It was wet and dangerous at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic’s Mt. Tabor Criterium in Portland Wednesday, but the UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis team wasn’t letting the conditions rain on its parade.
On a hilly and unconventional criterium stage sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, the UHC team rose to the occasion, impressing its corporate employers by taking first and second, as well as the overall lead.
Crossing the line first and taking 10 seconds of bonus time was Pacific Northwest native Morgan Schmitt, followed closely by Dutch rider Marc de Maar, who was granted a six-second time bonus. Tyler Trace of Trek Red Truck rounded out the day’s podium.
Prologue winner Paul Mach (Bissell) finished in the bunch, in 18th place, and now sits second on the GC, eight seconds behind Schmitt.
“It was definitely a great showing for us with all the UnitedHealthcare people at the race,” Schmitt said. “There’s no better way to win than in front of them.”
With 156 feet of elevation gain per 1 1/2-mile lap, as well as a 180-degree turn atop the course’s climb followed by a fast descent, the criterium, set in scenic Mt. Tabor Park, is a challenging course that caters more to the all-arounder than a sprinter. Several days of wet weather added to the difficulty, causing roads to be slick and slippery, and several riders went down, including UHC’s Roman Kilun.
The conditions and demanding course made it difficult for any breakaways to stick, and the field was all together with a handful of laps remaining.
Schmitt led a last-lap chase to bring back Pat McCarty (Matrix-Richardson), who had attacked with a lap and a half to go and opened a 10-second gap on the field.
“The last time up the main climb, I attacked a bit and got a gap on the field and that kind of woke up the field to chase down McCarty,” Schmitt said. “I knew I was going to get caught so I eased up and slotted in behind Marc in fifth wheel. With 150 meters to go, I squeaked by on the left side and we held it to the line.”
After finishing second in the prologue, with the time bonus Schmitt moved past Mach into the race lead. Thursday’s stage 2 will mark the first time Mach has not led at Mt. Hood since stage 2 of the 2009 edition.
A Washington native and 2008 UW graduate, Schmitt finished ninth overall at the 2009 Mt. Hood Classic, riding at Bissell alongside Mach, and was the race’s best young rider. His UHC teammate Chris Baldwin finished second overall last year and starts Thursday’s 106-mile Mount Adams road race stage sitting fifth overall.
Schmitt didn’t expect any changes in the overall at the end of stage 2, but expected Friday’s stage 3 time trial to prove decisive.
“I think our team is strong enough to defend the jersey, but the Friday time trial will be tough,” Schmitt said. “(Mach) is good against the clock. But we’ll see how it goes tomorrow. Marc’s only a few seconds back, and (Baldwin) is only a few seconds back, so we have a lot of cards to play.”
- 1. Morgan Schmidt (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) in 1:31:38, 10s bonus
- 2. Marc Demaar (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) s.t., 6s bonus
- 3. Tyler Trace (Trek Red Truck) s.t. 4s bonus
- 4. Ryan Parnes (Yahoo! Cycling Team) s.t.
- 5. Sid Taberlay (California Red Giant Berry Farms/Specialized) s.t.
- 1. Morgan Schmidt (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) in 1:38:41
- 2. Paul Mach (Bissell Pro Cycling) at 8s
- 3. Marc Demaar (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) at 12 s
- 4. Ryan Parnes (Yahoo! Cycling Team) at 13s
- 5. Chris Baldwin (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) at 15s