VuMedi Rider, Alex Gaidis, headed up to Bend, OR. for the Cascade Cycling Classic with a composite team made up of NorCal cycling giants, Herbalife p/b Marc Pro Strava and VuMedi Cycling. In the following, he writes about his experiences.
Words by: Alex Gaidis (VuMedi Cycling)
The 2015 Cascade Cycling Classic by the numbers: 5 stages, 588.38 km of racing, 13 hours 48 minutes and 36 seconds of saddle time, averaging 42.606 km/h, 161 starters, 123 finishers, 23 teams, and 7 professional teams. Add all those numbers up and what do you end up with? A challenging, tactical, and superb race.
The night before stage 1, a 201 km road race, the host family my two teammates and I were staying with was eager to make us dinner. I told them they may not know what they are getting themselves into, but they pushed for it. I obliged and informed them of the cyclist’s diet of carbs, carbs, and more carbs. It wasn’t until they cooked one package of pasta and my non-English-speaking teammate swooped in and put the entire pot of cooked pasta on his plate that they finally understood.
This year Cascade did not retain its NRC status, yet it held onto its prestige nonetheless, and so at the start of the first stage I nervously watched Jelly Belly, Hincapie, and Airgas p/b Safeway, all pull into the parking lot. But hey, they all have to wait in the same porta-potty line with everyone else. I was feeling very optimistic about our NorCal composite team’s chances. The majority of our roster consisted of Herbalife p/b Marc-Pro Strava riders with the exception being myself and two teammates from the VuMedi Developmental Cycling Team.
With no prologue this year, and the entire 201 km first stage to figure out who would wear the yellow jersey, things started off a bit hectic. For the first two-and-a-half hours the break tried to form. Our speeds rarely dipped below 30 mph – including climbs. Oncoming traffic was forced to pull off to the shoulder to provide “full road closure,” but, when you have a 16-wheeler pulled into a two-foot shoulder, well, things can get hairy. The first day came down to the summit finish. Airgas p/b Safeway and KHS Maxxis p/b JL Velo drove the pace to the bottom of the climb to catch the breakaway so the GC contenders could battle. When the dust had settled, Francisco Mancebo was in yellow. Justin Rossi, of our team, Herbalife p/b Marc-Pro Strava, hung on with the lead group and finished 35th. With his specialty, the individual time trial, following the next day, it was looking like our bad-news-bears composite squad might be defending the yellow jersey.
For me, the time trial was a “rest day.” I had broken a spoke the previous day at the base of Mt. McKenzie and lost significant time on GC, so saving energy was the name of the game. The time trial course was beautiful. Unfortunately, I hardly looked up from aero-position. Rossi finished second to Max Korus of Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffees. He was 5 seconds off the yellow jersey which now resided in the hands of Nicolae Tanovitchi of Jelly Belly.
The third stage defined my Cascade Classic. Our team began the stage with the intention of defending Rossi’s second place, and so I spent the morning going back to the team car and filling up my jersey with bottles to distribute around. The first few breakaways were reeled back in by Jelly Belly until finally a sizeable one stuck that included some GC contenders. The situation was not ideal for Rossi and so three of us went to the front with a Hagan’s Berman U23 rider to chip away at the break’s time-gap. Somebody throttled their engine a bit too hard and when I looked back the four of us had five seconds on the peloton. Riders from Lupus Racing Team and Astella’s Professional Cycling Team bridged the small gap which then ballooned to over a minute. Eventually we made it to the breakaway. It was almost 30 riders including threats to Rossi’s GC. It was our ticket for a “free” ride in the break. Our gap went from a minute-thirty up to 7 minutes in the span of the next 50 miles due riders in the break attacking one another.
By the base of the final climb up Mt. Bachelor our gap to the peloton had been reduced to around 5 minutes. Unable to match the accelerations and hard pace set by Gavin Mannion of Jelly Belly and Robin Carpenter of Hincapie, I settled into my own rhythm. I soon passed rider after rider completely whacked from trying to go toe-to-toe with the big guns in the group. With 2 km to go, I was able to dig deeply and hold off the peloton that was storming up the mountain uncomfortably close behind me. I nabbed 19th on the day with Christopher Harland-Dunaway taking 13th. Rossi was bumped down to 10th on GC. Tactically not our finest moment, but it was good to see Chris H-D get a solid result.
The criterium the following night was fast, strung-out, and heavily controlled by the pro teams. I was in it to win it, and by that I mean I was in it to save as much energy as possible for the next day. Unfortunately, a crash between Nate English of Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffees and Art Rand of our team reshuffled the GC and moved Rossi into 9th. There were hundreds of fans lining the streets of downtown Bend. The vibe was electric! When the race concluded, kids grappled for high-fives from the riders and asked for water-bottles to be thrown to them.
The fifth and final stage was the shortest road race – only 131 intense kilometers. With five laps of racing, including two short, steep climbs per lap, things got interesting fast. Every lap riders who expended too much energy on previous days fell off the back. Hincapie had Dion Smith in the yellow jersey and controlled the race the entire day. No breakaway was given more than a 10 seconds leash. Rossi tried to gain some time on GC and attacked on the last lap, but it proved futile. The race blew open on the last lap as Hincapie ratcheted up the pace. H&R Block Professional Cycling Team were the victors on the day with Dion Smith of Hincapie retaining his lead in the GC. Rossi held on for 9th in GC.
It was truly a scenic, challenging, and fun race. It was first time out in Bend doing the race, and here are some tips that I picked up along the way.
- Backporch Coffee Roasters – enough said.
- Indian food does not make good pre-criterium food.
- If you have a power meter, don’t display the numbers on your activity tracker. You don’t want to be looking at those number, just trust it will be a good day.
- Riders respect other riders who can stay seated and smooth during a criterium.
Alex Gaidis lives in Santa Clara, CA.