Multiple Podiums for DBC Race Team at Chico Stage Race

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Michael Claudio and Jason Brasel -- “Teamwork is everything, I don't care what anyone says, and I had a great group of guys with me and it makes the victory all the more sweet. It's not just my victory, it's our victory.” – Michael Claudio

The Chico Stage Race is a relative newcomer to the NCNCA race calendar but has already developed legendary status. Not only is it memorable for its 5-mile gravel section of the Paskenta Road Race, but also in the first year, scorching temperatures left riders prostrate with dehydration. The second year saw the incredulous performance of John Steggall riding away from a strong 45+ 1/2/3 field to win the road race and eventually the General Classification.  The 3rd edition saw more spectacular results from DBCRT including 2 winners of the General Classification and multiple podium finishes.

Day 1 - Paskenta Road Race

The plan for the Cat 3 racers in the 90-mile stage one Paskenta Road Race was to protect Michael Claudio for the first lap and keep at least one teammate in any break. The hope was that if they were all together going into the gravel the final time, they would set a hard pace and try to launch Claudio in an attack. In his mind it was important to gain as much time as he could over the time trial specialists. 

When it became clear on the first time through the gravel section that it didn't do as much damage as hoped, the strategy was rethought on the fly. The need for a change in strategy was further facilitated by the loss of two Ryan Odell and Jason Dye who were caught up in a gnarly crash. Dye, who was riding strong before the accident, suffered a broken collarbone and separated AC joint.

With the changing situation, Claudio felt it necessary to put time into the field through a breakaway early in the second lap. As they started the second lap, the crosswind had picked up considerably and two riders went off the front with 40 miles to go. After 5 miles, Mike Gonzales, Luciano Sponza, Jeff Schaller, and Ryan Malm went to the front and set a hard pace putting Claudio in a good position to launch an attack out of the field in order to bridge to the two others. Claudio launched and guttered the field into the crosswind.

Claudio and a rider from Stuzio worked together for 15 miles to catch the break, but still had about 20 miles to go to the finish. The motor ref informed them that they had about a 1:50 lead at that point. The time slowly started ticking down as Metromint, Chico Corsa, and Bicycles Plus had gone on the attack to hunt us down, and by the time Claudio and his breakmates hit the gravel, the peloton was in sight and coming up fast. 

They were caught a quarter of the way through the gravel and Claudio was content to follow the wheels of his teammates. The DBCRT Cat 3s made an impressive finish with Malm 3rd, Claudio 4th, and Schaller 6th. 

In the Cat 4, Cat 5, and 45+ 1/2/3, which raced 1 lap of the course, DBC RT was again represented in the top 10. Ryan Alvey and Jason Brasel thought that this would be a straight-forward road race, but it was anything but. By the time their race started there was a strong northerly wind resulting in 15 miles of a cross-wind-induced gutter-fest. The group let two riders get away in the first mile, and they were dangling at a 30 seconds gap for quite a while. With 15 miles to go the gap was down to 15 seconds and as the group eased up, Brasel launched to bridge. As it turned out, his attack forced the winning selection. Two riders bridged up to Brasel and they immediately started working together. Eventually five more riders bridged up, and then once Alvey gauged that the remnants of the group was falling apart, he launched and also bridged up. The group of eight worked well together and quickly caught the two riders still up the road. By the time they were through the gravel, the group of 10 was down to 7, and with 1 km left the group slowed dramatically as nobody wanted to be on the front leading out the sprint. Thinking he might have a chance to catch the group by surprise, Brasel launched with 350 meters to go but didn't fool anybody. The group was immediately on his wheel. Brasel finished 7th losing 3 seconds to the first six riders while Alvey finished just behind the lead group in 8th.

In the 45+ 1/2/3 race, Chris Bowlus managed to maintain contact with the lead group to finish 5th. With 13 of the 37 riders from BP/Sierra Nevada, they were frequently sending pairs off the front from the start. John Licatesi was keeping them in check along with Bubba Melcher who was working for Craig Roemer. The real excitement started at mile 20 when Dirk Himley with 4 others established a break. Shortly after 2 of them were dropped and are absorbed into the peloton. With the gap widening, Bowlus attacked causing the group to respond and increase the tempo just before they hit the rollers. The pace up the rollers was fast and about 10 riders were dropped, but Bowlus and Shawn Miller remained with the group chasing a now solo Himley. 

Through the gravel the pace was high leading to a slow attrition of riders. At the end of the gravel there were 10 in the chase group, among them Roemer, Cale Reeder, Melcher, and Bowlus. Up a gentle climb, Roemer kept the pace going with Himley just off the front. After the crest Melcher came to the front and closed the gap with 1 km to go. An Iron Data rider countered and strung the field out. Bowlus kept clear on the right at 8th wheel. With 200 meters to the uphill finish, Bowlus moved up 2 places and with 100 meters to go Reeder went straight when the road went left leaving him in the gravel and letting Bowlus pass him for 5th.

