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By Mark Morical, Special to VeloNews
A train of light-green jerseys swept through Bend’s Old Mill District on Sunday, as Scott Moninger of Health Net-Maxxis cruised behind his teammates to secure his fourth overall victory in the Cascade Cycling Classic. Moninger, who had an 11-second lead on Navigators’ Cesar Grajales coming into Sunday’s Old Mill District Criterium, stayed with his team in the front of the main pack on the tight, 1.2km loop. “That’s two days in a row they’ve just absolutely ridden amazing,” Moninger said of his five teammates. “They were going so fast the last four or five laps, I don’t think anybody could step off the wheel.” Moninger’s winning time in the six-stage race, which started Wednesday, was 13 hours, 26 minutes, 45 seconds. Grajales finished second overall, 11 seconds back, and Jeff Louder of Navigators was third, 25 seconds back. Kirk O’Bee of Navigators won Sunday’s stage, getting into a breakaway of five riders with about 35 minutes left in the hourlong race. Health Net never gave chase, because none of the five riders presented a threat to Moninger’s overall position. With one lap to go, Tim Johnson of Jittery Joe’s-Kalahari broke away from the group of five, but O’Bee caught him during the final lap and cruised ahead before the finish line for the stage win. Johnson finished second, and Taylor Tolleson, who won Saturday’s Awbrey Butte Circuit race in Bend, was third. “I happened to be there at the right time,” said O’Bee, who also won Friday’s Twilight Criterium in downtown Bend. “Aaron (Olson) was out front and I followed him. We had some good horsepower and kept things going. “I didn’t really expect (to win both criteriums). I came here to help the guys out, and I ended up being in a position to win.” Moninger, Grajales, Louder and Chris Baldwin – the top four riders coming into Sunday – all finished with the same time in the final stage, so the top overall standings were not affected. Baldwin, Louder and Grajales tried to attack and gain some time on Moninger, but the Health Net train stood firm. “They (Navigators) made us work for it down to the bitter end, which is what we would have done to them,” said Moninger. “Having three Navigators lined up behind me (on GC), this was a real team win.” Gord Fraser of Health Net finished sixth overall, 46 seconds behind Moninger. Fraser won Wednesday’s Prineville Road Race, but since then he worked hard to secure an overall win for Moninger. “They (Navigators) took some good shots, but we were able to rally,” Fraser said. “I had no problem responding to attacks for Scott. It was a textbook type of race for us. We’ve worked very, very hard this week, and nothing short of the overall win would have been comfortable for us with all the work invested.” O’Bee said that given the nature of Sunday’s course, it was nearly impossible for his teammates to gain time on Moninger. The tight course and windy weather allowed few chances for any of the Navigators in contention for the GC to bridge the gap to the lead five riders. “I know the guys were trying to disrupt the Health Net train, but I knew once we got above 30 seconds that we’d stay away,” O’Bee said. “That was a next-to-impossible job today. You’ve got to give it a go, but on a tight course like this with the wind, it’s next to impossible. Today was kind of a formality.” At the start of Sunday’s criterium, Olson, of Colavita-Sutter Home, made the first break, and was soon joined by Johnson, O’Bee, Tolleson, and Ben Jacques-Maynes of Kodak Gallery-Sierra Nevada. They built a lead of nearly 40 seconds on the main pack with about 15 minutes remaining. In front of the main pack, Health Net was six deep with Navigators’ seven other riders right behind them. “There was only a couple times when I was a little nervous, when we were getting the one-two-three attack from Navigators,” Moninger said. “Once we got that break out there, that was not a danger to us, and we kind of settled into a good rhythm. There was only a number of spots where people could get away from us. Thirty minutes into it I felt pretty confident. We had things under control and everyone was riding really, really well.” The 38-year-old Moninger, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, is the first elite men’s cyclist to win the Cascade Cycling Classic four times. He also won the race from 1999 to 2001. “I’ve been coming to this race since the early ’90s, and it’s always suited my abilities,” Moninger said. “The fact that it’s at altitude, and has a couple mountain tops and a good, challenging time trial – all those things really suit me. It’s always been a race that’s treated me well. It’s a race I’ve always enjoyed.”