloton, the track was wide enough to attain that objective.
Small moves were popping off the front and quickly being brought back, but not really because of strong efforts but because the wind was so difficult to navigate -- these are some of my favorite conditions. I knew if a few relatively strong riders and I could get a small gap, it would be difficult for others to close the gap with it being such a brutally windy first stage of a long weekend.
Within the first 30 minutes of the 90 minute race, Tyler (Vegan Cyclist) put in a well-timed solo attack through a tail-wind section. I knew he was hungry, fit, and apologetic about OTF a few weeks ago so I took the bait and slowly shut the gap down. As I got his wheel, he continued to motor which gave me confidence to lay down an equally hard effort immediately after. When we looked back, just one other rider was willing to follow the move and the break was set.
The three of us (Swift rider Isaiah Chass, Tyler, and myself) worked well together while Adam Naguib and other teammates that were left in the main peloton did their best to disrupt any concerted chase. The gap grew from 20 to 30 to 40 seconds...
At this point it was clear to me that I needed to make this break stick and get as many seconds over the other riders as possible because the top GC riders were back in the chase group. I made the conscious decision to use my legs up in order to hold the gap and not worry about the individual podium.
Stage 2: Paskenta Road Race (10th, 2nd in GC)
From the original plans, Paskenta was the race I wanted to blow the field apart in, but after putting time on the field in stage one, it was very difficult to establish gaps without major teams following. The race ended all together and it all came down to the TT.
Stage 3: River Road TT (6th, 2nd in GC)
While Time Trialing has always been something I was OKAY at, I’ve never focused enough on the discipline to nail a time that aligned with my power numbers. During the off-season I spent significant time working on body position, aero, and mechanical gains - it paid off. While doing nearly the same power numbers as two years ago, my time was one full minute faster (22:30 → 21:30). This is exactly what I was aiming for and it felt good to accomplish such a lofty goal. Unfortunately, this was only enough for 6th and I was still in 2nd overall for GC.
Stage 4: Downtown Crit (2nd in GC)
As we approached the final stage 2nd overall in the general classification, 15 seconds out of first and 13 (or so) seconds back to third, the plan was to have the entire team at the front setting a high tempo and not allowing any moves up the road. I was then going to race aggressively and attempt to open up a gap on the field to claim the W. My legs were feeling surprisingly good, in part due to the new Absolute Black oval chainrings.
After soaking in the rider call-ups, the team slotted in behind me and I guess something happened with a clip in because Ben Marshall was the only one able to make it to the front of the field for two thirds of the race. At that point, my goal shifted to survival - keeping the race together and locking down the 2nd place overall which is what we did.
Kudos to my teammates for showing up and trusting me to perform. We’ve come a long way from racing solo two years ago as a cat 2 to where we are today. They helped book accommodations, cook, provide support in the TT and crit, and also helped my break stay away while preventing other breaks from sticking. Another big thank you to all of our sponsors - Mike’s Bikes, Equator Coffees, Toyota, Capo, Specialized Bicycles, Absolute Black Chainrings. Last, but not least - thank you to Rachel, Tali, and Kirsten for spending their extended weekend with us assisting in the feed zone, snapping amazing photos (better photos to come), and general support.
Feels good to accomplish a goal you’ve worked hard to achieve over many years.
In the photo: Mikal Davis
Written by Mikal.
Everyone in NorCal knows Chico. Its many people's A race of the spring and brings in big numbers of racers. After winning the race as a Cat 4 last year, I knew this would be a target race for me in 2018 and I started training for it last November with one goal in mind.
The 3s team began planning early, and eventually decided that Ingmar and I would be the GC contenders due to our TT abilities. We wanted to keep the plan simple and focus on our strengths, so we decided the best approach would be the strategy that won the race last year in the 4s: don't let any breaks get away, don't let anyone win multiple time bonuses, and win it on the TT.
How it Unfolded:
Our race plan was executed almost perfectly;
- During the circuit race, everyone was willing and able to use their strength at the right times to chase down dangerous attacks and de-motivate the pack from trying to launch attacks.
- The team took care of business during the road race and as usual the gravel was the point when selections were made. The second pass of the gravel was pure grit, it was a 20min full-gas effort and luckily I got on the right wheels and survived. I did, however, exit the gravel section with a 5s gap behind the lead group and together with the eventual winner, emptied the tank in order to bridge and finished in the front group. This turned out to be the decisive moment of the race, as all the GC contenders were in that front group.
