Women's Prestige Cycling Series (WPCS) will conclude at the National Racing Calendar (NRC) series' BMC Cascade Cycling Classic held from July 19-24 in Bend, Oregon. Amber Neben (HTC-Highroad), who is currently leading both the NRC and WPCS, along with last year's event winner Mara Abbott (Diadora-Pasta Zara) will not but will be competing leaving the overall victory wide-open.
Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) will not be defending his title as his team upgraded to from a UCI Continental license to a Pro Continental license and it is no longer eligible to compete in non UCI-sanctioned stage races. Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) is leading the men's NRC standings and will no doubt put forth a strong performance during the six-day event.
The showdown between nation's top female climbers
The WPCS included four of the top stage races in the country including the Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila, Nature Valley Grand Prix and Cascade Cycling Classic. HTC-Highroad squad has dominated the series' standings and is currently the overall team leader. Neben, who won two of the stage races, is currently leading the individual classification and her teammate Chloe Hosking is leading the sprint classification. Denis Ramsden (Juvederm-Specialized) is leading the young rider classification.
Neben's strong domestic performances have also earned her the lead in the NRC individual classification with 536 points. Janel Holcomb (Colavita-Forno D'Asolo), who recently won the Tour de Toona, is trailing behind in second place with 482 points and Erinne Willock (Tibco-To the Top) is in third with 355 points. Because Neben is not starting the final event, strong overall performances from Holcomb and Willock could bump them to the top of the leader board.
Colavita-Forno D'Asolo is leading the NRC team competition with 2449 points, while Tibco-To the Top is sitting in a comfortable second place with 1673 points and HTC-Highroad has 1260 points.
"I'm excited to be bringing such a strong team to the race," said Colavita-Forno D'Asolo Rachel Heal, who returns with half her team from the Giro Donne. "Obviously it would be great to have Cath Cheatley on the squad after her successes at the race last year, but her recovery from injury is going well, which we are happy to hear. Bringing the Tour de Toona and Giro d'Italia squads back together we have a huge depth of talent."
"With Janel Holcomb and Lauren Hall fresh off overall and stage victories at Tour de Toona and Andrea Dvorak showing some impressive climbing performances at the Giro d'Italia, I'm looking forward to some great racing here," she said. "We will race the race to win it, and if we move Janel back into the NRC lead it will be a huge bonus, she has been riding consistently well this year and is developing into a great GC rider."
One rider in attendance who is capable of winning the overall title is six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes (Cycling BC Team), who won the Tour of the Gila. Other contenders are former world champion Kristin Armstrong and Alisha Welsh (Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12), Andrea Dvorak (Colavita-Forno D'Asolo), US National Road Champion Robin Farina (Now-Novartis for MS) and Tara Whitten (Tibco-To the Top).
The men of the mountains
NRC leader Francisco Mancebo (RealCyclist.com) is sure to make his mark in the overall classification. The Spaniard has won overall titles at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila and Tour de Beauce this year. He is leading the series individual classification with 575 points ahead of Jake Keough (UnitedHealthcare) who has 523 points, and Frank Pipp (Bissell) with 385 points.
Team Bissell is leading the team standings with 1772 points ahead of UnitedHealthcare that has 1715 points, and Jamis-Sutter Home with 1189 points. However, one team that is looking to put on a show at the Cascade Cycling Classic is PureBlack Racing out of New Zealand. Climber Scott Lyttle is poised for a good result after recently winning the overall title at the Tour de Toona.
"Cascade will be about chasing an overall result and we run a typically aggressive style which bodes well for winning stages and we won't change that because we want to be out there to make our mark," said team owner Carl Williams.
Other riders that will make an impact in the overall classification include Ian Boswell (Trek-Livestrong), Lachlan Morton (Chipotle Development), Ben Jacques-Maynes and Chris Baldwin (Bissell), Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth), Ben Day (Kenda/5-hour Energy), Andres Diaz (Exergy), Tom Zirbel (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Bernard Sulzberger (V Australia).
"We are very excited with the line-up this year," said Molly Kelley of the Cascade Cycling Classic. "Having Tour veterans like Tony Cruz and Francesco Mancebo raises the calibre of the race. Probably the strongest team right now is Bissell and with the Jacques-Maynes brothers both racing, they will be contenders for the GC. Bend's own Ian Boswell will be here and always gets the local community excited. I think that he is going to do exceptionally well. Michael Creed is also coming who won the event a few years back."
Cascade Cycling Classic kicks off with a prologue
The racing will kick off with a short 3.2 kilometre time trial in the Old Mill District. Stage one offer a challenging 118 kilometre road stage from Les Schwab to McKenzie Pass. Stage two will be a day for the time trialists at the SkyLiner 22 kilometre time trial. Stage three will bring the peloton back into the mountains for a 134 kilometres for the men, and 113 kilometres for the women, road race that finishes at the top of Mt Bachelor Ski Resort.
Stage four will provide an opportunity for the sprinters to shine at the Downtown Twilight Criterium, 50 minutes for the women and 75 minutes for the men. The racing will conclude at the stage five Awbrey Butte Circuit Race where the women will contest four laps totaling 107 kilometres and the men will take on five laps totaling 132 kilometres.
"The courses are challenging, but they aren't so hard that you have to just fight to survive," Kelley said. "Riders need to be tactically smart in order to do well at this race. The race is dramatic up until the end with the final stage of the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race.