This article was originally published in the Friday July 30th 2010 edition of the Lake Tahoe paper, the Sierra Sun.
Past Spoke n’ Word columns have shied away from true, gritty race reports. But as the team name implies, Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing – they do race, a lot. And it’s about time you knew more about it.
The Cascade Cycling Classic is a three-day, four-event stage race held every year in the high-desert, volcanic town of Bend Oregon. A mini Tour de France of sorts, where the individual competitors are ranked based on their combined finishing time from all four stages. With only 173 miles of racing over the three days, there is no margin for error and no place to make up for lost time. The winner of the Cascade Classic isn’t just the rider with the strongest legs and biggest lungs. It takes a savvy tactical sense, dialed equipment, team support and perfect recovery and nutrition practices to win a race of this caliber. One bad day on the bike, a flat tire or even a dropped water bottle could mean the difference between finishing 1st and 101st.
Attending the race this year was Justin Rossi (powerful rider on the flats) , Nick Schaffner (all-arounder/mechanic), Jesse Miller-Smith (climbing specialist/team leader) and Conrad Snover (sprint finisher). Jesse Miller-Smith had proven himself throughout earlier races that he deserved to lead the team, while the rest of the riders worked to defend the main objective, WIN!
Stage 1, Mount Bachelor Road Race 70 miles
This course started on the outskirts of Bend and wound around the dormant volcano of Mt. Bachelor before finishing on the steep roads near the top of the mountain. The peloton whizzed along at 25 mph for the first rolling 50 miles, while the snow covered slopes of Mt. Bachelor loomed in the distance. The whole team conserved energy and waited for the final uphill battle. With 4 miles to go, into a climb and headwind, Jesse sprung from the field of riders and soloed to the finish for the win. Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing now had the yellow leader’s jersey, and a slim 56 second lead.
Stage 2, Skyliners Individual Time Trial 16 miles
The individual time trial is a race of truth, a test of a rider’s strength without the benefit of any draft. It’s just a man and machine alone on the road, racing against the clock. The course suited both a spindly climber and heavy power rider. It was 8 miles straight uphill, and 8 miles right back down. There was so much downhill that gearing changes were needed as all team riders swapped out their front chainrings from a 53 to a massive 55 tooth gear. Jesse and Justin turned in turned in times good enough for 5th and 7th place. Jesse held onto the yellow leader’s with a 47 second advantage.
Stage 3, Downtown Criterium 20 miles
This flat course encircled several blocks in downtown Bend, packed with spectators cheering every lap. The course had two narrow cobbled turns, a prime spot for a big crash. The last thing the team wanted at this point to lose the lead because of a wreck. In order to keep the race (and Jesse) safe, Conrad, Nick and Justin drilled it at the front at a blistering speed, and in-turn kept the peloton strung out. The over 30 mph average pace prevented other riders from bunching up in the tight corners and avoided any mishaps. Conrad sprinted for 8th place, while Jesse stayed upright and kept the yellow leader’s jersey.
Stage 4, Aubrey Butte Circuit Race 67 miles
This final challenging stage offered many short, steep climbs on the four laps of an 18 mile loop along the outskirts of Bend. It was the last chance for riders to gain time, and possibly take the yellow jersey. Justin, Conrad and Nick spent most of the race chasing down attacks, setting a high pace and fetching cold water bottles on the 95 degree day. Jesse remained protected in the draft of the peleton, waiting for a time to strike. The strength of the entire Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing team proved to be too much for the other competitors as all breakaway attempts were shut down before they were able to gain any time. Jesse sprinted for 11th on the day, and won the overall with a 47 second margin.
Three days, four stages, 173 miles, four yellow jerseys, one big trophy and $600 in prizes. Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing won the 2010 Cascade Cycling Classic with dominance through smart riding and serious teamwork. Watch out, they will be back next year.
Team rider Nick Schaffner is the author of this week’s Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing column. Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing (www.cwcracing.org) is a Truckee-based cycling team focused on racing and local bike advocacy.