The inaugural 11.6-mile Forest Ranch Hill Climb Time Trial with a net elevation gain of 2,096 feet, 2,598 feet of gain and 502 feet of loss, started at the intersection of El Monte Ave. and Hwy 32 and was held on Saturday, May 9th 1981. “On Saturday, May 9th the Chico Velo racers presented their own event, the 1st Annual Forest Ranch Challenge. Some 45 riders entered the fundraiser. A fun time was had by all as some $260.00 in donated prizes were handed out.” according to the Chico Velo Cycling Club’s June/July 1981 Vol. 1, No. 6 newsletter.
Four women, eight men, one junior and two 14-and-unde r riders finished that first event according to the official results. In 1982 the event was on Sunday, October 10th and was a part of a new May-to-October six event hill climb series sponsored by Cyclesport and its owner and Chico Velo co-founder and president, Jeff Smith. Events offered prices and the series’ overall winner earned a special King of the Mountain award.
Since then this yearly event has been held the last Sunday in September -- except for in 1998 (October 4th) and in 2002 (September 22nd) with the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company as a major sponsor of the event.
Chico Velo put on the event the first three decades. Then R.A.C.E. /Rodney Cox took over the management of the event and, officially in 2013, the ownership. In 1993, prior to the 1993 event, a stoplight had been installed at the intersection of Bruce Rd. and Hwy 32, so the start was moved to just past the stoplight thereby shortening the course to its present 11.2 miles. Using current course records average speeds, the 0.4 mile reduction equates to 1:18 minute and 1:30 minute for men and women, respectively, but because the eliminated 0.4 mile stretch is flat-to-slightly-downhill the actual time reduction is more likely in the 45-60 seconds range.
To Chico Velo members participating in this event the brewery offered a case of beer to each rider that could beat their age in time, age plus six minutes for women, and more recent also a Sierra Nevada bike jersey to the man and women who beat their age by the largest margin.
Men account for 1,387 (82.2 %) of total starts over the years and women for 300 (17.8 %) -- the 1982 and 1984 results are missing. 17 starters have been under the age of 18, including 2 girls. 33 men (2.38 % of men) and 3 women (1.00 % of women) have DNF’ed – 2013 (4), 2012 (4), 1991 (6) and 1990 (3).
Women’s Record: Kerry Kelly, 41:58 min (16.01mph) 2002 . Men’s Record: Albert Dall, 36:21 (18.49mph) 1996. In 1986 Dolly Dominguez towed her baby up the hill in a trailer finishing in 1:27:03 hrs (not last.) In 1996, Dena Yoder, 47, became the first women to be at her age in time straight up with a time of 46:47 min winning her the grand Forza Figa price of $150.00 plus other goodies. In 1996 aero equipment appeared. When Dena Yoder won the Forza Figa price and Albert Dall set the still standing men’s course record both rode locally built special lightweight Coleman aero/TT bikes.
Fixed gear bikes, mt. bikes and tandems have made it up the hill over the years in an event that attracts mostly “non-competitive” riders and unofficially closes out the local bicycling season. The event is now free and open to the public, but did in the early days have an entry fee -- $2.00 or $3.00 on the day of the event.
The mentioned six minute spread standard between men and women is based on the historic difference between the women’s and the men’s course records over the years – see more pictures, stats, and figures at: http://www.womenstriclub.com/R%20Forest%20Ranch%20Hill%20TT%20History.pdf
Thanks to all, including Charles Geshekter, Jeff Smith, Rodney Cox and the Women's Tri Club, who contributed to this article. Please feel free to point out any omissions or errors and to provide/lend me any original material that can help update and augment this article. Old pictures would be great, too.