The Chico Stage Race
I now remember looking at the specs for the Chico Stage Race several months ago (before it was moved to June) and was not enthused about doing an 86 mile road race, especially since it can be hot in April. I hadn't thought about Chico again until Darin wrote the group last week looking for some teammates since he'd signed up. After the notorious Big followed suit, foolish me, I register for Chico and then look at the race flyer. Holy crap, I had forgotten about the road race -- this is going to be insane! I've had some major problems with hydration and cramping in long, hot races. Big 'n' Darin will happily tell you about my pre-race fretting.
Saturday, Road Race, 9:30 AM. Started off ~80 F and ended up 103 F. Two (supposedly) 43 mile laps with 4 miles of gravel. 20 guys started. We had about 2 miles of easy warmup and then the attacks start. We're talking full-gas attacks, ramping up to 28 mph for long stretches into the wind. These guys are seriously twisted.
The attacks continued until about halfway through the first lap when perhaps everyone started realizing that we still had a ridiculously long way to go and it was already really hot. Darin sensed a moment of weakness in the group and slowly rolled away, eventually building a sizeable lead. We could barely see him up the road at times.
The group was not interested in letting Darin get out of sight and after about 10 miles and a number of surges we reeled him in. Not long after, two guys got away and were holding a decent gap going into the gravel
section, where Darin punctured. Luckily, we had a follow vehicle and Darin got a wheel change but was off the back.
The break built a bigger lead in the gravel & the section leading back to the start/finish area. Big 'n' I picked up musette bags of water bottles from the Truebloods after the finish line. We surely would have died out there without Johanna & Nathan!. While we were fussing with the bottles, our group took off and we had to do a long 2-man TT to catch back on.
Jan E. was with our chase group (now down to ~8 guys) and tried to keep us organized. This worked well except some would sit out their turn and then pull through too hard, forcing energy-sapping reorganizations. Given our groups hard effort, it's amazing that we couldn't catch the 2 man break. Then, before we hit halfway on the 2nd lap, our group was shattered. Big and I soldiered on at a much-reduced pace. We still had ~25 miles to go and survival was the operative word. We passed by the carnage of several riders on our way including some in our group. Big and I ended up 6th & 5th, with Darin sticking it out for 13th.
I only had one calf cramp near the end, which I was able to fight off. Here's what I consumed during the race: one 40 ounce camelback (frozen when we started, ala Frederick's suggestion) 6 x 24 ounce Cytomax bottles, 5 x 24 ounce water bottles, 8 various salt tablets (another Freddy trick), half a Clif bar, 7 ounces of gel, and a bag of Clif blocks. Though I was still pretty dehydrated, after drinking down another 5 bottles of water and about 5 glasses of water at dinner, I was able to pee again. Not bad...
Sunday, Time Trial, ~9:00 AM, ~85 F. We were feeling pretty beat but so was everyone else. We ended up about mid-pack, Big leading the way. We went out and had our second breakfast for the day and then back to our chill in the pool for a bit before heading to the criterium. A quick word on our accommodations -- we were hosted by Matt Kowta's folks, Mark & Mary, who treated us like royalty. We took full advantage of their pool to get our core body temps back down below about 110 F.
Sunday, downtown Chico Criterium, 12:45 PM, ~103 F. In a charitable move to make sure we got our money's worth, the promoters bumped our crit time up to an hour (from a mere 45 minutes). We were stoked! Darin, who had apparently been saving energy in the morning's TT, launched attack after attack during the 1st half while Big & I sat in the back. It was exhausting just watching Darin and trying to hang on as a tailgunner. We started with only 15 guys but they all seemed surprisingly spritely considering what we had been through in the previous 24 hours. Big & I moved up in the second half while Darin recovered. We made many attempts to get away with no luck. With about 20 minutes left, Brian M. (Armstrong Smurf Team) slowly rolled off the front just after Big had put in a massive effort. The timing was excellent as the group seemed cooked at the moment. Soon, Brian had built up a 30 second lead and was going full gas. Despite many on-off hard efforts to catch him, he stayed away until the end. Darin come up to the front at the end and got 5th, with Big and me right behind him. Though it had been fun and challenging weekend of racing, we were glad that it was over...