Marc de Maar and Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) played the team card perfectly in the stage 1 finale at the Cascade Classic Wednesday, finishing one-two atop the Three Creeks climb outside Sisters, Oregon. Sutherland took the overall lead from yellow jersey Jesse Sergent (Trek-Livestrong), who finished with a chase group behind the UHC tandem.
Not 20 minutes later, Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Baci) rode away from Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12) with 150 meters to go in the women’s race to take the stage win and the overall lead. Cheatley took the leader’s jersey from overnight leader Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation), with whom she is locked in a two-up battle for the individual National Racing Calendar title.
After a long hiatus, the McKenzie Pass Road Race returned, its 73.5-mile course featuring two KOM points — atop McKenzie Pass and at the finish — and an intermediate sprint in the town of Sisters, just before the final climb.
The rolling terrain along the McKenzie River saw a few moves jump away from the peloton, but the downhill-trending profile and wide, straight roads discouraged anything meaningful from developing.
That changed, however, as soon as the peloton made the left turn onto the McKenzie Pass Highway. As the road narrowed and crept upward over a series of long false flats beneath a dense canopy of old-growth forest, six riders rolled off the front: Walker Savidge (Holowesko Partners); Mike Northey (Rubicon-Orbea); David Tanner (Fly V Australia); Brad White (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis); Cheyne Hoag (Kelly Benefit Strategies); and Frank Pipp (Bissell).
The group built an advantage of 30 seconds on the shaded, winding roads leading to McKenzie Pass. The resulting acceleration dispatched a group of some 20 riders. The move was not to be, however, and when it was caught, Ryan Trebon (Kona) put in a big dig to get away.
The Bend local, who shut down his mountain bike season after last weekend’s national championships, built a gap of a minute but soon was left looking around, his gap rapidly dropping, as the road tilted up over a series of switchbacks.
Pat McCarty (Matrix-Richardson Bike Mart), Darren Lill (Fly V Australia), Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and De Maar bridged the gap near the top of the steep lower slopes of McKenzie Pass. Jones went immediately to the front of the new five-man lead group and they took their advantage back to 1:05 as the dense forest gave way to fins of lava rock.
“I just hit it once pretty hard when we were going up the climb, hoping a group would come across and we could ride over the top of McKenzie at least and down into Sisters together, but it was kind of windy and flat,” said Trebon. “I was kind of hurting when they caught me and I was just kind of sitting on the back, saving up energy to get up here (to the finish).”
Meanwhile, as the field approached the treeline, Bissell and Kelly Benefit Strategies drove a hard pace in the peloton and a split formed with about 20 riders making it clear to become the first chase group. A consistent headwind greeted riders in the lava fields, however, and the 40-rider peloton, sans the five leaders, was back together just after crossing the KOM line atop McKenzie Pass.
The headwind and the acceleration that followed the split in the chase conspired to limit the break’s advantage as well, and two miles beyond the summit the front of the race was gruppo compatto and flying down the wide open, sweeping corners leading to the intermediate sprint in Sisters.
“Bissell, when they caught us, were just crushing it,” said McCarty. “We were strong enough guys to stay away, but there were so many teams missing that it just wasn’t going to work. When we first got away, we were going good, but I don’t think it was ever 100 percent.”
Split over the green jersey
The group rolled together until the first riders sniffed the Sisters sprint line 5km out. With the green sprinter’s jersey on the line for the first time, Pipp, Tanner, Matt Crane (UnitedHealthcare), Corey Collier (Rio Grande Racing), Fabio Calabria (Team Type 1), Marsh Cooper (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Ben King (Trek-Livestrong) rolled the dice on the slightly downhill run into Sisters.
As the sprint point approached, Pipp, who recently started his injury-delayed season, drilled it, bringing Cooper with him and taking full points.
Their companions soon drew Pipp and Cooper back and the seven riders continued to push toward the base of the finishing climb to Three Creeks. Meanwhile, King’s Trek-Livestrong teammates in the peloton drove the chase to protect yellow jersey Sergent — and because officials hadn’t listed Australia’s King in the break.
The Trek-Livestrong bunch pulled the field along for four miles before director Axel Merckx was informed of the error and ordered his riders off the point.
“As the team with two jerseys on our backs, we should take some responsibility,” said the other Ben King, the Virginia rider who three weeks ago won the U.S. U23 road race and criterium championships in Bend. “Axel let us know he was up there and we called it off immediately, so hopefully not too much damage was done.”
As Trek-Livestrong dialed it down, Holowesko ramped it up, and the gap continued to shrink. Up the road, Tanner hit the afterburners as the break arrived onto the steep lower ramps of the Three Creeks climb and blew the group apart.
Collier was the only rider to follow the early pace, but he fell off after a half-mile and Tanner was left to put his head down over four miles of 4-6 percent grades. His jersey flying in the wind, he rode open-mouthed for miles as team director Henk Vogels beat the door of his team car and cheered him on.
UHC unites on Three Creeks
No amount of cheering would stave off the hungry chase, however, and the 25-year-old, who won stages at the Vuelta de Bisbee and Tour de Beauce this season, could see the group with 3km remaining. Sutherland’s acceleration sealed the deal for his countryman with 1.5km remaining, and Tanner’s work ended for naught.
