The first stage race of the year is always a telling experience, you're either reinforced in knowing you had a solid winter, or left tense realizing you're behind the 8 ball. 3 days and 4 stages at Chico would be a litmus for the team, we piled in our cars and hoped we hadn't forgotten our stage racing skills.
There's speed built into the Thunderhill track, and there was no slouching as we ripped the banked turns and chicanes. On the smooth tarmac we raced ourselves as well as the clouds, hoping that we wouldn't be pedaling on an eponymously named course. Chris and Stephen made a small group that sped just out of reach of the peloton, and held them off gaining some 20 seconds on the field.
It was a balmy 40 F at the start of stage 2, and it appeared the field was indifferent to the idea of racing. As we crossed Digger Creek to start the Paskenta Road Race, it seemed only half the field made the rollout. Eventually the rest made it, but for the majority of the day only slinkied up the road and back, not fully committing. Finally a strong break of 2 went off the front.
The gravel section is always a deciding factor in the race, and the team kept their powder dry, knowing that it would come together for a field sprint. With Roman, Cam and Chris making the final selection, Chris placed best coming in 4th. The team was shelled after the long day, but were floated by the prospect of moving Chris up on GC. At the podium Frankie Andreu called out the jersey's and placings on a megaphone. He awarded the best young rider to a 20 year old who most likely wasn't even conceived as a thought when him and Betsy testified against Lance, bringing the sport into the modern era.
The time trail was hotly contested, snarling disc wheels and serious game faces dominated the orchards down River Road as riders tried to hone in their positions. Stephen, Roman, Chris and Cam all put down formidable time trials, with Chris delicately sitting 3rd on GC.
In the crit we put on a show for the locals and threw all we had into following attacks and moving up Chris, but broadside after broadside the hull of the field was still intact. A late move was chased back by KHS with Justin Williams stealing the show, Chris stayed safe and clenched 3rd on the weekend.
We didn't win, but we sure as hell earned our Shuberts. After a weekend of punishing racing, a rude awakening for some, we were well aware that it’s the little victories that are really the decisive moments.
Roll on through.