Alex Dowsett and Tara Whitten win the final stage in Oregon.
Alex Dowsett bookended the Cascade Cycling Classic for Trek-Livestrong Sunday, narrowly holding off the yellow jersey group for a solo win in the stage 5 Awbrey Butte Circuit Race. Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) finished alongside his GC rivals to lock in his first overall win at Cascade.
In the women’s race Tara Whitten (Keller Rorhback) attacked a mid-race breakaway and held off a late chase to win the final stage. Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Baci) and Mara Abbott (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12) led a four-rider chase group through the finish about 30 seconds later, unaware that Whitten had already taken the day’s top prize. With the result, Abbott secured the final general classification.
The 17-mile Awbrey Butte circuit was the site of the final stage of the six-day Cascade Cycling Classic. The circuit, on the northwest side of Bend, rolled over undulating terrain until the quarter-mile, 6 percent O.B. Riley climb from Tumalo Creek to the feed zone, nine miles into each lap. A false flat carried riders to the base of the day’s KOM climb on Archie Briggs Road, which began with a punishingly steep right-hand switchback and a 10-plus percent ramp before stair-stepping to the summit and eventually descending over a series of rollers to the start/finish.
The men completed the circuit five times for 83 miles, while the women faced 52 miles over three laps. The temperature soared above 90 as the 1 and 1:10 p.m. start times ticked by and reached 100 before either race hit the third lap. The racing would be even hotter, thought, as the day wore on.
Fly V Australia makes a fight of it
Day and Lill entered the stage 20 and 55 seconds behind Sutherland in the overall, respectively, and their Fly V Australia team threw everything they had at the peloton. The opening lap saw a hectic wave of attacks by the Aussies and the likes of Matt Cooke (Exergy), Alex Howes (Holowesko Partners) and Dowsett.
“They attacked us all day and they played their cards really well and it’s a really intelligent team and a great group of guys as well,” said Sutherland.
Nothing stuck, though, and as the riders set out for their second lap, officials neutralized the race to offer a general warning to the peloton for throwing bottles off the road. Riders had received fines and warnings in nearly every stage for waste disposal and the continued offenses came to a head Sunday.
When the race restarted, a split of more than 20 riders went off the front of the field. Unhappy with the composition of the move, a number of teams worked to bring the peloton together.
Shortly after, the day’s long breakaway formed when a series of accelerations split the front of the field on the false flat above the feed zone. Brad White (UnitedHealthcare), Jay Thomson (V Australia), Neil Shirley (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Kyle Wamsley (Bissell), Jesse Moore (Cal Giant Berry Farms), Caleb Fairly (Holowesko), Evan Huffman (Yahoo!) and Corey Collier (Rio Grande) took a one-minute lead onto the third ascent of Archie Briggs. Just after rolling over the summit, the group picked up three more, when Darren Rolfe (V Australia), Ben King (Trek) and Robert Britton (Bissell) bridged across.
The group worked smoothly and built an eventual lead of nearly two minutes, but with Britton at 1:52 on GC, the UHC-lead peloton would not let that advantage live on for long. With the gap evaporating in the final lap, Thomson attacked the break in the rollers on the backside of the course and pulled Shirley and one other rider with him. The leaders split into three groups as they approached the O.B. Riley climb for the last time.
When the field rolled over Tumalo Creek less than a minute later, Lill went full steam, gapping the peloton immediately with a fierce acceleration. Rolfe dropped off the break to bring the South African forward and they made contact with the remnants of the group on the false flat leading to the final climb.
“Well, I knew that if I waited to the last climb, there was no way I was going to get enough time between there and the line just because it’s close,” said Lill. “I was hoping to just jump across to the break in front and get to recover a little before the final climb and fortunately (director) Henk (Vogels) realized what was happening and he sent Darren Rolfe back to me and he did a great job.”
Lill rode away from his companions as the road pitched up low on Archie Briggs. He topped out on the KOM solo, but back in the peloton, UHC and a cadre of other riders delivered Sutherland to the climb within 30 seconds of the lead and he pinned the needle, forcing a selection in the chase.
“He (Lill) was 55 seconds back, so even though he was a threat, 55 seconds is a long way to get ahead,” said Sutherland. “I knew that the legs I had today, if I could get to the bottom of the climb, even if it was within a minute, I could probably get 30 seconds back on the climb and then I would be fine to the finish.”
Dowsett and crew roll away
Four riders had a little bit more stick than Sutherland as the field crested the climb, however, and Dowsett jumped away with Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell), Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Carter Jones (RideClean-Patentit.com) in pursuit.
Dowsett bridged to Lill on the rolling descent to the finish, but when he saw the field bearing down, Lill sat up, springing the Englishman.
“I think he was fairly nailed after being away from the feed climb,” said Dowsett of his late companion. “The little climbs are what I do best, really, with my time trialing and that, so I just kind of used what I had left to power over them.”
Added Lill: “When I saw the main field was catching on to us, I actually just gave him a dead wheel and let him ride off the front because I could see the field, or at least Rory, was chasing me, so Alex wasn’t a threat to anyone and I think he ended up winning, so good for him. It was a good ride.”
Jacques-Maynes knew that he had the top sprint of the first chasers and sat on in hopes that Anthony would close the gap.
“It was really tenuous, maybe a five-second gap,” said Jacques-Maynes. “Dowsett went, but I had to take the risk that the other two guys would bring him back because I had to save myself for the sprint.”
