Thunderhill Circuit Race - Chico Stage One

This race was the first big race of the year for the team as it was the first premier series race and a key preparatory race for the upcoming Redlands Stage Race. The course was very fast as you might have expected when you race on a car race track. Our goal was to ensure our GC riders did not lose any time. I personal ambitions to win the green jersey, so I teamed up with Dana and Chris for sprint bonuses throughout the race and if the finish came to a field sprint: we'd lead out Chris or I. 

Chris Riekert's Hero3 GoPro picture of the boys after their stage one win

The race started out and remained fast, which kept it safe the entire race. There was a notable hill three kilometers from the finish which could have been a launching pad for a breakaway. The team missed the first sprint point, but made up for it by winning the second and third, with myself and Dana, respectively. On bell lap we accidentally took the front, which was not the plan because it was still three miles to the finish. Nevertheless, we kept our leadout calm and controlled so that no other teams could come around us. Going over the hill, Adam lead the race perfectly, just high enough to keep others teams away but not putting me passed my limit. Down the hill and into the final corner—five hundred meters to go—Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies began to encroach on us but we "shut the door," leaving it solely up to us for the sprint! The last five hundred meters were dead flat and straight with perhaps a small tail wind so it was very hard to gauge the right time to sprint. My lead-out man Dana Williams took it from four hundred and fifty to two hundred meters, and from there I went. The drag race to the line felt like an eternity and finished in what seemed to be a three person tie. After a close review, I came away with the win by just over an inch!

James wins by thirty-five millimeters

 Big thank you to all of my teammates in the race that helped in the lead out: Craig Fellers, Roman Kilun, Adam Switters, Dana Williams, Chris Riekert, Walton Brush, and Colin Daw! Also, a big thank you to all of our sponsors: Mike's Bikes, Equator Coffee &Teas, Specialized, Capo, Sram, Probar, Zipp, Osmo Nutrition, Look pedals, Bike Smart, Smith Optics, GoPro, Barfly, Zealios, and Violich Farms!

--James LaBerge