(UPDATED 4:45 p.m. Monday: The complete Cycling Action photo gallery of the 2009 Cascade Chainbreaker is now posted online HERE).
BEND -- Central Oregon's well-stocked contingent of local heavy hitters came out to battle for the king-of-the-locals crown at the Cascade Chainbreaker Sunday in Bend. Chris Sheppard (Santa Cruz/Shimano/WTB/Fox) cruised to victory by just over a minute in front of Carl Decker (Giant) and Cody Peterson (Dedicated Athlete).
For the second week in a row, Decker rode a singlespeed in the Pro Men's event. He won last week's Mudslinger with a single gear. National Cyclocross Champ and Kona Factory Team rider Ryan Trebon, who returned to racing for the first time since injuring his knee and back in a crash at Sea Otter in April, finished 8th.
Rain in Bend in the days leading up to the event dampened the course just enough to hold down the dust and turn the powder into tacky perfection. The wind, cold and rain gave way Saturday to blue skies and summer temps. A record number 300+ riders from Oregon, Washington and Idaho hit the trails for the 12th annual race.
“Anytime we’ve had weather like this we know it’s time to play hookie from school,” said Sheppard, who moved to Bend four years ago from Canada.
Sheppard said he was a little surprised to find himself off the front building a nice lead after the morning’s initial start.
“I was drinking coffee at 7:15 this morning at (a friend’s) house,” he said. “And I felt really poorly. But I thought I’d just ride out and see what happens.”
The seasoned rider tested the waters on the local trails about halfway into the first lap with an effort that quickly began building a gap that hovered around a minute or more. Sheppard was first into the infield starting the second lap, followed by Peterson, Trebon, Decker, Brandt Brig (reboundspl.com) and James Williams (Cannondale). That pretty much set the order of the day, with some minor shuffling.
Feeling the strain of his recently re-aggravated lower back pain, Trebon dropped off the chase pace. Decker and Peterson swapped back and forth for most of the second lap, with Brig and Williams battling minutes behind.
“I had to make an emergency phone call to my physical therapist buddy yesterday when I got home from my ride,” Trebon said of his most recent hip and back pains. “I was just out there riding and it really flared up. It took about an hour to get home and it was the most uncomfortable ride ever. I was like ‘you gotta come over and help me out. I can’t even move right now.’”
With Trebon easing off the pedals and fading back to 8th, Decker, who spent his Saturday on a Super Moto bike on a track in Canby, made one last lone attempt on his singlespeed to bridge the gap to Sheppard. He dropped Peterson on the long, steep climb and decided to give it “the college try.”
“About a quarter of the way into the lap there’s kind of a false-flat climb and then it gets steep,” Decker said. “I had to ride hard up that just because of the gearing, and I think (Peterson) kind of came undone a little bit.”
Peterson, who moved to Bend from Ketchum, Idaho, last fall, said there was little he could do to stay with Decker’s charge up the climb.
"He was just gone," he said
Decker pulled back about half a minute from Sheppard but finished 62 seconds behind for second. Peterson followed more than three minutes behind Decker. Williams nipped Brig for fourth nearly three minutes later.
Butler returns to roost
Portland's Sue Butler (MonaVie-Cannondale) carried the flag for the western side of the state when she sailed through the course to win the Pro Women's race by nearly eight minutes over Karen DeWolfe (Team Dirt) of Corvallis and Megan Faris (River City Bicycles) of Portland. Bend's Sami Fournier (Organic Athlete) rounded out the Pro Women's field in 4th.
Butler's win was made all the easier because Alice Pennington, who she’s been dueling with for the past couple of races, was in Arkansas this week at the Joe Martin Stage Race with the Veloforma road team. Pennington finished second behind Butler at Bear Springs Trap but took the top prize at Mudslinger May 3.
Nevertheless, Butler had little trouble pushing herself through the super-fast course after charging away from the field early in the first lap.
"I looked around and said, ‘Where is everybody?’" Butler said of her early lead. "So I just kept going and raced against the clock and tried to pick off as many guys as I could."
Butler steadily built her lead over the fast, rolling course that featured a steady helping of short power climbs, one long, steady ascent and singletrack that ran along and traversed a winding dry creek bed.
"The course was a full-on pedal through," Butler said. "It’s just a fun course. It’s one of my favorite courses. (Chainbreaker) was my very first race ever in ‘03 as a beginner."
Butler’s next stop will be the May 31 Bump N' Grind in Birmingham, Ala., the third stop of the USA Cycling Pro Cross Country Mountain Bike Tour.
"We’ll see how that goes," she said. "I think my fitness is coming around a little bit and I’m feeling a little better."
The next race in the Oregon XC Series is the Spring Thaw May 16, part of the Spring Thaw Mountain Bike festival that weekend in Ashland.
Cascade Chainbreaker, May 10, Bend
1. Chris Sheppard (Santa Cruz/Shimano/WTB/Fox) Bend 2:22:39
2. Carl Decker (Giant) Bend 2:23:41
3. Cody Peterson (Dedicated Athlete) Bend 2:26:44
4. James Williams (Cannondale) 2:29:57
5. Brandt Brig (reboundspl.com) Bend 2:30:31
6. Brett Nichols Boise 2:30:59
7. Ben Thompson (Cannondale) Bend 2:31:47
8. Ryan Treban (Kona) Bend 2:32:48
9. Chris Brandt (Team Dirt) Eugene 2:37:17
10.Scotty Carlile (Therapeutic Associates Cycling/GENR8) Bend 2:39:03
1. Sue Butler (MonaVie-Cannondale) Portland 1:54:14
2. Karen DeWolfe (Team Dirt) Corvallis 2:02:04
3. Megan Faris Portland 2:06:28
4. Sami Fournier (Organic Athlete) Bend 2:25:07