Cascade Cycling Classic UCI 2.2 07/20-07/24-2016
My final stage race of the year is in the books and boy, was it a tough one! The 2016 edition of the Cascade Cycling Classic was a UCI 2.2 event so there was a lot to be excited about, including racing with my awesome teammates and getting great support from Portland Bicycle Studio. The PBS ladies brought a very strong team of Jen Luebke, Nicole Pressprich and guest rider Brenna Wrye-Simpson. With just the minimum of four team riders toeing the line, we knew we would have our work cut out for us!
Stage 1 - McKenzie Pass Road Race - 12th
As we kicked off the 90 mile race we had a very strong international field of 85 women with both the USA and Canadian Olympians (Kristen Armstrong & Tara Whitten) headed to Rio in just a few short weeks. Things started off pretty mellow before teams began launching attacks, but nothing was really sticking as everyone seemed content with waiting until the last 12 miles of climbing up to McKenzie Pass and the scenic lava fields. Headed into the base of the climb and summit finish, the pace quickly increased as expected while a break of ~5 riders had about 1 minute. There was a lot of jockeying for position, causing a lot of nervousness and even a few crashes so I did my best to stay up in the top 10 as the road began to pitch up. Once into the heart of the climb there were a few strong attacks but the pace was too high for anything to stick as we swallowed up the remnants of the earlier break. With 5k to go the lead group was down to about 25 riders as I began to really feel the burn and have to dig deep with every acceleration to stick with the group. Headed into the last 1k with the group still all together, a small bunch sprint was inevitable. With just Jen and I left in the lead group we did our best to stay near the front as the speed increased leading to the uphill sprint. In hindsight, I should have launched what little energy I had left into an attack with 500 meters to go as there was a bit of a hesitation in the group as everyone looked at each other. However, I did not and waited too long before someone else attacked as everyone else wound up their sprints. I don’t think I ever got out of the saddle in my sprint as my legs yelled “no more!” but I was still somehow able to manage a 12th place finish just behind Jen in 11th.
Stage 2 - Crooked River Time Trial - 16th
This stage consisted of a 16 mile out and back course on mostly flat roads with a few rollers. With this being the longest time trial of the year for me, I tried to start slow with the goal of ramping it up in the second half. I think I achieved that and I felt pretty content with my effort, especially given that I had not trained or raced much on my TT bike this year. Tara Whitten smoked the course, taking the win, with Jen as the top placed PBS rider in a very solid 10th place.
Stage 3 - Cascade Lakes Road Race - 24th
This was a really tough stage for me as my legs just never felt good. The race starts with climbing up from Bend to Mt. Bachelor and Team Twenty16 drilled it up the second half of the climb which really put me into the red zone. Towards the top of the climb I got dropped from the lead group of around 25 riders but after a big chase on the decent I was able to get back onto the lead group. As we began the lead up to the final climb of the day there was a flurry of attacks from a lot of teams and a breakaway finally formed with about 15 miles to go. As we hit the base of the climb I found myself in perfect position with Jen but I just didn’t have the legs to follow the accelerations up the steepest grade of the climb. I tried to ride within myself and limit my losses. I ended up finishing a little over a minute behind the lead group that contained Jen; she moved up into top ten in the GC while I fell to 19th overall.
Stage 4 - Downtown Twilight Criterium - 17th
Downtown Bend definitely comes out for this stage with awesome crowds so I was really looking forward to this stage to hopefully step onto the podium but it was not to be. I started near the back of the field but I was able to quickly accelerate through the field within the first lap. The race was full gas from the very beginning, making it very difficult to move back up if you drifted back through the field. I did my best to try to conserve by riding the waves as I looked towards the finish and ignored the intermediate sprints. At some point during the race I hit one of the nasty potholes on the back stretch of the course but everything felt fine so I continued on. However, with a couple of laps to go I could feel my front tire going low. I did my best to move to the front but it was going to be almost impossible to contest the sprint so I had to settle with just staying safe while not losing any time. Definitely a disappointing finale on a stage in which I was really looking forward to doing well. After swimming in my own sorrows for a few minutes I bounced back and turned my focus to tomorrow’s final stage and new hope!
Stage 5 - Awbrey Butte Circuit Race - 23rd
Wow, this stage was the fastest 2 hours of racing I have ever experienced. It was full gas from the very beginning of the race all the way to the finish. I felt really good the during laps 1 and 2 of the 3 laps around the 16 mile circuit. It was about mid-way through the second lap that Kristen Armstrong accelerated with a teammate up one of the many short climbs. Only Tara Whitten was able to follow and I was just behind them in the 6 girl chase group that formed. Unfortunately, no one wanted to work except for a couple of us so we were caught by the very dwindled peloton as we headed into the third and final lap. I’m not sure if it was the heat or just the constant pressure on the pedals, but as we progressed through the third lap my legs began to fatigue badly. Leading up to the final climb and finish, the break of the 2 Olympians was still up the road by 2 minutes and the lead chase group was down to just 25 riders. I dug extremely deep and made it over the main climb with the group but unfortunately I had nothing left for the short finishing climb and couldn’t contest for the finish. Jen powered up the final climb, finishing 10th on the day and 9th overall. Meanwhile, I finished 23rd on the day but because of the relentless speed and heat I was able to jump a few girls in the G.C. and finish 16th overall!
This race was definitely the toughest of the year for me, from the quality of the field to the altitude and the many long climbs. I felt very content with my final placing with all things considering. However, never content, I’m always striving to become a stronger and better rider. This race proved that I can more than compete with the very best, domestically and internationally. All this makes me extremely excited and optimistic as I looks toward the 2017 racing season!
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Mikayla is a tall cyclist living in Portland, OR. She is a vegetarian and animal lover. Mikayla is tall and uses her long legs as leverage.
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