Stage 4, Bend Downtown Twilight Criterium took place Saturday July 20th. The men and women were able to enjoy a late start time to give their legs some needed recovery from the tough 4 days of racing they’ve experienced so far. The rectangular course is a straight forward design. The only real ‘obstacle’ being turns 3 and 4 where the road narrows making positioning onto the long final straight important. Essentially this translates into an extremely fast course. The long finishing straight to the line puts an emphasis on teamwork and a solid lead out. Added to this was a headwind meaning that the winner would have to time their sprint perfectly.
The women were first to start. As has been e case throughout Cascade, the pace was high right from the gun. There were many attacks but apparently none had the right combination of teams represented or horsepower as the field remained together and strung out for the entire race.
As the riders began the final lap team NOW and Novartis for MS took charge at the front with three riders stringing out the remaining peloton. The sprint was incredibly close and came down to a photo finish with Lauren Hall of team Optum p/b Kelly Benefits taking the win by the narrowest of margins. 2nd went to Shelley Olds of Team TIBCO with Allison Powersnof NOW and Novartis for MS rounding out the top three. The GC remained unchanged with McGrath of Exergy Twenty 16 in yellow followed by Haeusler of Team TIBCO and Abbott of Exergy Twenty 16 in 3rd.
The men began at 7 PM but the temperatures remained high with many riders packing ice into their skinsuits in an attempt to keep their core temperature down before the fireworks began for the 75 minute race. The men’s field had been reduced to 150 riders from the original 200 and the field would be much less than this by the finish.
The men’s race was full-on right from the gun. The 150 man field was single file for the first 20 minutes with many laps averaging over 32 mph. As the field began to show signs of strain under the unrelenting pace a group of 5 riders managed to get a gap. This front group fluctuated in numbers from 5 to 3 to 8 and always hovering around 10 seconds. Team Jelly Belly and Team Cash Call kept the move in check. The break was finally reeled in at the 46 minute mark but the pace was beginning to take it’s toll on the rest of the field as riders were continually being dropped from the pack. With roughly 10 minutes to go Team Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker took control of the front but it was team Optum with Tom Zirbel leading the way who took over with 3 laps to go. Zirbel put his TT legs to work and tapped out a lap and a half at 32 mph when a crash on the backside of the course created a split. Optum controlled going into the final lap but it was the U23 national criterium champion, Ty Magner of Hincapie Sportswear, who took the win. Jasper Stuyven of Bontrager Cycling Team 2nd with Ignazio Moser of BMC Development Team taking 3rd. The GC remained with Tvetcov of Jelly Belly p/b Kenda leading, Haga of Optum p/b Kelly Benifit Strategies in 2nd, and Jakub Novak of BMC Development Team in 3rd.
Tomorrow concludes this edition of the Cascade Cycling Classic with the Aubry Butte Circuit Race. For the women, McGrath and her team seem to be in control but its a challenging course at the end of a week of aggressive racing. Haeusler and the rest of the field should make it interesting for team Exergy. On the men’s side, this race is still up for grabs. There is only 9 seconds separating the top 3 and only a 1:15 separating the top 10. Tomorrow should produce some incredible racing.
As a final note, the podium for tonight’s crit were all U23 men. Remember their names as I am sure we will be seeing more of them in the future.