"today was a good day…..I didn’t have to use my a.k."
All year long we race all over the country, which means a lot of time in
rental cars and airports as well as copious amounts of down time in hotel rooms.
This is one reason why host housing is so popular (with riders, staff and
managers). Host housing is when a family will let riders stay at their house
during races. Some families we will even stay with every year and get to catch
up while the race is going on.
We riders enjoy host housing so much because you have the ability to cook
your own food (or have food cooked for you if you are lucky) and you can just
sit around and relax and chat. While in hotel rooms you are forced to either
stand or lie in bed and watch TV….. not a lot of options.
Chad, our mechanic, likes it because he can set up his workstation in the
garage or backyard and be set for the duration of the trip. While in hotels he
is forced to do all of his work in the parking lot, which means he also has to
set up and break down every time it is time to work. In hotels he then also has
to deal with storing the bikes, which can mean over 5 trips up and down the
elevator, if you have never had to do this it is quite the production. Our
director probably likes it best of all because he can save the team account tons
of dough. Just think how much it costs to have 5-6 rooms for a week at a hotel!!
This past week was the 2002 Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, OR, only
two of us went with no staff or team support. Despite this, the race easily made
it onto my list of "favorites." We ended up being very lucky because we were set
up with a great host family, the Bergers. They took care of us better than we
could have hoped for, including giving us rides to and from a couple races as
well as even working the feed zone! Without them we each would have been at
least 10 spots lower in the GC!
I have never been to the Northwest area of the country and I had no idea what
I was missing. It is incredibly majestic there with big rivers flowing in
between snow-covered peaks, it is a type of place that makes you want to be
outdoors all day exploring, and the racing is not bad either!
This race is known for having some big climbing days but this year the bigger
obstacle was the oppressive heat. It actually reached into the low 100’s for 4
day’s in a row!!!
Stage 1: 110 miles 4600’ of climbing
The only thing I have to say about this stage is that Henk Vogels (Mercury)
is the man! The field stayed mainly together over the first major climb and the
last section of hard climbing was only 4 miles long and was immediately followed
by a long, fast run-in to the finish. This led most of us to think that it was
going to be a large field sprint…….nope.
After the first descent Henk decided that he would like a little cushion
going into the final climb. He broke away with Sven Tuft (Prime Alliance) and
Chris Fisher (Saturn) they kept the hammer down all day long and had opened up a
good gap going into the final climb. Fisher wore himself out after spending most
of the day off the front was quickly dropped leaving Henk and Sven to fend for
At the front of the main field my teammate John put in a couple big efforts
on the final climb that quickly trimmed down the size of the pack to a small
manageable size (yours truly included) and he started to eat away at the gap
that the break had. He managed to get himself into a small group of 7 over the
top of the climb but they were reeled in on the run-in to the finish.
Henk & Sven held on to a small gap over the top of the final climb and that
is when Henk's V-8 engine kicked in. He was running a 55 tooth front chain ring
(most guys normally run a 52) and motored it all the way to the finish with Sven
on his wheel just 5 seconds in front of the greatly reduced but hard charging
Stage 2: 75 miles 7000’ of climbing
I thought that the race organizers made a mistake by making the race just 75
miles, and the first 20 were all downhill; we are professionals for God’s sake!
There were only 2 climbs with the first one being just less than 20 miles long
and the second was about 10 with the finish at the top. What is amazing is that
by the top of the first climb the field was well broken up and by the finish
line the time gaps were huge (someone actually finished over 1˝ hours down!)
People were finishing in groups no bigger than 2 people; it was like nothing
I have ever seen before. By the end I was so overheated and dehydrated that I
actually was getting goose bumps, which is not a good sign when it is over 100F
Burke Swindlehurst took the stage victory for Navigators; it was a hard
earned to say the least.
Stage 3: ITT 1-mile straight up
My money for this race was amateur talent Andy "El De’Baj" Bajadali (Excel
Sports). He can go uphill with the best of them and I figured that his
background in mountain biking with their ridiculously fast starts would be
perfect for him to capture this stage. Much to Andy’s disappointment (and
sprained wrist) Mercury legend Scott Moninger was not about to go home without
leaving his mark and easily walked away with this stage putting in a blistering
time of just over 4:20.
Stage 4: Twilight Criterium
I think that the entire town of Bend came out to watch our race, there must
have been about 6000 people there. We did not start until 8pm but the mercury
was still holding steady in the 90’s, it still somehow felt surprisingly
comfortable compared to how hot the previous races had been.
I guess there must have been a lot of pure climbers there and not too many
crit riders because I thought that race felt easy (not a walk in the park but
not nearly as hard as other NRC crits) but over ˝ of the peloton was dropped
with guys actually coming off during the first two laps. John & I were both
aggressive but couldn’t get anything to stick and it came down to a big group
sprint. Looking back I should have been more aggressive but just followed wheels
and watched from about 15 wheels back as Mercury took 1 & 2 in fine fashion (Henk
Stage 5: 80 miles 5200’ of climbing
The course was a cool 7-mile loop with one big climb right after the
start/finish that served as both the KOM (king of the mountain points
competition) and the feed zone. Mike Creed (Prime Alliance) had the KOM jersey
and attacked right from the gun. I was in good position to go with him but
hesitated, and before I could reconsider my decision he was gone. A group of
7 went up the road and my teammate John managed to claw his way into it. I was
feeling good and was mad at myself for not being there with him but it was too
late; ……..should-a, could-a, would-a.
The move ended up sticking, although it was thinned down to only 3 by the
last lap; Tim Johnson (Saturn), Mike Creed and John. Tim led out the final
sprint and John easily took the win!!!
Stage 6: Old Mill District Criterium
After John’s win we were excited and ready to do battle once again. The race
started off fast and within two laps a bunch of guys had gone up the road, again
including John (how does he get in all of these moves??). There were a bunch of
heavy hitters in the break including Mercury’s ace sprinter Gord Frasier. No one
wanted to go to the line with him so they were all attacking. After a dozen
attacks another group went off the front of the break without Gord but included
John and that was the winning move of the day with the rest of the break getting
absorbed back into the peloton.
Mercury set a fast tempo at the front of the field protecting Chris Wherry’s
leaders jersey and since there was no threat to overall GC they let the new
break sneak away.
The break ended up lapping the field and was won by Saturn’s Chris Fisher,
with John finishing "in the money."
That’s the race…….
It is always is easy to look back on a race and say, "I should have been in
that move" or "I could have gone with that one guy" but isn’t that always the
case? My teammate and good friend Clark Sheehan tells me constantly that
attacking is the key. His theory is that if you initiate a move then you are
guaranteed to be in it; I suppose that I am slowly learning. Hindsight is always
50/50 and you have to live life forward without looking back all of the time and
I suppose that the same can be said of bicycle racing.
Thanks For Reading!