Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mt. Hood Cycling Classic makes big leap in 2009

The good news is that Oregon's successful six-year-old Mt. Hood Cycling Classic will retain its prominent place on the National Race Calendar.

The better news is that the continually growing race will be undergoing some big changes in 2009.

The freshly re-minted event will be named the Oregon Pro Cycling Classic, and it will morph to eight days, covering 600 miles and 50,000 feet of climbing, according to the Oregonian.

"It will hands down be the most difficult stage race in the U.S.," spokesman Tre Hendricks told reporter Boaz Herzog of The Oregonian. "We want to build the reputation of the race so that the best riders in the world want to come here."

The 2009 edition will start and finish in Portland, Hendricks told Herzog, and it will feature two additional stages that travel to the Willamette Valley as far south as Eugene.

Other prominent promoters believe the race is well on its way to achieving those goals. From Herzog's report:
"The Mt. Hood Classic has without question gained a fantastic reputation, so I'm not surprised by any means it's taken that next leap," Chris Aronhalt, managing partner of Medalist Sports, which produces and organizes the nation's two most prestigious stage races, the tours of Georgia and California, as well as the Tour of Missouri and LiveStrong Challenge fundraiser in Beaverton.

The chief obstacle for Oregon Pro Cycling Classic organizers' intention to host a bigger, better race: funding. Expanding the race by two stages will probably triple its budget, said Hendricks, adding that the race has covered its expenses to this point.

"It's most definitely a challenge," he said. "The way we're planning to do it is expand our media coverage substantially. That'll draw in a host of different sponsors than we've had in the past."
The Oregon Pro Cycling Classic will be an invitational-only format for the 2009 men's race, and promoters hope to recruit America's best teams and some Europeans. The extension to eight days means the race will match the Tour of California in length and exceed the length of the (now-canceled) Tour de Georgia by one day.

In the future the race may grow to reach areas as far away as Crater Lake and the Wallowa Mountains.

The six-stage 2008 edition took place from May 13 to 18. Rory Sutherland (Health Net/Maxis) won the men's race, and Julie Beveridge (Aaron's Professional Cycling Team) grabbed the women's top prize.

The boys from Bissell control the pace for their man in yellow during the Mt. Tabor Criterium stage of the 2008 Mt. Hood Cycling Classic.

VanMeter, Sager harvest Kruger's Crossing wins

Another unseasonably dry Oregon afternoon greeted more than 500 competitors Sunday, Nov. 23, at the Kruger's Crossing Cyclocross Classic, the closing race of Portland's local 'cross scene before the Crank Brothers U.S. Gran Prix comes to town Dec. 6 and 7 for its finale.

Held on Sauvie's Island, an agricultural area and migratory bird sanctuary about 20 minutes from downtown Portland, the course sent riders careening along rutted farm roads, through berry fields, pastures, a barn, over a pile of pumpkins and past a dead rat. Oh, and of course, the obligatory beer garden and bonfire.

River City Bicycles' Emily VanMeter made the women's race a battle for second place as she burst from the starting line to gain a dominant lead that the rest of the field struggled in vain to close. VanMeter's teammate and Cross Crusade series winner Wendy Williams finished second, nearly a minute behind. Tina Brubaker (Vanilla Bicycles/Stumptown) rounded out the top three two minutes later.

In the Elite Men's race, Shannon Skerritt (Vanilla/Stumptown) set a blistering pace for the hole shot and then settled in with a handful of leaders that eventually pulled away from the rest of the field. With the group's lead looking insurmountable, Eric Sheagley (Veloce Racing) charged away from the rest for several laps and built a lead of about 15 seconds on Skerritt, Cross Crusade series winner Jason Sager ( and Ian Brown of River City Bicycles.

Skerritt countered Sheagley's move and passed the Veloce rider with about four laps to go. Building a lead of as much as twenty seconds, Skerritt seemed to be pulling away from Sager, Brown and Sheagley, who dangled behind the top three after his solo effort.

Sager and Brown combined their efforts to whittle away at Skerritt's lead before Sager shed his chase companion and set out alone to reel-in the leader. Sager quickly caught Skerritt, and the two riders stayed together until Sager launched a final burst for the line, leaving Skerritt to finish a handful of seconds behind. In the battle for third, Sheagley caught and passed Brown, nipping the River City rider for the final podium spot.


Emily VanMeter rode away from the competition to an impressive win in the Elite Women's race.

The dry weather made for a fast course.

Shannon Skerritt won the hole shot and led the Elite Men's race late.

Eric Sheagley gained an early advantage but settled for third.

Ian Brown helped eventual winner Jason Sager chase Skerritt, but he fell off the pace and finished fourth.

Despite the dry weather, promoters managed to find some mud.