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2014-03-21 Chico Stage Race Stage 1 (Thunderhill Raceway) Report by AJ Snovel

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Lining up on the race track at around 6:15 or so while we try to fit 120 cyclists in a single lane on Thunder Hill Raceway. Trust me, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. We are packed like sardines. I start looking around to see who I’m next to… Umm.. Optum, Optum, and more Optum guys.. Yeah! I’m in the right place. There is no time to relax while everybody’s shoulder to shoulder inching their bars foreword trying to gain a last second bit of advantage, while all around me I hear that all too familiar Garmin music adding to the chaos. “On the whistle!” and we’re off to a heated first lap. Lots of jockeying for the first 10 minutes as people dive bomb the corners and brake-check one another.

Lap 5: Flying through the start/finish the field is completely strung out. As we hit the first sweeping turn, it all fans out and riders start looking at each other. There’s tons of contact as I hold my position through the forest of elbows, knees, and wheels. We hit the climb on the backside, I think “Shit! This climb again?!” I look up and see a cross-eyed haze of orange and yellow led by THE National Pro TT Champ Tom Zirbel of Optum/ Kelly Benefits with a few smash mouthed teammates, and local homies Josh Carling, Matt Chat, Jared of Marc-Pro Strava. “Okay, I’m in good position”.

Whoa! Damn! A touch of wheels and guys are shooting off the course as well as hitting the deck. We reach the top of the climb and start the super fast descent into the off camber S turn which is incredibly easy to overshoot. Setting up for the last turn, we hit the apex and a shuffle in front forces me to pull left a bit. I slide due to the slickness of the race track…and it happens. An unstoppable force, meets an immovable object as I clack shoulders with Zirbel. We look at each other then quickly swap words, it went something like, Zirbel: “Hey!” “Oh!” “Not used to having someone my size out here!” Me: “Damn! Me neither!” Tom chuckles, “Ha!” “We always seem to find each other though!”

Final lap: I spend this lap making up some distance which is less than ideal but I shoot some gaps and somehow end up towards the front on Matt C’s wheel. Roman Kilun, Adam Switters, and two others with James LaBerge of Mike’s bikes has their train on the front with other teams trying to get organized. Jonathan Teeter pulls the Strava train up the left side and I jump on it. I do all I can to stay on it but get pinched on the finishing stretch and am forced to weave through racers while sprinting 200 meters, 100, 50, the line!


I ended up 21st at the end of a beautiful day at Thunder Hill Raceway!

Afterwards, AJ’s dad, Jason, had this to say:

Received one if the best compliments today. British guy from VuMedi flags me down and began thanking me for pulling him, along with 18 other guys back into the race after getting stuck behind the pile up early on in the race. He quickly realized that I wasn’t AJ and began explaining how proud I should be of my son. He went on to explain how AJ organized everyone in the group, showing them how to pull through smoothly, “We cut through the remainder of the shattered peloton like a knife through butter, picking up guys along the way…all the while AJ kept the entire group tight and smooth!” “I would have NEVER gotten back into the race without your boy”.

Awesome. You could have kicked me square in the shin…I wouldn’t have felt a thing.


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