By Mark Morical, Special to VeloNews
Scott Moninger had that familiar feeling as he stood atop the podium at Mount Bachelor after stage 2 of the Cascade Cycling Classic on Thursday.
Moninger (Health Net-Maxxis) was the overall champion at the Cascade Classic during 1999-2001, and his experience in Central Oregon – plus a miscue by Cesar Grajales (Navigators), who thought the finish was 10km up the road – allowed him to overtake Grajales and win the 90-mile stage to Bachelor’s Sunrise Lodge in 3 hours, 31 minutes, 28 seconds.
“I’ve won this particular stage a few times, so I know it pretty well,” Moninger said. “It’s the one stage probably out of all of them that sort of suits me. It’s the one true mountain pass. I could kind of pick and choose where I would put time on my rivals.”
As for Grajales, who finished in the runner-up spot, three seconds back, he was frustrated. “I just didn’t know it was the finish,” he said. “I was waiting for the right moment to attack. When I least suspected it, Moninger attacked. I didn’t know he was going for the stage. So I tried to bridge to him and it was too late.
“It makes me feel kind of stupid. This is my first time in this race, and Moninger has been in this race many years. He knew what to expect.”
Moninger broke away from a group of seven riders with about 3km remaining as the cyclists plunged ahead during the final climb. Grajales chased him, as did Baldwin, who went to the front with 1km left, trying to lead out Grajales for the win. Moninger made his final move about 100 meters out, and a surprised Grajales watched his rival cross the line for the win about 10 meters in front of him.
“I went 100 percent to bring Cesar to the line,” said Baldwin, who hung on for third at six seconds. “Unfortunately, the finish got messed up. When Scott jumped, we thought he was attacking. A minor glitch cost us the stage win, but we’re happy.”
Grajales still holds the overall lead, with Cameron Hughes (Subway) second at 33 seconds back and Moninger third at 35 seconds. But Moninger says the race “is far from over.”
For Health Net-Maxxis, Moninger and Gord Fraser (1:02 back) are still in contention for the overall win. But Navigators has a slight advantage with eight riders to just six for Health Net-Maxxis.
“It’s unfortunate they (Navigators) have a couple better climbers than we do in this race,” Moninger said. “We’re a little outnumbered, but so far we’re two for two. The time trial (on Friday) will kind of sort things out. I don’t know that I will be able to ride into the (leader’s) jersey tomorrow, with the time trial not being my strong point. Last year Baldwin won it by a good margin.”
The Cascade Lakes Road Race began in southwest Bend and took riders past Mount Bachelor and onto the Cascade Lakes Highway. The course circled around to take riders back up to Mount Bachelor for the final climb.
At the 20-mile mark, a group of 11 riders that included Grajales and Moninger made the first breakaway that stuck. Fourteen other riders joined them at the 40-mile point, with nine more hooking up by the 65-mile mark.
Brooke Swindlehurst (Seasilver) escaped that pack with about 17 miles left. He built a 40-second lead but was caught by Health Net’s Moninger and Doug Ollerenshaw and Navigators’ Grajales, Baldwin and Louder 10 miles from the line.
Seven miles later, Moninger made his first break that would lead to his stage victory.
“Today the gaps weren’t huge, but I think we definitely saw a change in leadership,” Moninger said. “I felt good today. At this point, the race is far from over.”
Friday’s races include the Tumalo Time Trial, a 6.6-mile loop that starts and finishes near Tumalo State Park north of Bend. The elite women will start at about 10:30 a.m., followed by the elite men at 11:30 a.m.
A few hours later, cyclists and spectators will head to downtown Bend for the Twilight Criterium. The elite women will start at 7 p.m., riding 40 minutes plus five laps on a course with six turns through the streets of downtown. Elite men will start at 8 p.m. on the same course, riding one hour plus five laps.
Cascade Cycling Classic
1. Scott Moninger, Health Net-Maxxis, 90mi in 3:31:28
2. Cesar Grajales, Navigators, at 0:03
3. Christopher Baldwin, Navigators, at 0:06
4. Jeff Louder, Navigators, at 0:17
5. Neil Shirley, Seasilver, same time
6. Cameron Hughes, Subway, s.t.
7. Doug Ollerenshaw, Health Net-Maxxis, at 0:50
8. Tom Peterson, Broadmark Capital, at 1:10
9. James Mattis, Webcor, s.t.
10. Chris Lieto, Cal Giant-Village Peddler, at 1:35