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Cascade Classic: Fraser, Freedman win crits

A pair of North American criterium specialists — Gord Fraser of Health Net-Maxxis and Nicole Freedman of Team Basis — showed their stuff Friday night at the Cascade Classic twilight criterium in downtown Bend, Oregon, taking field sprints in front of a festive downtown crowd. The respective races shared a few similarities: Neither had significant breakaways; both were won in field sprints; and both were won by former winners at the USPRO criterium championships in Downer’s Grove, Illinois (Freedman in 2001, Fraser in 1999). While there were time bonuses on the line in the women’s race —

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By Neal Rogers

The women's field lines up for the evening crit

The women’s field lines up for the evening crit

Photo: Neal Rogers

A pair of North American criterium specialists — Gord Fraser of Health Net-Maxxis and Nicole Freedman of Team Basis — showed their stuff Friday night at the Cascade Classic twilight criterium in downtown Bend, Oregon, taking field sprints in front of a festive downtown crowd.

The respective races shared a few similarities: Neither had significant breakaways; both were won in field sprints; and both were won by former winners at the USPRO criterium championships in Downer’s Grove, Illinois (Freedman in 2001, Fraser in 1999).

While there were time bonuses on the line in the women’s race — 15, 10 and five seconds — the men’s race had none and therefore no impact on GC.

The women’s crit was marked by a steady tempo as race leader Christine Thorburn (Webcor Builders) and second-placed Lyne Bessette (Quark) monitored the front, taking turns reeling in attacks by an aggressive T-Mobile squad.

After a series of moves by T-Mobile’s Lynn Gaggioli, Kristin Armstrong and Lara Kroepsch failed to create a split, it was Freedman’s Basis teammates Kate Maher and Chrissy Ruiter forcing the pace before Quark’s Sarah Uhl opened a 10-second gap with 10 minutes remaining.

But it wasn’t to be for Quark’s talented young sprint specialist, as the field brought her in on the final trip around the flat six-corner course. As the pack rounded the final turn, it was Freedman outsprinting Gaggioli at the line. While Freedman is not a GC contender, Gaggioli’s 10-second bonus moved her into second overall, nine seconds ahead of Bessette and 20 seconds behind Thorburn.

In the men’s race, the U.S. Postal Service team of race leader Mike Creed and Fraser’s Health Net squad controlled things from the start of the race, slated for 60 minutes plus five laps.

The first significant split of the evening occurred on the first lap, as Chris Horner (Webcor Builders), Alex Candelario (Jelly Belly-Aramark), Colby Pearce (TIAA CREF-5280) and Fraser opened a slight lead. Although the quartet was quickly reabsorbed, three of the four riders would end up on the podium as Horner edged out Candelario for second place.

Colavita Olive Oil’s Aaron Olsen, riding without a team, gave it a go early on, taking a 10-second gap, but was also reeled in. For the next 40 minutes, various combinations of riders struck out only to be brought back, and in the final laps it was all Health Net, as Chris Wherry, John Lieswyn and Tyler Farrar set Fraser up with a perfect lead out train.

The men prepare for their chance on the course

The men prepare for their chance on the course

Photo: Neal Rogers

It was a fine consolation for Fraser, who missed an opportunity to win the race last year when his rear wheel buckled in the final laps.

“This is my first race in the Canadian national champion’s jersey, so it’s nice to fly the flag,” Fraser said. “I feel like we’ve been working on our lead-out train all year, and we’re finally getting it dialed in.”

Fraser also had words of praise for Horner, who came to his hometown race admittedly out of shape after a grueling early season forced him to take time off the bike

“That guy is such an amazing athlete. I mean, he’s not even on form right now and I’m doing all I can to beat him in a sprint.”

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