(photo credit: Jonathan Devich /epicimages.us)
The Cascade Lakes Road Race has been used in every edition of the Cascade Classic that I have raced. The only thing that was different about the course this year was that we started and ended the stage at Mt. Bachelor. Typically, we only end at Mt. Bachelor and start about five or six miles from the ski resort.
Oh, the other thing that was different than usual is that it was overcast and cold at the start. Earlier tweets even mentioned snow! Waaaay different than is the norm here in Bend, OR this time of year. When I was packing for the trip, I looked at the week’s forecast and at the time the temperatures were in the 80′s the skies were clear. I packed some warm clothes but when we pulled into Mt Bachelor I was afraid I didn’t have enough (rookie move!). Knowing that the race started with many miles of fast descent, I pulled on just about every layer I had with me – DeFeet undershirt, jersey, wind vest and rain jacket. And my legs were layered thick with medium heat embrocation.
The course began with about 10-15 miles of fast descending. It was fast enough and straightforward enough that no one was getting away on this section of the course. At the bottom the air warmed up considerably and everyone in the peloton with extra layers on was in the caravan passing them off to their directors. Then, the racing began…
Shortly after our descent, we hit a 5-mile section that put the sting in our legs as we gained elevation. Through this section, there was the usual flurry of repeated attacks, but nothing got away.
Around this time, Amanda Miller flatted. She hit a pothole, and her tire exploded. She’s one of our GC riders, so I pulled off to the side of the road with her and gave her my front wheel. She rejoined the bunch, and I waited for the team car to get a wheel change of m own.
Over the next 20-25 miles we rode the roller coaster-like roads at a steady clip. Attacks continued to launch from the peloton and only several times did it seem as if a break might finally stick. Single riders or teams who weren’t happy with the composition of the break would reel the gap back in and the attacks would start again.
Twelve miles from the finish a nine rider move that included my teammate, Vero, formed. Vero was joined by Courtney Lowe, Lex Albrecht (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Beth Newell (NOW and Novartis for MS) Andrea Dvorak (Exergy Twenty12), Jazzy Hurikino (Vanderkitten), Rachel Warner (FCS Rouse) and Jackie Kurth (Primal/MapMyRide). Initially we were content with the group but as the gap quickly widened to 3:15 we became concerned. Andrea, in eight overall after the time trial, could have been a threat to our general classification riders if we allowed the gap to get much bigger.
With NOW and Optum presumably wanting to protect their GC riders’ positions as well, we decided to play a little bit of poker. We bid our time before getting to the front. The gap opened quickly, though, and it was clear that we would need to work.
Our director communicated to us from the side of the road that she wanted us to get on the front, so we fell into the echelon with several of the NOW riders. The gap began to come down as quickly as it swelled, and by the time we hit the bottom of Mount Bachelor, the break had around 1:30 on the field.
The final climb is only 4 miles long, and it levels out at certain points. It’s pretty much climb, plateau, climb, plateau all the way to the top. The bottom of the climb is actually the hardest. It averages around 7% gradient on the lower slopes of the climb whereas it’s about half that closer to the summit. Every year I have to remind myself it’s not nearly as hard or as long as I think it is.
The escape group began to attack one another up Mount Bachelor. Vero launched one of the first missives, but she wasn’t able to match her breakmates’ accelerations as they countered her moves. She still finished a very respectable fifth place on the stage and was the last rider from the break to stay away from the bunch ahead of the line.
I felt awful all day. My legs felt like lead. When the pace picked up several miles from the finish, there wasn’t much fight left and I dropped off the back. I settled in and rode my own pace to the finish.
During the last kilometer, riders in the main field began to sprint for the final places in the top ten. Megan Guarnier took second in the field sprint, finishing the stage in seventh. We retained fourth (Megan) and sixth (Amanda Miller) on the general classification.