Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cascade Cycling Classic pits young guns against old hands

BEND -- A look at the preliminary rider list for the upcoming 2009 BMC Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend backs up the promoter's boast that this could be the largest, strongest field in the history of the 30-year-old race.

The six-stage USA Cycling National Race Calendar event, which starts Tuesday, July 21, and continues through Sunday, July 26, has attracted a talented field of riders ranging from the hottest up-and-coming American riders to some of the world's most elite former Euro pros. They’ll be battling each other and the elements as temperatures should stay in the 90s throughout the week.

Although defending champions Levi leipheimer (Astana) and Kristin Armstrong (Cervelo Test Team) won't be back this year, the race is not lacking cycling star power.

Former Tour de France champion Floyd Landis, who finished first in the 2006 French race only to have it stripped away after failing an anti-doping test, will be in town with his OUCH-Maxxis squad for the Men’s Pro/Cat 1 race. The team also features Chris Baldwin, one of the nation’s best stage racers. Baldwin finished second at June’s Mt. Hood Cycling Classic in Hood River.

The young guns will be wearing the yellow, black and white of Lance Armstrong's Trek-Livestrong Team, the development squad that features 18-year-old World Champion Taylor Phinney. The offspring of 1984 Olympic gold medalist Connie-Carpenter Phinney and legendary 7-Eleven trailblazer Davis Phinney, the 6'5" Taylor won the gold in individual pursuit at the UCI Track World Championships in Pruszków, Poland, at the end of March and has been focusing on the road since.

Phinney and the rest of his cohorts on Trek-Livestrong will have plenty of U23 cohorts. Felt/Holowesko Partners/Garmin, part of the Garmin-Slipstream "farm system," will feature eight riders on its contingent at Cascade. Peter Stetina, who finished ninth at Cascade last year and was third overall at this year's Tour of the Gila until the last stage, could also figure in the overall this year in Bend.

Although they may be lacking Phinney's and Stetina's supply of the youthful exuberance, Rock Racing's crew of motly Euro Grand Tour pros can certainly supply more veteran guile.

Columbian Victor Hugo Peña is a former teammates of Lance Armstrong. Riding for U.S. Postal from 2001-2004, Pena served as one of Armstrong's most loyal Tour de France domestiques. He also wore the yellow jersey for three days in the 2003, the first Columbian to wear the maillot jaune.

Spaniard Oscar Sevilla twice finished second in the Vuelta a España and seventh in the 2001 Tour de France. The 32-year-old also had a team-high 21 podium finishes in 2008, including overall victory at the RCN Classic in Colombia and second in the Spanish national road race championships.

Sevilla’s countryman Francisco Mancebo won the 2008 Vuelta Chihuahua Internacional in Mexico for the second straight year while riding for the Portugese Fercase-Rota dos Moveis team. The 32-year-old has competed in all three of the “Grand Tours” and was the Spanish National Road Race Champion in 2004.

Spaniard José Enrique Gutiérrez is a climbing and stage racing specialist who has participated in all three of cycling’s “Grand Tours” – finishing second at the Giro d’Italia in 2006 and winning a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2004. The 34-year-old comes to Rock Racing from the L.P.R. Brakes-Ballan squad.

For the sprints, Rock Racing will rely on Ivan Dominguez, also known as “The Cuban Missile.” Dominguez, 32, is considered the top sprinter on the North American circuit and has won stages at all three of the U.S. “grand tours” (California, Georgia and Missouri) while racing for Toyota-United the past three years.

The Bissell Pro Cycling Team will return to Oregon after its successful outing at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, where Paul Mach took the overall win. This time around Mach will be joined by seven other riders, including Ben Jacques-Maynes, Burke Swindlehurst and Tom Zirbel.

The BMC Racing Team will be on hand, with Jeff Louder and Tony Cruz leading the eight-man contingent. Mike Creed and Darren Lill will be at the race with the rest of Team Type 1, a squad of diabetic riders. Colavita/Sutter Home has just six riders registered, including the Barrajos and Lucas Sebastian Haedo. Other teams in the men’s race include California Giant Berry Farms, Bobs-bicycles.com, Trek-Red Truck, H & R Block/Kona and more.

Portland-based Land Rover/ORBEA will field an eight-rider team, including the team elder statesman and previous Cascade Classic stage winner Evan Elken. Tour of the Gila stage winner Roman van Uden is also registered.

The Women’s Pro/Cat 1/Cat 2 race also promises to field some of the toughest competition in the nation.

Colavita Sutter Home/Cooking Light is sending a full squad, including criterium specialists Tina Pic and Portland’s Kelly Benjamin. Team Tibco, led by Joanne Kiesanowski and Julie Beveridge, is also fielding a full squad. Alison Powers will be leading the women’s Team Type 1 squad, while Bend rider Chrissy Ruiter will get to show off the local town to her Value Act Capital teammates. Webcor Builders are registered; Amy Dombroski and Gina Grain will lead the eight-rider squad. Hillary Billington, another Portland rider, will be in town with the Lip Smackers Pro Cycling Team.

Portland-based Veloforma/ZYM has eight riders registered, including Alice Pennington, Rebecca Hartkop and Mt. Hood stage winner Melissa McWhirter.


Stage 1: Smith Rock Road Race, Tuesday, July 21
This brand new 71.2 mile stage will start at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond and head directly north into the arid desert past Smith Rock State Park before following the Crooked River through farm country and back to Bend. This may be one for the sprinters before the terrain gets to steep.

Stage 2: Three Creek Road Race, Wednesday, July 22
This 80 mile race, which starts at Summit High school in Bend, heads north toward Redmond and Terrebonne before heading west toward the mountains. Bordering the eastern flanks of the Cascade Range, the course will take riders to Sisters before the long, 10-plus mile climb that just keeps getting steeper until the finish Three Creeks Snow Park in the Deschutes National Forest.

Stage 3: Skyliners Time Trial, Thursday, July 23
The 14 mile out-and-back individual test starts out flat and fast but transitions quickly into the 1,000 feet of climbing toward the mountains and the turnaround. The descent back to the finish will push the riders' biggest gear.

Stage 4: Cascade Lakes Road Race, Friday, July 24
Starting at Summit High School, the course traverses the Cascade Lakes Highway and a number of forest service roads while winding deep into the Deschutes National Forest and around Mt. Bachelor, where the race will finish after the 5km Sparks Lake Climb. "The classic course that has determined more overall victories than any other stage," according to the promoter. The men will cover 84 miles, and the women will ride 71.

Stage 5: Downtown Bend Criterium
Last year an estimated 14,500 people packed the streets to watch this one. The promoter says the new 2009 course is even faster. And with some of the country's best sprinters headed for town, this one won't disappoint anyone looking for a fast, rowdy race. Women race 60 minutes, starting at 5:45 p.m. Men race 90 minutes at 7 p.m.

Stage 6: Awbrey Butte Circuit Race, Sunday, July 26.
This final stage could play a big role in the overall outcome if it's still close. The 17 mile circuit skirts Bend’s outer housing developments and goes through both Tumalo State Park and The Shevlin Regional Park. Short power climbs and fast descents favor the strongest all-around rider. "It comes down to who is willing to make the decisive break and power the effort home," according to the promoter. The men will cover five laps of the circuit. The women will race four.

The amateur OBRA-sanctioned Cascade Stage Race starts Friday and runs through Sunday with four skill- and age-graded categories covering the same courses as the pros.

Cascade Cycling Classic website : http://www.mbsef.org/CascadeCyclingClassic/

Cascade Stage Race website: http://www.mbsef.org/CascadeStageRace/index.cfm