It’s people like Rodney Cox that make cycling. He’s turned himself of the Bob Leibold/ASO of Far Northern California. Without grass-root programs like the R.A.C.E series, which every body should check out because it’s unbelievable, a lot of local communities would not have a race or training ride to attend. The commitment to the sport, and willingness to sacrifice is not just a trait inherent in riders, but something that you can see in promoters like Rodney Cox, all through the sport.
You seem to single handedly seem to run a cycling empire in Chico – how many events a year are you putting on now?
I started putting on the events in 2007, and have slowly grown the number of events put on by R.A.C.E.(Rodney’s Amateur Cycling Events) each year. This year, I’m projecting to put on between 250 to 300 local grassroots bicycle races in and around Butte County and Chico. All sorts of event go on – Criteriums, Road Races & Circuit Races, Flat Time Trials, Hill Climb Time Trials, Downhill Time Trials, Mountain Bike Cross-Country Races, Short-Track Mountain Bike Races, Kids-Only Races, Cyclocross Races, Alley Cat Races, Track-type events and more. During the summer months, we will average about 10 R.A.C.E. events per week. [ed not. bold is mine – i just can’t believe the energy and commitment it takes to do this!]
That. Is. Insane! And of course….Awesome. What keeps you going?
Well, it’s not because of money – because there ain’t any! It’s strictly out of love for the sport of cycling……and, in particular, bicycle racing. I grew up racing bicycles and I think it will stay with me for the rest of my life. I love it – love almost everything about it (well, except the crashes and the whining!). But, I think about bicycle racing pretty much 24/7 – I dream about it almost every night. I don’t think a moment goes by that I am not thinking about bicycle racing in some form or fashion. Some people may think that’s sad or weird or whatever…..but it makes me happy!
Again… neither sad not weird… just awesome. What gave you inspiration to become the ASO of Chico?
I started riding seriously in 1980 at the age of 12. I was really lucky because the Chico Velo Cycling Club was very supportive of riders, and they really helped me out a ton when I was a youngster – had a coach and a team helping me out. One local bicycle shop – Cyclesport, owned at the time by Tom Devol and Jeff Smith – held uphill Time Trials on the weekends……and Chico Velo Cycling Club held Tuesday night Criteriums and Thursday night 10-mile Time Trials. I got my start by participating in these local non-entry fee races – and eventually got my license in 1980 to start racing sanctioned USCF races. So, the inspiration really came from that point.
What do you see as the advantages of low key events like the R.A.C.E series?
I think one of my favorite aspects about local cycling – and putting on the R.A.C.E. events – is that you get to see cyclists that you would never see in a USA Cycling sanctioned event. I love sanctioned events – but it is intimidating for some folks. There are riders here who, quite frankly, are Cat. 1/2 material – but they’ll never race sanctioned events, for whatever reason. They’ll come out to some of the R.A.C.E. events and just put the hammer down – it’s almost stunning to watch, and it always puts a smile on my face. They ride – and R.A.C.E. – just for kicks and the fun of it, and it reminds me of why we take part in this sport.
Tell the rest of NorCal what the scene is like in Chico – are there a lot of riders there?
To me, there are a ton of cyclists in Chico!! I think if you compare it to the San Jose area, San Francisco area or Portland, we wouldn’t have that many. However, I think for our size, we have our fair share of cyclists. We currently have 12 bicycle shops in the general Chico area, so plenty of places for cyclists to shop too! Chico is VERY pro-cycling, so we are very lucky here. And, it doesn’t hurt to have Chico State University here, as well as the Sierra Nevada Brewery headquarters.
With a strong community like that what kind of riders are you producing?
We’ve had a few riders who got their start in Chico. We’ve also had some riders come to Chico to train. Ian Boswell is currently living and training in Chico. His father – Grant Boswell – lived here and trained here when I was a Junior rider…..and is considered a local legend. Andy Paulin got his racing start here in town. Svein Tuft trained here for a time. Dylan Casey was here at Chico State and racing for awhile. Other famous cycling folks in Chico include Paul Price – Paul Components is based here in Chico – and Jeff Lindsay of Mountain Goat Cycles fame, as well as Russ Pickett(famous painter of bicycle frames). Ken Grossman – the owner of Sierra Nevada Brewery – is an avid cyclist and a HUGE supporter of cycling in Chico and in the US
I started out when I was 12 in 1980. I joined Chico Velo Cycling Club almost the instant I fell in love with cycling. I use to borrow my father’s Centurion road bike to do laps around Bidwell Park here in town – and my brother’s Volkscycle. I was introduced to cyclocross within my first year of riding too, and fell in love with it right away. I raced as an Intermediate and Junior rider from 1980 – 1986. I remember racing Don Myrah, Oliver Starr and Dave Farmer and thinking they weren’t human – and Scott McKinley….never saw that kind of speed before….he was amazing. Raced all over the NCNCA district – Nevada City, Davis Criterium, Tassajara Road Race, Camellia Festival Road Race & Criterium, The Great Jackson Race, Capitol Cup Criterium, The Chico Omnium, Cat’s Hill Criterium and so many other races. Around the time I started riding with Velo, I also heard about this little beer business some dude was starting in his garage……little did I know it would turn into what it did (Sierra Nevada).
Anyway, I stopped cycling when I started college, then got back into it……then dropped out…..and then got back into it again! I couldn’t quit it – it had a definite hold on me! So, I just decided to be involved in cycling in some form for the rest of my life. It was Ed McLaughlin – who is considered to be Chico’s Cycling Godfather – and past Director of Chico Velo – who taught me about putting on cycling events, and in particular, Time Trials and Centuries. Without Ed and his help – and everything he has done for Chico cycling since the early 1980s – we just would not be where we are today. I am very grateful that he took me under his wing and taught me the ins and outs of cycling events.
It seems like great leaders have a vision and a team… do you get help from the community to put these on?
I have a variety of people who volunteer to help with R.A.C.E. and the events. Chris Iufer is working on our new website – www.RaceChico.com – and I have volunteers who help out at the races each week. Without the volunteers, the events just could not happen, so I am extremely indebted to them…..very grateful for all of them. Some very key people involved in R.A.C.E. through the recent years include Chris, Caryn Jones & David Albrecht, Steve Chollet, Jim Mensching, Gary Fowler, Katie Simmons, Adela Carrillo, John Alden, Darrin Reichel, Rachel Traficante, Mark Wolford and Geno Gruber.
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