A Belated Mt Hood Stage Race Report...
Seeing as it has been nearly a month since the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic stage race, I felt it was about time to let everyone know how the event went.
First off, an introduction seems necessary. My name is Brad Winn and I’m the newest addition to the shop in Sellwood as a recent transplant from Colorado Springs, CO. I ride all types of bikes, but focus mainly on the road. My goals this year are to embarrass Erik with a showing of strength on the bike, preferably road, and to beat Jeremiah in a mountain bike race. And I have no problem with cheating.
Now, since working at Sellwood Cycle Repair, I have become a much more watered down roadie. Not that I ever bought into the type A gram counting philosophies before, but I’ve certainly shifted my perspective a bit. Don’t get me wrong, road racing is fun and I love it, but it can be exhausting if taken too seriously. As a side note, I started shaving my legs long before I started cycling, it just looks good…
My preparation for the race was as good as I could have hoped for. Hernia surgery early in the season set back my training goals a bit, but I came into the race with good fitness hoping not to get worked over too bad. The race consisted of a prologue and 4 stages (2 road races, a crit, and a time trial). The road races looked awesome on paper, and the crit was supposed to be fun as well. Time trials?? Yuck! To all the race promoters reading this, make your TT’s Eddy Merckx style (no TT bikes allowed). The fastest guy will still win, and no one will have to make exaggerated travel plans to get an extra bike and equipment to the race. Plus guys like me won’t have our egos hurt when I roll up to the start line on my dented Frankenstein bike (no, that is not a one off frame, it’s a bike that has been brought back to life from all once dead parts), and see the guy starting behind me on a $6000 bike giggling behind his aero face shield.
Despite my strong aversion of TT bikes and equipment, the prologue came and went and I finished somewhere in the top 100. I’m sure my white shoe covers helped, but I probably could have placed higher if they were actually shoe covers and not just white tube socks stretched over my shoes. The gold toe stripe was a dead give away. In any case I was still only about 30 sec out of the lead and I knew the road stages would likely decide the overall placing in a few days.
Stage 1 started fast and was a generally hard day. Two big loops with one large climb per loop defined the course. The first time up the climb, the field shattered, I was somewhere within sight of the front of the race and easily caught back up after some long descending and flat ground. Approaching the second climb there was only about half of the 150 rider field together. I positioned myself at the front of the field through the feed zone and prepared for a hard effort up the hill. De facto teammate Spencer Paxson was with me looking strong, but he said he was unsure of how he would fare on the climb. As the hill steepened and the field spread out, I could still see the front, but was 20-30 guys back. I went over the top in this position along with 6 other guys and we worked hard to catch the front of the race. Our small chase group swelled to around 15 guys, but we could never close the gap to the leaders. On the final descent towards The Dalles, we somehow managed to drop half of our group. Maybe it was the appearance of one Carl Decker at the front going downhill really fast. Not sure, but once those chuffers were gone, the seven of us left drilled it to the line and were “sprinting” for around 30th place. We were 2 minutes down on the front group and a minute or so ahead of the group behind us. The main field came through nearly 10 minutes later.
I approached the stage 2 time trial with equal disdain as the prologue. In typical Team S&M fashion, I arrived at the start with barely enough time to pin on my number and pedal to the start line. My tardiness was due to the fact that I didn’t realize Trout Lake was an ADDITIONAL 45 minutes from Hood River and I left Portland only anticipating a short drive to the Washington side of the Hood River area. It was probably just my subconscious not allowing me to give any more of my day to the act of time trialing. Anyway, I finished somewhere in the top 100. Snore.
The stage 3 crit was a great course and a lot of fun. A downhill 180 degree turn, fast back stretch, and slight climb to the finish made it tough and all about positioning. Thankfully, I am an experienced tail gunner because my positioning was horrible. I was able to comfortably ride near the back of the field and only occasionally had to use effort to move up. Not so fortunate was teammate Sean Babcock, although I’m pretty sure this was his second crit ever and he still had a smile on his face when to officials pulled him. Team S & M’s saving grace was Steven Beardsley who place 5th in the crit. Some hulk of a man solo’d the entire 60 min crit, but Steven managed to grab 5th in the field sprint.
Stage 4 was a monster day. 91 miles, over 10000’ of climbing in 4 big climbs. The course was either uphill or downhill and that’s it. I was still sitting around the top 40 and knew if I had a good day I would definitely move up the standings. The race started fast as usual and I was feeling good. I made sure to mind my position in the field and stayed close to the front. Up the first climb I was happy to see Sean with me and encouraged him to move as close to the front as possible so as not to get stuck in traffic on the upcoming descent. As we crested the first climb, most of the group was still together and I stayed in the top 10 going downhill. I was happy with the way I was riding and getting pumped to do a good ride. Unfortunately for me though, in my watered down Sellwood roadie state, I opted for the bargain tubular tires and my front wheel started going soft. It was too dangerous to keep riding on the descent like that so I pulled over and watched most of the field pass me. After the wheel change I chased hard for about 45 minutes down the hill, and up the next climb, but to no avail. The front of the race was gone. I was very surprised that none of my S&M teammates dropped back to help me, after all, I was the GC leader. I’m pretty sure the team handbook says to always drop back for the team leader. Or does it say never drop back?...Anyway, I settled in for a nice ride and really did enjoy myself. The forest service roads that made up the course were gorgeous and the temperature was warm. I think the race weekend was the first time I saw my bare knees all year. I soaked it in and rode steady to the finish catching and passing people along the way. At the end of the day, the only thing I would have done differently (besides not get a flat) was not take so long enjoying a Coke on the side of the road with some fans. That Coke got me to the finish line, but had I paused for 6 seconds less, I would have still beaten Babcock overall. Now he won’t let me hear the end of it.