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Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood: DIA to Portland

This week’s “What exactly does this have to do with cycling?” column comesto you from 35,000 feet, via the airspace between Denver and Portland Internationalas I travel to Bend, Oregon, to cover the five-day Cascade Classic stagerace.I should have arrived in Portland about now, but instead the Boeing737 that carries me just reached maximum altitude; our flight crew justgave us the green light to enable our electronic devices, the result ofa mechanical problem somewhere along Frontier Airlines’ daily flight schedulethat ended in a two-and-a-half hour delay.Not that I’m complaining.No, I’m

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By Neal Rogers

This week’s “What exactly does this have to do with cycling?” column comesto you from 35,000 feet, via the airspace between Denver and Portland Internationalas I travel to Bend, Oregon, to cover the five-day Cascade Classic stagerace.I should have arrived in Portland about now, but instead the Boeing737 that carries me just reached maximum altitude; our flight crew justgave us the green light to enable our electronic devices, the result ofa mechanical problem somewhere along Frontier Airlines’ daily flight schedulethat ended in a two-and-a-half hour delay.Not that I’m complaining.No, I’m leaving that to the ornery older man next to me — you know theone: faded old biker tattoos on his forearms, smells like bourbon, declinesthe stick of gum you offer him and then proceeds to tell you every detailabout his ex-wife in the first 90 seconds you’ve met, bitch about everydamn thing the flight crew does or says and then looks to you and saysthings like “Know what I mean, bub?” or “Ain’t that right man?”No, not really, no, that’s not right, actually. Personally, I’ll takewaiting for three hours, overnight, in an airport, wherever — due to amechanical — over the alternative. If the airline says it’s not safe tofly, that’s good enough for me; I don’t need to get anyplace that badly,and I’m almost certain that it’s not the fault of the flight crew.Thank God he’s finally passed out. I’ve never been so thankful for athree-year-old girl sitting in the seat in front of me, playing a “thefun never ends” game of hide-and-seek behind her seat cushion. Little doesshe know what she’s doing to restore my admittedly fragile faith in humanity.Again, not that I’m complaining, but off the top of my head, I’d estimatethe cabin temperature of this aircraft somewhere around 65 degrees, whichis roughly 40 degrees cooler than the air outside of DIA this afternoon. So here I am dressed in shorts and sort sleeves and it’s like a walk-inrefrigerator inside this tin can.Here’s to hoping for cooler temperatures in Bend…although last yearthe Cascade Classic saw record heat and a high attrition rate as riderswilted in the high-desert sun and headed to the local hospital for intravenousfluids. (After last year’s race, 7UP rider John Lieswyn told me that heknowingly asked for a bottle from Mavic neutral support within the finalkilometer of the 105-degree road race — a no-no under USCF rules — andthat if he hadn’t, he would’ve passed out. The bottle on his bike had becometoo hot to drink, and he was so dehydrated he’d stopped sweating.)Here’s a brief stage-by-stage description of the race, verbatim froman email received earlier today from race promoter Brad Ross:Stage 1:  95 miles, with three long gradual climbs and atwelve-mile descent in to the finish.Stage 2:  69 miles, with two very hard climbs. First isthe twelve-mile Mckenzie Pass. The summit is between two volcanoes andis a huge moonscape of lava, then a fast descent into the town of Sisters,with an uphill finish on the six-mile Three Creeks Road climb.Stage 3: A 7.7-mile time trial on rolling country roads justout of Bend.Stage 4:  Downtown Twilight Criterium. Six turns, 15,000spectators…what else? Henk Vogels won this stage last year, and the raceannouncer will say something to that effect and wish him well.Stage 5: This is a new course that has never been raced on before. An 86-mile circuit race, 13-mile loop with two climbs in the final 4 miles,the second of which is extremely steep but short. This race is also closein to town and should have lots of spectators on the final climb.Stage 6: Sunday Criterium in Bend’s historic Old Mill District.The course is wide open and safe with a very gentle climb through the finish.This is a big family event, with a kid’s race and a kid’s bike rodeo. Thereis also a beautiful view of all the Sisters Mountains.Uh-oh, the smelly older guy to my left was woken up from the kids behindus kicking his seat. This should be interesting…In closing, a few random thoughts:• Every time I’ve saved this document I have been reminded that I have16 days remaining until my Office v. X Test Drive expires. To order mycopy of Office v. X, I need simply click Buy Now. (It came installed onthe new G4 PowerBook the company provided me with.) To anyone who spendslarge amounts of time on a computer and isn’t using Apple’s new Unix-basedOS X operating system — oh man, you don’t know what you’re missing. Forgetwhat you’ve been led to believe about Windows, this is the real thing.• If you’re into the whole ambient/electronica groove, Kid Loco’s “JesusLife For Children Under 12 Inches (US Release)” is a damn fine record,with incredible remixes of The Pastels, Pulp and Mogwai.• Is Tyler Hamilton quite possibly the world’s toughest man?