Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cascade Cycling Classic Prologue

While Valle d'Aosta is going to be taking up the vast majority of my attention the next week, it wouldn't be smart of me to just ignore one of the biggest events on the USA Cycling calendar, at least in terms of stage races. The Cascade Cycling Classic is a fixture on the US calendar and every year, showcases the stunning high desert around Bend, Oregon. They bill it as the North America's longest running stage race, which is highly debatable but what can you do.

Getting off my Bend Tourism Board soapbox, the race always brings out the best professional and amateur talent across the country and in more recent years, teams like Bissell, Hincapie and BMC Development have brought some stacked teams here. Lots of U23 talent that isn't in Europe is here.

Tuesday kicked off the race with a 4km (2.5 mile) prologue in Bend. Sorry, I should be more official. Tuesday kicked off the race with the Worthy Brewing prologue, a scenic 2.5 mile course right off the beautiful Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway at the exclusive Tetherow Golf Resort. Now that I'm ready to throw up in my mouth, let's just talk about the race.

Tom Zirbel (Optum) laid down the early best time of 4'23"38"' that was to be the carrot for the rest of the field. Another strong early time came from U23 Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Development), who slotted into 3rd place at the time. Carpenter has been riding a strong wave of time trial rides and has been very proficient the last few months in the disciplines. The times kept creeping nearer towards Zirbel. National Elite TT Champion Tim Rugg (Marc Pro Strava) put down a 4'30". Travis McCabe (Smartstop) lowered it to 4'29". U23 Dion Smith (Hincapie Development) took it down by a few fractions of a second but nothing substantial.

The biggest challenge came by U23 Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell), who put down a time of 4'25"59"'. Really, Zirbel isn't the best domestic time trialist for nothing. Ignazio Moser (BMC Development), who has been fraught with motivation problems in the past, came close but could only manage 3rd on the night.

While Zirbel took the win and yellow into tomorrow, it was a great showing by the U23s in the peloton by putting 4 in the top 10 with best young rider Zepuntke, Moser, Smith and Carpenter. Hincapie Devo was by far the strongest team in the test by putting 6 out of their 8 riders into the top 20. Other U23s that got inside the top 40 (withing 14 seconds of Zirbel) include Bas Tietema (BMC Devo), Dan Eaton (Canyon Bicycles-Shimano), James Oram (Bissell), Ben Wolfe (Cal Giant), Logan Owen and Tao Geoghegan Hart (both Bissell).

A large forest fire has re-routed the 1st stage so they will be doing a couple of loops around Mount Bachelor, which they will be doing pretty much again later in the week. Throw in a time trial, criterium and a hard circuit race and there is going to be some tired legs by this Sunday.

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