By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor in Portland, Oregon
Sure it might say May on everyone's calendar, and the favorites in the men and women's races for the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic are likely coming from warm weather racing in southern places like Arkansas - but be warned, do NOT put away that cold weather clothing just yet. Record-setting weather of every kind seems to have hit the Mt. Hood area outside of Portland - including enough snow to cause a course re-route for the queen stage - the Wy'East road race up to Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort.
Organisers of the race announced this week that "due to substantial snow pack" the race start will change to The Dalles for the men and Dufur for the women. Despite the change, race spokesman Tre Hendricks said, "The new course, fortunately, is just as burly!" The race web site reports that the pro men's course will be 101 miles with 11,000 feet of climbing, while the women and amateur men will be race 75 miles with 8000 feet of climbing. The ski resort finish at 5,500 feet is also still open for skiing, so any rider not challenged enough could get in a few end-of-season runs.
The Mt. Hood region is always known... err, feared, for the variety of epic weather conditions presented to the racers - but this year should be more epic than usual, with record rains also hitting the area in recent weeks.
There will be no defending champion with Nathan O'Neill sitting out of competition for a doping violation, but Health Net-Maxxis is back with plenty of weapons. Two local boys, Kirk O'Bee who resides north in Vancouver and Matt Cooke from nearby Washington state are practically local, while Rory Sutherland is showing top form in both the Tour de Georgia and Joe Martin Stage Race. Cyclingnews readers will likely get a first person account of the weather from his popular diary. Phil Zajicek also comes to Health Net having finished second here last year with Navigators.
Read the full race preview.
(Additional research and assistance provided by Susan Westemeyer).