- The time trial did not go according to plan for me. I had a less than stellar performance, but still managed to hold on to 3rd in the GC. Kudos to the guys who finished ahead of me, especially Ingmar who had a great TT and would have been on the GC podium had he made the final selection in the road race.
- The GC standings were relatively solidified going into the crit, and not many of the top 5 GC riders had aspirations to move up, so it was clear that no breaks were going to get away. I did have a rider 2s behind me in the GC, so the team's priority was to protect 3rd place and make sure no gaps opened up. We had two TMB riders on the guy's wheel to make sure this didnt happen, and all was going to plan until, with 3 laps to go, a Sunpower rider clipped a pedal in turn 4 and took me out with him. This was the moment in the race were I felt the most team support and cohesion. I quickly got up and Jason was already stopped and waiting for me, ready to give me his bike if needed. A few seconds later, Justin and Ingmar were back helping me get onto the back of the pack. We rode as hard as possible and managed to get back on within a lap, and I was able to finish with the main group, preserving 3rd place.
All in all, I am slightly disappointed I didn't get the win, but at the same time am very happy with the way the team made a plan and stuck to it over all 4 stages. I love stage racing since it brings out the team element of bike racing, and this was one of the best teams Ive ever raced with. This result would have not been possible without my team. We all deserve a piece of that podium:
Justin: Team captain and always willing to empty his tank for the greater good. The dude is always on the front monitoring for breaks and put in a huge effort during the road race.
Ingmar: Raced smart and had a monster TT. The only thing separating him from the podium was an unlucky gap during the road race.
Tom: Was a huge part of our race strategy. He made sure our plan was simple and is always willing to follow that plan until he cant pedal anymore.
James: Was only informed a couple weeks ahead of time he was on the Chico team, but played a huge role in the road road by taking a gutsy flyer and forcing other teams to chase.
Leo: One of the strongest guys in the peloton. Not only survived the first split but was able to cover attacks until the very end of the road race. Also did a great job of communicating who we had left after the group split in the road race.
Jason: Literally pulled me back onto the podium after I crashed during the crit and was ready/willing to give me his bike if needed.
Cam: Super valuable role player during the circuit and crit. He marked the 4th place GC guy like his life depended on it and covered countless attacks in stage 1.
In the photo: Sean Davis
Written by Sean.
Chico served as a great opportunity to cut my stage racing teeth. As a first-time competitor at Chico, I really had no expectations going into the weekend, but I knew my fitness level was solid, and that I could just follow the lead of my teammates to navigate the races and potentially put myself in contention for the GC.
Races were cold all weekend, but thankfully we were able to stay dry (and safe) for the RR, Crit and TT. After being inspired by the effort put forth by Holger Steinmetzger, Chris Ahl and Connor Kensok (who led the team with an 8th place finish) in the Paskenta Road Race, I felt ready to charge the Crit & TT on day 2.
The strategy for the Crit was to try and break away from the gun. Holger and I wanted to do something in the race to make things interesting, so we settled on an early break attempt. However, like most things, everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face. It seemed everyone wanted to get after it early, which resulted in incredibly fast speeds for the first quarter of the race, forcing an ‘in race adjustment’ to our strategy.
As always, position proved vital in the latter stages of the race. I was able to work my way up to 6th wheel with 3 laps to go, 4th wheel with 2 laps, and 3rd wheel going into the last lap. I had what I thought was a winning line picked out going into the final two corners and was able to execute for the win! A shout-out seems in order for Holger who helped initiate the early pace and tire out the ‘pure sprinters’ in the field.
After a quick recovery and a rather ‘unscientific’ bike fit (eyeballing it sometimes works best), it was on to the TT. Conditions were great for the race, with only a bit of wind to overcome. The strategy for the TT was to compete for the GC, which injected a bit of extra motivation to my effort. I also had some great advice from teammates about pacing and measuring a proper effort over the 10 mile course, as this was my first time ever on a TT bike or competing in a TT race. The collective wisdom of the Mikes Bikes team once again reigned supreme. I was able to put together an effort that I felt proud of and came away with the TT win and capture the top spot for the GC.
The weekend once again confirmed my theory that putting together a successful weekend of bike racing takes more than fitness, but requires a strong team, positive attitude, the grit to overcome unexpected obstacles and a love for competition.
An extra shout out is in order for Holger, who kept me company in the Masters house. I had a great time getting to know our new teammates!