Stage 1 of the Cascade Cycling Classic was held today, July 17 on the challenging McKenzie Pass Course. The men and women raced 74 miles with a finishing climb to Three Creeks Sno-Park. This final climb features ramps up to 14% in sections and the stage climbs right to the finish line. It was going to be a tough day in the saddle for the riders.
The men’s race began with a 7 mile neutral zone and once the flag dropped the attacks started immediately. Small groups would go off the front but nothing stuck until about 35 miles into the stage when 5 riders were able to get a gap on the peloton. The break had the right mix of teams represented as they quickly built up a 10 minute gap as they arrived to the base of the McKenzie Pass climb. 3 riders remained a they crested the summit with a gap of roughly 1:30. The long fast decent saw Yanic Eckman of California Giant/Specialized, the only surviving member of the break, and Michael Weicht of CashCall, who bridged from the peloton, arrive into Sisters with a 40 second gap on the peloton. Team Bissell Pro Cycling rode a great team race on the final climb isolating Francesco Mancebo and yellow jersey wearer Robert Sweeting both of 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda.
Phil Gaimon of Bissell Pro Cycling takes us through the final climb, “Basically, it’s always about that last climb. It was on 5 Hour Energy to control the race all day, and they did good job as they had yellow and the defending champion (Mancebo). So, we just sat back until the base of the finishing climb where we took over. We had a few guys that we were saving up to just kill it with 10 km to go. We put Pipp (Frank) on the front to string things out and that launched Baldwin (Chris). He kinda fried out there but this made Mancebo and Team Optum chase. Then once everyone was hurting I jumped across and Chris gave me a little gas and I was able to ride it to the finish but there was a Bontrager Cycling Team rider on my wheel, at 200 meters to go, I am not sure what happened as I was looking forward and he was looking back, and we just kind of got tangled and he went down which is a shame as he would’ve killed me in the sprint.”
Gaimon crossed the line to take the win and race leaders jersey. Mancebo crossed a handful of seconds later with Baldwin, Carter Jones, and Michael Torckler, all of Bissell Pro Cycling, right on his wheel. Robert Sweeting of 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda lost his jersey on the stage and had this to say at the finish, “It was hard. I tried to stay as fresh as possible for the final climb. I knew that Mancebo would be our best guy for the day. I was hoping to lose less time than I did but once I got dropped with about 5 km to go I tried to conserve and hopefully have a better day tomorrow for the TT. We have Mancebo in 2nd overall so we are really happy about that. I think it’s going to be a good week.” TJ Eisenhart of BMC Development Team put in a strong ride to take the Best Young Riders jersey.
It was a strong performance by Bissell Pro Cycling but with the time gaps being so tight going into tomorrow’s TT, it’s still anybody’s race.
The women’s race began 10 minutes after the men. Yellow jersey wearer Allison Powers and her team, NOW and Novartis for MS, rode strongly and were able to control the peloton until the McKenzie Pass climb. Once the peloton began the climb proper, all that work seemed to take its toll and Powers had a more difficult time controlling the race. 3 riders broke away from the peloton roughly halfway up the climb. Kristen McGrath and Mara Abbott, both of team Exergy-Twenty 16, and Claudia Haeusler of team TIBCO worked well together building a gap of over 3 minutes and stayed away to the finish.
Kristen McGrath takes us through the stage, “We knew we have a lot of strong climbers on this team so we needed to use that to our advantage and try to get as much time for all of our climbers before the TT tomorrow. Allison’s (Powers) teammates set her up really well coming into McKenzie Pass but that meant that they had done a lot of work. Once they began to tire we made the pace really hard and we kept attacking. I ended up getting away with Claudia (Haeusler) and then Mara (Abbott) was able to bridge up. We worked really well together all the way to the finish. This also allowed Andrea Dvorak to sit on the yellow jersey, once we had her isolated. Then she was able to go on the final climb and get 4th place. So, it’s great that we got a lot of riders up the road. We are gonna take it one day at a time but we have a lot of cards to play.”
Haeusler took off with 200 meters to go and was able to take the win with McGrath and Abbott rounding out the top three. There was some confusion with the yellow jersey presentation with Haeusler initially being given the GC lead but before she could even donn the jersey the decision was reversed and McGrath was awarded the yellow jersey. As consolation, Haeusler was awarded the QOM jersey. The Best Young Rider jersey remained with Jasmin Glaessser of Exergy.
Stage one provided some aggressive and tactical racing for both the men and women. With 4 stages remaining the 2013 Cascade Cycling Classic promises to be an exciting edition.