Friday, July 31, 2015

2015 Cascade Classic

One of our River City Red Cycling Team members just did something extraordinary.  Pat O'Neil won the Men's Category 3 Cascade Classic Stage Race.  There were four tough stages, a couple with lots of climbing.  Winning any stage race is an impressive feat, but winning a race with the class, history and toughness of the Cascade Classic is doubly impressive.

Pat was kind enough to take the time to write up a race report that he shared with the team, which we are now sharing with you.  So remember kids, if you eat your wheaties and ride ridiculously hard for several years, you too can do this someday.



Pre-race...
Alex dropped by my house with his car ready to go, Thursday morning. 3 bikes loaded on it already and waiting for 2 more. We had the roof AND a trunk rack loaded for speed and brave attacks. If there were ever a car that met Rule #25, Alex's $700 Subaru qualified. ;) We checked into the Motel West, a nice place and perfect location for getting to all 4 stages. We met up with Cormac McGeough, a friend of Alex's to share the room. Cormac is a great kid, 18-19yo, new to a lot of road racing, but full of ambition and positive vibes. I had a GREAT time with Alex, Cormac and few other friends of Alex's that we met at the race!

Alex, Cormac and I rode the full 17mi circuit race course lap, when we got into Bend, which was a very smart recon idea. We talked that night about tactics for stage 1: I told Alex and Cormac I was not going to wait for the final climb up Bachelor to make a move...

The 1st stage (75mi RR) started at Wanoga Sno-Park on Mt Bachelor, I guess about a 100 3s and 4s combined. We climbed for a little while, some down, some more slight up, before beginning a long descent to the bulk of the race. Very early, a couple of guys popped off the front and dangled ahead with no real time on the field. This went on until maybe 15-20mi into the race when the pack kinda stalled near the bottom of a little descent. I was right at the front when that moment occurred and it was very instinctive what had to happen right then. I jumped as hard as I could and raced forward. I heard someone coming with me. Locked on the 2 guys ahead, I dug in, looking around briefly to see that we were leaving the field like an Atlas rocket leaving the earth's gravitational pull.

We overhauled the break quickly and injected the haste that makes a 30sec break into a 1, then 2, then 3 minute break. We got to rotating and it was apparent that we were 3 strong and 1 weak guy. The weak guy being a pretty small junior from a team that had quite a few guys in the field. Thinking that was probably key in our early success. Anyway, we'd rotate and the little guy unfortunately had to follow my pulls. He'd spin out for 15sec and then get out of the way. The other 2 guys and I rode really well, and strong, together.

Shortly after our break formed, we had a nervous moment where the officials pulled us over and neutralized everyone while the 2s went by (they had extra miles/loops built into their course). I hastily took the time to piss. At that point we had a minute-14sec gap, which the officials dutifully gave us back when we restarted. We quickly got our gap out to minute-30sec after that.
Mid race, we started to come up upon the 2s, on the only real hill in the middle of the course. I was really anxious about what was going to happen. If they slowed us down, we'd lose our gap. I was on the front and saw that our lead car was just going around the 2s cars, so I stayed right on him and pushed through, too. The motorcycle guy was yelling at the 2s to move over cause the 4s were coming through! lol. I corrected him to the field that we were 3s, dammit! We passed the 2s, sortof.  My break companions giving me shouts to ease up. I was kindof busting things up in our group, but all I was trying to do was successfully get around the 2s. Later I learned from one of the break guys that his powermeter was reading steadily in the 4-500s while I was pulling through the 2s. We dropped the Junior rider there, also.

The rest of the race was super smooth. Without the Junior, we rode like a tuned team time trial into the base of Mt Bachelor, building up almost a 6 minute lead. The field, of course, started to gain on us as we climbed the last 10 miles of sissy Mt Bachelor. ;) Actually, the wind was tough, though. I went in and out of some hamstring cramps, once falling behind my 2 other guys. But, we were all pretty spent, and eventually, it was me (2nd) and a guy from Portland (Ben) with a River City Cycling jersey taking the finish by 30 sec over our other guy (Jeremiah) a Seattle rider. We stayed mostly 2-3 minutes up over the best of the rest in the field.

I know Alex was being a good teammate, especially early on in my breakaway, not helping pull up the field. He also was getting sick, I realized, most the weekend. Sunday, I caught his bug and we both were heading home feeling like sh&*t!

Stage 2, TT: I knew I would be in yellow the next day. It was kindof weird to just "know" that. I'd been with the other two guys enough and was confident enough in my TT to just know what was going to happen. I followed my now regimen (since it was successful in Baker City for a TT win) of rolling on my road bike for an hour before the TT. I popped onto my TT bike, right before the start and rolled to the starthouse. In second place, the 3rd place rider was right there, in front of me, waiting to go, 30 sec down on me. We were ready to launch for the 9mile, slightly rolling course. But, where was GC man? I looked around. He was nowhere. My 30sec man left and I lined up. I got ready and glanced around again, not seeing him. I mumbled something like "where's GC?" and just before the starter let me go, the official said back to me "I guess you're the leader". This was the last thing I heard as I left the starthouse! :) I made 20sec on my 30sec man. A little bit hurt that I didn't catch him. GC lost 20sec for being late and a solid 40sec or so more over the course. I placed 3rd...

Stage 3, Crit: If you know me, you know something is going to get messed up... I thought the crit was supposed to be preceded by a TT podium and yellow jersey award/handout. As we started to get called into the crit, I realized none of that was going to happen. I guess the intent was just to call up the TT podium and GC man at the crit start. I had failed to grab my yellow jersey. I hastily asked some guys to pin my numbers on my RCR jersey, just before call ups. They were like "wha? who are you?", and I kinda groaned back, well, I was GC and needed them to help me before the callup. BUT, what a sensation, getting the call up and applause before the crit! At the gun, I got a good start and proudly dragged the field for the first lap, conscious of and proud to be in my angry red RCR jersey!
The crit was TOUGH! A long rectangle of just a block wide, it had this insane reduction in road into one short side of the course. Lots of curbing changes, throughout the course. The best I could do was stay near the front. The crit was a short 35min long and we finished safely, in the pack.

Stage 4, circuit RR: The final day was a morning 3-lap, 51mi course, with punchy little climbs and fun descents, throughout. I had about a minute gap, still, on my 2 guys from Friday and everyone else was 2-3 min or more behind. We decided the strategy was to be conservative and just watch out for dangerous break attempts on the climbs. I was relying/counting on general race aggression to keep it together and that pretty much worked. Our 3rd place guy, Ben, the River City guy, tried really hard to get something to go in the first couple of laps. He burned match after match, even on the flat and fast sections, working to cause a shift. But, we'd hit the climbs and I managed to stick with the main accelerations, encouraging others to finish off any slight gaps that would form. I also noticed that I got more room. Something about that yellow jersey meant to let me have some space, or get in where I wanted to go. It was really cool! Alex came up at least once and closed down some dangerous stuff, almost doing sole duty to close down some gaps for me! After the final punchy climb of the last lap, it started to dawn on me that I'd pulled it off. I must have been dreaming a little too much because when a final small break did in fact get a little time on the field, it included the 2nd place GC guy! But, it wasn't enough. His group pulled up into the final punchy finish 25sec or so ahead of us, not enough to shake the podium from my grip.

We drove home, totally spent, and sick or getting sick, but happy we did it!

2 comments:

  1. Well done Pat O'! Super impressive stuff.

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  2. A riveting race report! (Albeit reading it a month late.) There's nothing like winning especially under such circumstances, and it's the Cascade Classic!

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