By Will Kanz
I have been wanting to do this race since last year when I got 9th place in the elite 4s. This year was a little different, with a larger group of 75 riders who were category 4 and 5s. A different start/end for the road race and different start time for the road race.
With the road race on Saturday starting at 2:00 in the afternoon it caused for a nice relaxing morning. Driving to Paskenta was boring besides the broken carbon fiber bike in the middle of the freeway. The warm-up was exciting because I got to see other DBC racers who had already finished the morning races. 2 o’clock came around and I lined up with 75 riders. A neutral start out of the park onto the main road caused for riders to get comfortable. Just a few miles into the actual race we hit the first hill, someone got a flat tire, someone else dropped his chain. As we chug along the rolling hills I try moving to the front of the pack, avoiding people dropping their water bottles. We then start heading towards the gravel and I am right in the front of the pack. People obviously knew that you wanted to be towards the front when entering the gravel. We go through the gravel, dropping about 50 riders. We continue to keep a brisk pace through the sets of rollers after the gravel and then we hit the brutal crosswind. Being a skinny junior I can usually find a good spot in the pack. The riders at the front would randomly increase the pace to 30 mph trying to cause hurt to the other riders. With 15 miles left, 5 riders were about 30 seconds ahead of the peloton (15 riders). As we made the right turn heading south towards the finish we had a strong tail wind. Nobody else wanted to do work so I decided to try to bridge up to the breakaway. I gave it my all, but ended up back to the middle of the pack. With 5K to go, I hit a pot hole that rattled my bike. With 3K to go, I had a flat, but thankfully the SRAM car was behind me with my spare wheel. With a QUICK fix I was back on the bike drafting the car to catch back on. Going 45 mph behind the car I was able to catch up to some of the riders who dropped off the back of the peloton. I placed 19th in the road race 26 seconds behind the leader. I was given time back because I flatted within 2K of the finish.
Sunday was the Criterium in downtown Chico and I wanted to kill it. With a huge field of riders I knew that I had to stay at the front. For the first couple of laps I decided to book it down the start/finish stretch thus creating a single file line. The wind blowing down the two main stretches made breakaways difficult. The pro announcer, who announced at the Tour of California, yelled “one to go” (many times), thankfully I was fifth wheel. A Chico rider passed me on the left, taking the inside line, and I follow him, now second wheel. As he slows down in the brutal head wind section I decide to pass and begin the sprint. The only person to catch up to me is the yellow jersey and I did not want him there. I try to shake him off taking all the lanes of the road. We then are on the final little stretch with one turn to go and the yellow jersey passes me. I move right behind me and we make the last turn. Knowing I cant keep up with his sprint I sit behind him. Coming out of the last turn I hear shock from the crowd, and then the metal barriers moving. It was a crash that I missed. Coming around the course I see the ambulance and the riders on the ground. I was really happy to take second place, and even happier I didn’t crash. I also took the top junior place and earned the red jersey.
Video of what happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5V5yd5KMoE
After taking second place in the Criterium, I move up to 6th place in the standings. Far better then last years 9th place! I was really tired at the start of the TT. I had a decent start to the TT, but my legs gave up. I lost over 3 minutes which put me in 19th place overall, 10 places down from last year. Not the way I wanted to finish, but at least I did well in the Crit and worked hard. Maybe next year…