In the end, that plan didn’t pan out and Dowsett, the recently crowned European time trial champion, was able to hold off the chase, posting up for the win. Pipp, who attacked the yellow jersey group out of the final corner, came through just two seconds later. Jacques-Maynes held on for third.
“It’s my first NRC podium, so I’m pretty happy,” said Jacques-Maynes.
At the finish, Dowsett said it was a strong week for his U23 Trek-Livestrong development team. “The team’s going from strength to strength with Jesse winning the prologue, Ben (King) in the young rider’s jersey,” said Dowsett.
Sutherland, his yellow, half-zip jersey open, crossed the line six-deep in the group and solidified his win. As is customary, at the finish, he thanked his team for the work they did to secure the overall after taking the lead in stage 1.
“We’ve held the jersey for four or five days now and you know, we’ve worked really hard all week,” said Sutherland. “The guys today did a phenomenal job and that’s why I’m proud to be on this team and proud to have them all as my teammates.”
Women continue aggressive racing
As has been the case all week, the women got the action started fast and hard Sunday. A number of attacks sprung in the first lap — after a crash in the first mile delayed the peloton momentarily — but the group rolled together up the O.B. Riley climb to the feed zone.
That didn’t last for long, though, as the pace lifted on the first trip up Archie Briggs. The peloton split into at least three groups on the climb and the day’s first break formed after a series of attacks on the rolling descent of Mt. Washington Drive atop the KOM.
Amber Rais and Andrea Dvorak (Colavita-Baci), Megan Guarnier (Tibco-To The Top), Lauren Hall and Tony Bradshaw (Vera Bradley Foundation), Andrea Graus (Webcor Builders), Teri Sheasby (Veloforma) and Jessica Hannah (Keller Rorhback) drove a split on one of the rollers headed into the second lap and held off the chase for nearly a full lap.
That move was neutralized on the up-and-down, chip seal roads on the backside of the course, though, and it was gruppo compatto again through the feed zone. The status quo wouldn’t last long and Anne Samplonius (Vera Bradley) and Whitten were among a group of riders to jump away after the second of three ascents of Archie Briggs.
The break rode into a one-minute gap as they entered the final lap, but Whitten was uneasy and kicked out of the group about 15 miles from the finish.
“It didn’t seem like we were going that fast and I thought that I had enough to kind of time trial away,” said Whitten, a former Canadian national TT champion. “I was having ups and downs, like sometimes I felt really strong and I thought I could stay away and then other times I could see that the gap was coming down a little bit and I was worried that I’d lose it once I hit the hill.”
When she reached the base of Archie Briggs for the final time, the current world champ in the omnium and points race on the track held a lead of 1:25 over the field.
“I just tried to go steady up that steep climb and make sure that I had enough to power on the way in,” said Whitten.
Back in the thinning peloton, Cheatley stamped her pedals as the pitch increased, gapping Abbott and forcing a selection in the field. “I’m not just going to sit in and be happy with second, so I tried to win the race for the team and the overall,” said Cheatley.
She rode past Meredith Miller (Tibco) and Alison Shanks (Bike NZ), but Shanks was able to reconnect with her fellow New Zealander when Abbott came across near the top of the climb. The three riders picked up Samplonius after topping out and the group of four rolled turns toward the finish – unaware that Whitten remained on the front.
Accounts from the chasers at the finish varied from not receiving any time splits to being confused by the rapidly changing checks they did receive. “We got a time board, but it was just back to the peloton,” said Abbott. “A time split probably would have been nice there.”
Samplonius was more animated, saying officials “never let us know at all that she was up the road, not even once. They didn’t even know. They didn’t let me know, they didn’t let the group know.”
Whitten, meanwhile, put her head down and crushed the gears over the final series of rollers toward the finish at Summit High School. She came around the final corner and only sat up to enjoy her win 50 meters from the line.
“Apparently they didn’t know I was away, so that worked to my advantage,” said Whitten. “It was just a sneaky, sneaky attack, I guess.”
Forty-two seconds later, the chasers arced around the final corner and Cheatley sprinted to what she thought was her second stage win this week. She came through a bike length ahead of Abbott in the leader’s jersey, and raised her arms in the victory salute. It was only after seeing Whitten 100 meters past the finish that the Colavita rider realized she had taken the group sprint for second.
“We had times up, but I had no idea who was who or what was what because there were so many breaks coming and going,” said Cheatley. “It was just really confusing, but it was my fault completely.
“That’s my fault. I won’t make that mistake again, now will I?”
Whitten said after the finish that the result is a major breakthrough for her, as she has struggled to carry her track success onto the road. Cascade is her first NRC race and with a second place in the prologue and a stage win Sunday, the Canadian was set to leave the race with new confidence.
“Most of my success so far has been on the track, and this is the first NRC road race I’ve done, so this is really big for me,” said Whitten.
With her third-place finish on the stage, Abbott cemented her overall win. She had led the GC since the stage 2 time trial and her win came on the heels of her Giro Donne title earlier this month.
“It was nice that it was a fast race because sometimes at the end of a stage race people are tired and they just look at each other and there were a lot of people that wanted something out of the race today and they showed it,” said Abbott. “It’s pretty awesome; I’m pretty exhausted right now.”
In addition to the overall win, Abbott on Sunday secured the overall title for the four-event Women’s Prestige Series.