Race Report: Cascade Cycling Classic
Words by Dawn Andres. Photo by Matthew Lasala
Last week 5 of us, Alexandra Burton, Jen Leubke, Stephanie Chase, Lindsay Fox, and I went to Bend, OR for 5 days of racing at the Cascade Cycling Classic. First off, this race was hard. It was the hardest stage race i’ve ever done, and it would have been much much harder without the help and support of Molly, Ross, Tina, Blair, and others. All we had to do was show up and race our bikes. They took care of logistics, bike maintenance, travel, tent set up, trainers, etc. So thank you first to all of you.
Day 1 was the McKenzie pass road race. It was 81 miles with somewhere around 5k of climbing, ending at the top of McKenzie pass. A break of 6 went early with members of Visit Dallas and Twenty16 represented, and no other teams made any real effort to chase. Then the attacks started. One would go, the pack would catch up, and there would go another one. I think most of them were led by Visit Dallas, but I was too cross eyed and drooling to pay too much attention. I remember wondering if it was ever going to let up. The attacks did stop, but those accelerations on flat ground took a lot out of my legs.
The break was caught somewhere up McKenzie pass, but many of those in the break still finished very well. Jen rode like a champ to come in 12th. I couldn’t keep up with her and fell back to another group. AB, Chase, and Lindsay came in with solid times as well.
Day 2 was the TT. It was a 16 mile out and back with a couple of small rollers. Looking at times from last year I set a goal to do it in under 40 minutes. I told myself that I had to do a 40 minute threshold interval, but if I went extra hard I could end it early. I had my average power showing on my Garmin and watched it slowly drop over the course of the TT. I was passed by 2 riders on the way out, but morale was boosted when I passed 2 riders on the way in. I finished in 39’22” which was under my goal time, but I do think there is room for improvement. AB and Jen were both in the top 20. So freakin’ strong…
Day 3 was the 72 mile 6k of climbing Cascade Lakes road race. It started with a 20 mile gradual climb and ended with another long gradual climb up to Mt Bachelor. By this point we were all behind Jen as our GC leader. I wanted to be with her on the final climb in case anything happened. But things don’t always go the way we want them to. Around mile 55 I dropped back to put some food in my mouth and found AB fiddling with her bottle cage. The top screw had come undone and the cage would hit her pedal if she didn’t hold onto it. The two of us started drifting back from the peloton, and my only thought was that the two of us could work together to catch back on. Eventually we stopped and neutral support came to her rescue and fixed her bottle cage. The two of us then drafted behind the car to be brought back to the peloton. This was my first experience drafting behind a car, and it took a lot out of me. Once we made it back up we had to leapfrog through the team cars. The last bit from the first team car to the back of the peloton was one of my last matches and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. Back in the pack I struggled to recover. Stuffed some chews in my mouth and drank some water. Within a few minutes we had started the climb and the pack was splitting up. I followed AB up to one of the front groups, but I knew before I even tried to get up there that I was cooked. I fell back and AB and I ended up drafting behind a Monster Media lady for almost the entire climb. She wanted help, but I wouldn’t pull through. We could see a group up ahead that she wanted to bridge to, and that would have been great, but I was in survival mode. AB and I came in a few seconds apart at 38th and 39th. Jen had another great race finishing in the top 15 once again. After this race we got to go swimming at Elk Lake. That was rad.
Day 4 was the twilight criterium. I barely slept the day before and had anxiety about the crit and how tired I was all day. I laid in bed and tried to nap, but eventually just got up and drank a bunch of coffee. I felt better and was feeling confident about being able to finish with the pack. We started and I struggled to find my rhythm. I was breaking through turns and sprinting to catch back on. Each time this happened got harder and harder and eventually I started going backwards. I was spit out the back of the pack and felt the agony of defeat. I looked down at my Garmin and I don’t think it had even been 10 minutes. They told us at the start that we had to make it 25 minutes in order to continue to race the final day. I put my head down and kept pedaling, hoping I could make it another 15 minutes before being pulled off the course so I could race the final day. They ended up pulling me and 2 others at 22 minutes. The walk back to the team tent felt like the walk of shame. Ross met me half way and took my bike from me. It was so good to see him and to not have to walk back alone. Back at the tent I felt tremendous support from everyone. It was incredible. I watched the rest of the crit and spun my legs out, feeling defeated. I have mad respect for Lindsay, AB, and Jen for sticking out that entire crit. It was no joke.
Day 5 I woke up and Molyl texted “You’re racing!” I was so excited. Turns out the cut off was actually 17 minutes, not 25, and my 22 minutes the day earlier was enough. I ran around to get my race things together and showed up at the start feeling like I had been given a second chance. It was relatively short, just 49 miles, and had a ton of elevation change. It felt like if you weren’t going up, you were going down. It was hard to find the right time to grab a snack or a sip of water. There was action happening all the time….it was really fun! I noticed on the steeper climbs how much of an advantage I really have on an incline. Where I struggled to hang on in flat sections, I breezed past ladies on the steep sections. There were a few times during this race that I struggled to hang on to the main pack. The final one was as we were coming through the feed zone the last time. I had a couple of bike lengths between me and the back of the pack and I had been chasing hard and my legs hurt. I looked over and saw Tina yell “get back on there Dawn!” and that was the encouragement I needed. I told myself just a few more hard pedal strokes and i’d have it. And I did! The pace was fast for the final 6 or 7 miles. But the thing about this course is that you go hard, but you always get a little reprieve. This race ends with a left turn off of the circuit to a short steep climb up to the finish. I was in the middle of the main pack as we made the turn and just gave it what I could to to the finish. Jen passed me half way up and I yelled words of encouragement. I saw the woman who won Baker City up ahead, and beating her lit a fire in me and I pushed a bit harder to pass her. I had my best finish at 19th. Jen was 15th, and Lindsay came soon after us. Unfortunately AB’s bad luck continued. She dropped her chain at the bottom of the big climb in the first lap and had to stop to fix it and at our pace there was no chance of catching back on.
I learned a lot at this race, and through the lowest lows I was still saying “I love bike racing.” It was a great ending to my road season, and I can’t wait for more next year.