In Oregon there are three important stage races for the amateur bike racer: The Mt Hood Cycling classic, the Elkhorn Classic and the Cascade Classic, each of these races are three days long. The Oregon cyclist can live the dream and doing the stage race and spend a weekend bike racing on some very epic and scenic courses. Unlike Pro tour riders, there are no team cooks or breakfast buffets every morning, (unless you pay way extra). This summer, my comeback to road bike racing, I plan to do the three stage races in the 'cat 3' category. (Bike racing lingo: cat 5 is beginner, cat 1 is almost pro).
Last weekend, the first of the three stage races took place: the Mt hood cycling classic in Hood River. In my opinion, Hood River is the most beautiful town in Oregon, and alot of that has to do with the columbia gorge. The race consists of 4 stages over 3 days.
The first stage started in the Dalles, and covered territory between the Dalles and a small town called Mosier. The race was on some of the same roads that the columbia gorge marathon travels in October, a foot race that I've done twice, so I was somewhat familiar with the route. However, there was one section that I was not familiar with, and this section included what is known to the locals as '7 mile hill'. Before the race I was talking with my teammates Pete and Erik, and predicted that around 15 riders would be in the lead group, and if you were not in that group, it would really suck to be trying to chase back on. I don't like to make up excuses, but I had to take antibiotics for three days in the week prior to this race for a sinus infection, which was very taxing on my system. I'm not going into details but I didn't have 'full power' on 7 mile hill, and I don't think it helped to have the climb with a slight tail wind on one of the first 70+ degree days of the spring. It was a pressure cooker and it was hot, and my lungs were still coughing up the 'gunk'. To make a long story short, I was dropped by the lead group on the climb and had to chase to get back as much time as possible for the last 20 miles with 7 others in the same position. Interestingly, exactly 15 riders finished the stage on the lead, and Pete was one of them. I finished just over 4 minutes later.
Stage 2 (11 mile TT)
The second stage was an 11 mile time trial in Trout Lake, WA. Even amateur riders use the tricked out TT bikes, or fit their road bikes with clip on bars and disc wheels. I decided to bring less to the race, so I was on my road bike with regular bars and no disc. The result here was I lost 3 more minutes to the leader.
I was scared of this race because of the hairpin corner after the downhill, but it was mostly safe until the last corner, where a dude crashed and the ambulance came, but he ended up not leaving in it. I ended up ahead of the crash, and was 11th.
3 Summits Road race
71 miles with huge climbs in the mountains north of Hood River on paved single lane forest roads. After losing time on Friday, I was mixed about how this could go. In chatting with guys from the team we agreed that this would not be an attack fest, and more of a war of attrition. The first two climbs were tough, but I was able to hang on. The downhills were fast, and I drove down the second big decent, because being behind other riders on the brakes during the first one was just too stressful. Hung on until the last steep uphill mile with the selection of 15 riders in the field, and moved up on GC from 40th to 16th, by far my best overall finish in an Oregon cat 3 stage race. Looking forward to Elkhorn on June 17-19, where the 1st and 2nd place riders from Mt Hood will be racing, so it will be tough!