This is the first time I've raced in the Cascade Classic (taking place in Bend, OR) so I wasn't completely sure what to expect with the courses. The only thing I had to go on was the profile maps posted in the manuals they handed out and posted on their web site...and those basically told me it would be a hard race.
Todays race didn't exactly play into my "Strength's" if you will...the meat of the course was great for me, however the finish was a 10 mile or so climb with approximately 2000 feet of climbing. The initial stages of the climb were pretty shallow, but it progressively got steeper as you went along.
The beginning of the race started with a nice 600 foot climb right out of the gate that covered 3 miles or so before going into a long 1600 foot descent. One guy...who as far as I can tell stayed out front on a break the entire stage...took off on this hill and was later joined by two others that bridged the gap. The rest of us were pushed pretty hard by the lead riders as we averaged 15.5 mph or so up the climb and I sustained 374 watts for just under 10 minutes on the climb.
After the long descent things smoothed out and leveled off for a while until we came up to the first feed zone. They had neutral bottles they were handing out to riders, but they had the neutral bottles after the section where team helpers were handing out bottles to their team members...which made for some interesting feed zones. It was almost a fight to get into position and get a bottle before you exited the feed zone. I do thank all the volunteers for helping out with this since I'd still be lost somewhere in the outskirts of Bend suffering from heat stroke without them.
The next 25 miles were a series of rollers through the middle of nowhere, Oregon. The pace would pick up...then suddenly slow down with everybody yelling "Slowing" while hitting the brakes pretty hard.
The second feed zone was a crazy affair...but they did have more people there handing out bottles so it was a bit easier to get on (kind of)...however, as usual the leaders got their bottles then hit a hard tempo as the pack strung out. I found myself way back after the second feed zone and came up on one of my teammates (the only one with a real shot of finishing well on this stage) and he was way back with me and there was separation from the main pack. So I went by him to help pull him back to the main pack. Along the way I picked up another teammate of mine who was trying to help but had spent a lot of time up front pace setting so his legs were a bit tired at this point.
The last 21 miles of the race were a series of hard accelerations and slow downs...up to the point I got popped off the back on a steep section. The guys up front shot off like rockets and completely shattered the group into bits and pieces. From here my race was basically over...and I knew it was coming before it actually came, it was just a matter of where and when...so I rode tempo up the climb to the finish. Along the way I passed a good 10 - 15 riders along the way including two of my teammates that were shot out the back later up the hill.
All in all, not a bad day considering my legs felt like mud for the first 15-20 miles. I finished the 71 miles in just a bit over 3 hours and 15 minutes and feel pretty good all things considered.
Tomorrow is the Individual Time Trial in the morning and a 30 minute crit in the afternoon. These two stages play more into my strengths and I'm hoping go well.