Stage three of the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic was a slight alteration of the Mt. Bachelor stage of years past. This year we started at the top of Mt. Bachelor, instead of riding from Bend up Mt. Washington Rd. to the top due to construction. From the Mt. Bachelor parking lot, which doubled as the finish, it was another nervous start with the stage beginning on a long descent. Then there was a flat middle section, before concluding on a short climb to flat run in to the finish back at the base of the Mt. Bachelor ski station.
For myself, after a solid time trial yesterday, and BISSELL having multiple riders in GC contention, the plan was to make sure I didn’t miss any large breaks with important riders, and then wait until the finishing climb to see how things played out. After some fighting off the descent, a group of three riders made their way from the pack setting out for a long day ahead. That meant I was able to concentrate on relaxing and conserving energy anticipating the final climb.
I figured the climb would be very difficult this year, given the way the TT suited itself to time trialists, reversing or negating the climbers GC gains from the Three Creeks finish the stage before. I was safely escorted by my teammate Ben Jacques-Maynes to the bottom of the climb in perfect position for when Kenda started their lead-out. As expected, Francisco Mancebo made the move of the day towards the top of the climb, and as I promised to myself before the stage, I made sure I stayed in the select group that was able to follow him. I just missed the selection last year, and vividly remembered how displeased I was post race. I like to see a steady improvement every year, so now I am satisfied.
Over the top of the climb as the road leveled off, I was able to regain my composure, and start evaluating the group Chris Baldwin and myself were in. Unbelievably (although they have a way of surprising in hard races) Bontrager-LIVESTRONG had five riders in our group of 10, with Mancebo driving the pace to gain GC time on the rivals he dropped. Thankfully, his relentless pace was able to whittle down the group even further before we came into the finish. Realizing my chances were slim given the numbers of Bontrager, but also knowing opportunities to win NRC stages do not come often, I made a last ditch effort just outside of one kilometer in an attempt to catch the group off guard. I was caught by Phil Gaimon and Lawson Craddock, who then brought me to within 100 meters of the finish before we were steamrolled by the rest of the Bontrager team from behind.
All in all things worked out very well. With five of the riders ahead of me on GC failing to make the front group, I was bumped up into second overall, as well as maintaining the white best young rider jersey. Now the BISSELL team is looking forward to the criterium tonight, with current US Pro champion Eric Young, and then playing our GC cards during Sunday’s circuit race with Jeremy Vennell, Chris Baldwin, Ben Jacques-Maynes, and myself. Not to mention Frank Pipp who I believe has a chance for the stage win. Should make for an interesting weekend.