A final notable finish for the DBC RT was David Palmeri taking the top position in the Cat 5 race with over a 1-minute gap on the next finisher, his first ever road race.

Day 2- River Road Time Trial and Downtown Chico Criterium

For most racers, the second day of racing started with a 10-mile time trial. In the Cat 3 race, Claudio felt confident in his TT abilities after strong training sessions with teammates Aaron Obelleiro and Ken Hill. As soon as Claudio shot off the line he was comfortably maintaining 29-30mph along the first leg. He passed Schaller, his 1-minute man 5 minutes into the TT and saw his 30-second man, Erik Nelson, who had won Copperopolis the week before, not far ahead. At the turn the wind become a tail wind and Claudio ramped it up to 31mph but was not making up ground on Nelson. By the second and final turn before the finish Claudio pressed on and started gaining on Nelson. With 2K to go Nelson started to crack and Claudio started reeling him in quickly, catching him right at the line. The final results showed Claudio with the fastest TT by 30 seconds at 20:50 and on top of the GC.

With a strong team at his side, Claudio planned to stay near his GC competition and protect his lead in the criterium. From the gun the pace was furious, and attack after attack wore on Claudio’s already tired. Odell stayed near Claudio at all while Schaller was always near the front going with just about every move. Claudio was in great position with Schaller going into the final lap. 800 meters from the finish on a tight turn Isaac Sparling of Dolce Vita had his wheel roll off and crashed at 30+mph nearly taking out Claudio and his GC hopes. But he managed to avoid him and was able to close the gap to the front group that had missed the calamity and finished with the same time as everyone to preserve the overall win. Not only that but Schaller needed no help in taking 3rd place on the day!

In the 45+ 1/2/3 race, 2 of the fastest TT times of the day were turned in by Cale Reeder and Craig Roemer. DBCRT’s Bowlus managed 4th place in the TT and the same standing going into the criterium. For most of the racers, the criterium was all about maintaining their standing in the GC. Bowlus made some attacks but with a large BP/Sierra Nevada contingent chasing every move, there was no hope of a break. There was, however, some excitement at the top of the standings. Roemer, down by 13 seconds to Reeder would either need to get in a huge break without Reeder or take at least 1 of the 5 second time primes and the final 10 second bonus for the stage winner. With the help of Melcher leading him out on the primes and the finish, Roemer took both time primes as well as the stage win to overtake Reeder for the GC win as well.

In contrast, the Cat 4 racers started day 2 with the criterium and finished with the TT. The game plan for Brasel was to lead Alvey to the front with 2 to go and give him a nice lead out but plans changed quickly. A group of three got off the front on the first lap. Brasel was sitting in, making sure none of his GC rivals got away. Alvey was on the front leading the chase, but nobody was pulling through. Not wanting him to have to do all of the work, Brasel moved to the front to spell him and lifted the tempo to bring the group back.

But coming out of the last corner, Brasel looked over his shoulder and noticed that Alvey had let a gap open up. Brasel decided to try and bridge to the three leaders. When he did, it drew out two others and the three were able to quickly reach the leaders. The composition of the break was ideal because all of the big teams except for Webcor, were represented and only on of Brasel’s GC rival had made the break. Slowly, the six started to pull away from the group. 

Two-thirds through the race, a BP/Sierra Nevada junior sprinted for the bag of pistachios prime and was followed by a Sac Wheelman rider and Brasel. The other three riders in the break including Brasel’s GC rival, had let a gap open up anticipating the pace to slow after the prime. Instead, they started a three-man rotation and the other three riders never got back on. Brasel took a 5-second time bonus on a prime lap, and finished second for another six-second bonus. At the end of the race the break had put 37 seconds into the chasing peloton. Those 37 seconds plus 11 seconds in bonuses meant Brasel was in first place on GC with a 35 second cushion going into the TT.

By the time the Cat 4 TT started, the wind conditions had changed unfavorably compared to Claudio's crushing victory in the morning. Brasel rode a PR for a 10-mile TT and finished 3rd for the stage. Unfortunately, the TT winner crushed the competition and overtook Brasel on GC by 18 seconds. Disappointed that the win slipped out of his fingers, Brasel remained very satisfied with the whole weekend.

The totals for the DBC RT were impressive for the weekend with 9 top 10 finishes in the Road Race, 7 top 10 finishes in the TT, and 5 top 10 finishes in the Criterium resulting in GC wins by Claudio (Cat 3), Palmeri (Cat 5), a second by Brasel (Cat 4), a 4th by Bowlus (45+ 1/2/3), and 6th by Jeff Slaton (35+ Cat 4).

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