Sutherland’s attack drew out Lill, de Maar on his wheel. And as the South African drew Sutherland back, De Maar countered and freed himself within the final 500 meters of the climb.
“It was pretty obvious that we were the strongest two guys of the field,” said De Maar. “So, Rory went, I waited a little bit, let the others suffer and close the gap and I got them with a K to go.”
The two have complemented each other since coming together this year at UHC. They previously rode together on the Rabobank Continental squad and nearly landed De Maar a stage win in Big Bear at the Amgen Tour of California.
“It was perfect,” said De Maar. “I attacked and Rory covered the other moves and so yeah, great teamwork today.”
Sutherland came around Lill before the last 90-degree corner atop the climb to take second, and enough time to pull the leader’s jersey from Sergent.
“The idea was to drop as many of the real time trialists as we can so that we get a bit of a buffer for the next few days,” said Sutherland. “Today was one of the harder days in the U.S., I think.”
Women wake and shake
The women did not wait for the turn onto McKenzie Pass Highway to enliven the racing. Fresh off the Giro Donne with the U.S. National Team, Amanda Miller (Tibco-To The Top) punched it as the peloton rolled over the hilly opening miles.
“We were going down, down, down at the start and then there was a longer climb and I just accelerated and I saw some people on my wheel and I kept going and going to try and make the group split,” said Miller.
The group did split and six riders were away: Miller, Kathryn Mattis (Webcor Builders), Andrea Dvorak (Colavita) and Nicole Evans (Peanut Butter & Co.). They built a lead of nearly 30 seconds, but could not escape the reach of a chase group that included Abbott and Cheatley.
“Amanda Miller put in a great attack. There were four of us in the break and then we got caught by a pretty big group from behind,” said Mattis. “Next thing I see is this blur going by on my left-hand side and I’m like, ‘Oh boy, that’s where I need to be,’ and I just hung on for dear life on Cath’s wheel.”
That blur was Abbott, Cheatley in tow. The three riders quickly put time into the rest of the group, and when Abbott surged again, she dispatched her two companions. The recent overall winner at the Giro Donne rode alone over the summit of the climb and down into Sisters, racking up full mountains and sprint points. She earned both jerseys and built a maximum advantage of 1:30.
Cheatley pulls her way to the win
The headwind, coupled with the chase from Cheatley and Mattis, was too strong, though, and the three riders were together again as they turned toward the final climb, 11 miles from the finish. Powers’ Vera Bradley squad bullied the pace in the field, throwing everything into the chase to protect the leader’s jersey.
“The three of us sort of rotated through until we got to the first pitch of the last climb and then Kathryn dropped back and it was just Cath and myself,” said Abbott. From there, Cheatley drove the pace on the climb as the first chase group scooped Mattis up.
“Mara just sat on me all the way from the base of the climb to the finish and I was waiting, waiting, trying to hold something back because I thought she would probably try and jump me at some stage and she never did,” said Cheatley. “When I saw that the finish was different from last year, that it had a turn, I thought that if I led into the turn, she probably wouldn’t come around me and that’s what I did.”
The gap at the corner was big enough for the fast finishing Kiwi to comfortably post up for the win. Cheatley’s teammate Rushlee Buchanan jumped over Erinne Willock (Webcor) to take third on the stage and secure the best young rider’s jersey.
Twelve riders missed the time cut Wednesday:
- Shane Buysse, SoCalCycling.com
- Brandon Trafton, California Giant Berry Farms
- Gustavo Mendez, Herbalife LaGrange
- Dan Skinner, Trek Red Truck Racing
- Alexi Martinez, Adageo Energy
- Amity Elliot, Kenda
- Kelly Benjamin, Colavita-Baci
- Arielle Filiberti, Specialized D4W-Bicycle Haus
- Tammy Lamb, TriSports-Eclipse
- Marion Jamison, Touchstone Climbing
- Anna Drakulich, Herbalife LaGrange
- Nik Vogler
The 31st Cascade Classic continues Thursday with the 16-mile Skyliners Time Trial. The individual test, part of Cascade since 2007, has been the home of thecelite/U23 national championships the last two years. The out-and-back course climbs 800 feet over eight miles toward the Deschutes National Forest before returning on a long descent to the finish. The men start at 10 a.m. Pacific time and the women will follow.
- 1. Marc de Maar, UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis
- 2. Rory Sutherland, UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis
- 3. Darren Lill, Fly V Australia
- 1. Rory Sutherland, UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis
Best young rider
- 1. Ian Boswell, Bissell
- 1. Frank Pipp, Bissell
- 1. Darren Lill, Fly V Australia
- 1. Cath Cheatley, Colavita-Baci
- 2. Mara Abbott, Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12
- 3. Rushlee Buchanan, Colavita-Baci
- 1. Cath Cheatley, Colavita-Baci
- 1. Mara Abbott, Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12
- 1. Mara Abbott, Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12
Best young rider
- 1. Rushlee Buchanan, Colavita-Baci