The Paskenta Century or Paskenta
By: Jason Boynton, Folsom Bike/VW/Raley’s
The Paskenta Century or Paskenta as it is referred to is a long standing ride/race that starts in One Mile Park in Chico, takes a counterclockwise 100 mile route through the Northern Valley and ends in North Chico. The ride is always held on Super Bowl Sunday and is an unofficial show-up and ride event that is put on by NorCal bike race celeb and all around great guy Rodney Cox. Rodney is a true champion of amature cycling and has literally put on thousands of free races in the Chico area through his Chico R.A.C.E series.
Generally speaking, this is a ride for most, but is every bit as competitive as any race on the calender for a lot of the NorCal’s top riders including many pros. The winners of the respective men’s and women’s races are awarded a handmade trophy that, by tradition, they keep for the entire year, but must return at the start of the next year’s ride/race.
Those who know Paskenta, love and hate it for two unique qualities: The often brutal, unrelenting crosswinds: and the hairy, deep downhill, tailwind 5 mile gravel section. I have done Paskenta every year since 2007 and can recall years where we were suffering through 20-35 mph crosswinds for 40 straight miles and times where there were 30-40 pinch flats in the gravel. Unfortunately, this year saw none of what Paskenta is known for. The weather was mild in the morning, warmed to the mid 60’s, the winds were relatively calm and the gravel section was more of a dirt road. So what was going to make this years version hard? Of course, there were the usual 250+ starters at the park which concerned me as there might not be anything to split the field and the gravel might be dangerous.
Typically there is a lot of conversation and catching up as the peloton rolls north out of town but usually quickens and gets serious as the the wind begins to make things hard. However, with the lack of peleton splitting wind, this conversational pace continued this year for the first 25 miles. The pace did pick up as we got to the town of Corning, but I was still a little nervous that we might hit the gravel with 100 riders. At this point, decided that I would help push the pace some and got into a little rotation at the front. The funny thing was that no one else seemed too interested in working, and so my teammate, Scott Peifer, where able to just roll off the front with about 65 miles to go. We quickly got a pretty good gap and I said to Scott, “this could be a long day, but let’s just keep it steady and see if anyone comes up.” Fortunately about 5 minutes later Kenda/5 hr pro Max Jenkins came up with Mary Maroon and another rider named John. When Max arrived we upped the pace and just kept it steady and high for the next 25-30 miles.
This allowed us to hit the gravel alone and clean with a several minute gap. Max and I had shared much of the pace making to this point and it was clear that Scott, Mary and John were beginning to feel the pace. Max was obviously not wanting to give any freerides and began accelerating over the short steep rollers that follow the gravel. Eventually it was just Max and me with about 35-40 miles to go (I thought to myself, a long day just got longer). At that point, we could see a large group giving chase and estimated we had about 2 minutes. We worked well together for the next 20-25 miles and cruised into the town of Orland without losing any time. Unfortunately, by this time I started to feel the work and could no longer match Max’s efforts. I did what I could to give him some respites, and keep the pace high, as we made our way through the final 15 miles to the finish. With about 1 mile to go, knowing that we would not be caught, I finally relented to the pace, fatigue in my legs, and the squares I was pedaling and watched Max slowly ride away for a well earned solo victory. Stats: 100+ miles in 4:10, 65 miles off the front, 2nd place.