The Chico Cycling Community: This Is Us
An incredible aspect of sport is its ability to unite a community. People gather together in the pursuit of fitness, health, and well-being. Whether it is a fun run or high stakes competition, there is typically a sense of personal satisfaction from either contributing to the greater good of the community or reaching higher levels of self-achievement. The sport of cycling is no different and Chico cycling is a particularly tight-nit community –though I am definitely biased in this opinion.
On a personal note, I grew up in this sport and this community. At the age of 12, I was welcomed into the cycling family as I began racing the airport criteriums and winter hill-climb series, promoted by Rodney Cox of R.A.C.E. Looking back, I feel like I had a little army that helped me through all those transitions that every cyclist goes through. From racing local Tuesday/Thursday night crits to racing regionally –then onward to nationally and internationally. With each new level, I had someone from the community guide me.
The reach of the cycling community goes beyond involvement on the bike. Local up-and-comer, Nicholas Reed describes the nature of this involvement: “I really enjoy the cycling family here because I feel like I have connected with a group of people on levels more than just with bikes. I see my friends out and around town, we have BBQs during the summer, we get coffee after rides (but who doesn’t?!)… The camaraderie here is really more of a family than a cycling group.”
In our army, everybody knows everybody and while we resemble a large (possibly dysfunctional) family –we all share a special bond through our sport. Special bonds are formed by shared experiences. Especially when those experiences involve say, riding through the treacherous 4 miles of gravel at the Paskenta race ride and praying to high Hilda (the unforgiving Goddess that reigns over the Paskenta gravel, plaguing those unworthy with flats and crashes. Yes, this is a thing) not to lose contact with the peloton. Then, hobbling over the finish line to be greeted by a crowd of friends, whether you are 1st or 30 minutes behind the 3rd group. Snacks and Sierra Nevada are waiting for you in abundance along with the friendly, haggard, faces of fellow sufferers ready to swap stories.
Other uniquely Chico experiences include sweating and suffering together in hot valley summers as we speed through the humid orchards during the Fast 50. Or burn together during the exposed Tuesday night airport crits as heat waves glisten in the distance. In recent years, the airport crits have become a joint production with Chico Cycling Team (formerly Chico Masters) heading the events; while other local teams contribute by bringing post crit Barbeque and, obviously, Sierra Nevada. Winter brings the Crush ride of which we bundle up for 50 chilly miles that I associate with either incredible wind or the thought “I shouldn’t be going this hard in the off-season.” Or both.
We are proud of our great array of centuries, gran fondos, and charity rides. Sharing our stomping grounds with out-of-towners delights our community. During the Wildflower Century (April 30th), Chico is crawling with hundreds of cyclists, of which explores the mountainous terrain in the foothills of Butte County. Or one could choose to venture about the valley floor in the aptly named “Flatflower” (an alternative option to the Wildflower). One can partake in Tour de Ed (March 5th), of which commemorates local bike advocate, Ed McLaughlin and his legacy. Entry fees support the Chico Cyclist Care Fund with the objective to provide financial aid to those with hefty medical bills from serious bike related accidents.
Chico Velo oversees many cycling related events and services such as the Bike Valet at major Chico events such as the Thursday night market, Chico Heat Games, and just about every event with Sierra Nevada involved. This gives community members the ability to bike to events in Chico with the assurance that their two-wheeled friends will be attentively watched over –thus supporting our expansive commuter population. Chico Velo is also involved with the Bike to School Week (May 8th-12th) in which they encourage kids to ride to school and offer bike safety sessions at schools, as well as participating in the nationally recognized “Ride of Silence” to remember community members involved in car-related incidents (every 3rd Wednesday of May).
Janine Rood, the executive director of Chico Velo, states her goal of being involved with the cycling community and Chico Velo as bringing all the little cycling communities together –the racers, the weekend warriors, the mountain bikers, the roadies, the commuters, et cetera- in which we all ride together and support each other in the widespread objective of bringing awareness to our sport. Janine says, “as a united voice, we are stronger.”
Finally, the race season brings the much-anticipated Chico Stage Race (February 24th-26th). Just about every community member becomes involved whether it be to race or volunteer. Since the race increased from a single day crit (originating in the 1970’s) to 4 stages in 3 days, CSR has gained greater attention from continental and UCI Men’s and Women’s teams as a tune up race for the upcoming Pro Road Tour.
We take pride in our little gem of a race and it’s increasing interest as it highlights all the best aspects of our community. Thunder Hills Circuit race, the most recent addition to CSR, kicks-off the event in the rolling green terrain of Willows. Here, the racers speed around a race car track, feeling like two-wheeled NASCAR. The next day, racers get a taste of the aforementioned Paskenta race ride with the infamous gravel section. The final day offers a TT through the orchards as well as the historic downtown crit. “Hoppy” primes are available to Masters categories, courtesy of (you guessed it) Sierra Nevada.
Speaking of which, with this being an article on Chico cycling culture, one must mention Sierra Nevada and its support of the community -because if you haven’t already noticed, Chico cyclists love their Sierra Nevada. Owner and founder of the brewing company, Ken Grossman, has always been an avid cyclist. Naturally his passion for the sport and sustainability went hand-in-hand, and were reflected in the values of his company. Mandi McKay, Sierra Nevada’s Sustainability Coordinator, commented saying “In more recent years, we’ve developed our marketing and event strategy around ‘human-powered sports’ which best align with our company culture and brand and within which cycling is one of the primary human powered sponsorship avenues”. Sierra Nevada now sponsors cycling events on the local and national level.
On the topic of the Chico Stage Race, McCay says, “Chico became Ken’s hometown and the place he wanted to build his brewery for many reasons but to have helped grow the Chico cycling community has been important to Ken because it’s an avenue through which he and the company have been able to give back to the community that has been so supportive of Sierra Nevada for the past 37 years.”
With the race being handed over from previous director Michael Painter, to Jeff Galland, there was a last minute scramble to secure sponsor money. Luckily, everything is moving forward with little changes to the race, aside from Frankie Andreu announcing. Sram will be available for neutral support and Jackroo has designed the leader’s jerseys. Galland talks about “exploring the possibility of going national” in the coming years.
Whether you are a commuter, racer, or just enjoy the freedom of two wheels -one thing is for certain, you are bound to be part of the Chico cycling “family”. So snap on your spandex, grab your trusty steed, and join us for miles of smiles.
Written by: Aliya Traficante Instagram| @atraficante244
Aliya has been an enthusiast of two-wheeled adventures from the age of 12. Since then, she has traveled all over California, the country, and the world to race her bike. Currently, she is racing for Folsom Bike/Trek -all the while plugging away through Butte college with a major in journalism. Other enjoyments include a long list of activities/interests that can be classified into four areas (to be succinct): the great outdoors, books, food, and The Lord of the Rings.