The Cascade Cycling Classic returns for its 38th year on the US domestic calendar with a UCI 2.2 men's and women's race that starts Wednesday, July 19, with the McKenzie Pass Road Race and concludes July 23 with the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race in the host city Bend, Oregon.
Cascade moved to the UCI level for the first time last year when the women's race was sanctioned as a 2.2 race. This year the men join the UCI ranks, and the 31-team men's field reflects the new America Tour sanction. The race is also the 13th stop for on the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour for the women and the 12th stop for the men.
The usual suspects of domestic racing will be on hand, including the Holowesko-Citadel team of defending men's champion Robin Carpenter. Pro Continental team UnitedHealthcare will join US Continental teams Canyon Bicycles-Shimano, Rally Cycling, Jelly Belly-Maxxis, CCB and Aevolo. International teams include Team Rwanda, which is racing for the first time in the US since 2007, Canel's Specialized of Mexico, Movistar Team Ecuador, and Canadian teams Silber Pro Cycling and H&R Block. Australia is sending the New South Wales Institute of Sport team.
The UCI ranking also allows WorldTour riders into the race for the first time since Levi Leipheimer won in 2008 with the assistance of Astana teammate and local hero Chris Horner. Trek-Segafredo's Kiel Reijnen and Peter Stetina will join Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac) on the US National Team along with Logan Owen (Axeon Hagens Berman), Dillon Caldwell, Cooper Rombold and Cam Piper.
"We aren't racing the Tour de France this year, and in the WorldTour there aren't many races in July besides the Tour," Stetina said in a statement released by the race. "As WorldTour riders we can compete in non-team events for our national teams. We reached out to [USA Cycling], and they supported us 100 percent."
In the women's race, 2016 winner Tara Whitten will not return to defend her title, but most of the US UCI teams will take the start line on July 19. Colavita-Bianchi, Cylance Pro Cycling, Hagens Berman-Supermint, Rally Cycling, Sho-Air Twenty20, Team Illuminate, Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank and Visit Dallas-DNA will join five other teams on the start line July 19, including the New Zealand National Team and Desjardins Ford from Canada.
"It's definitely one of the best fields we've ever seen at Cascade Cycling Classic," said Chad Sperry, now in his 11th year as race director. "The overall thing that has impressed me is the sheer magnitude of teams wanting to get in the race. We've never had quite these volumes of teams wanting to come race the event. To have to turn a number of teams away – and still have 31 men's teams – is pretty impressive."
Summertime in Bend is good for racing. (Jonathan Devich/EpicImages)
Stage 1: McKenzie Pass Road Race
The 38th edition of the race starts with a name that will be familiar to many longtime fans of the race. The McKenzie Pass Road Race is back again for 2017, although riders will climb up the more sedate Sisters side to the finish among the Cascade Range lava fields at the Dee Wright Observatory. Gone are the narrow, old-growth-shaded roads with multiple switchbacks on the western side of the pass that has been used previously, giving way this year to the wider, more open climb from the east. The route from the start in Prineville to the bottom of the climb is ralatively flat, but the final climb should set a quick pecking order for the overall race. The men race 173km. The women start at the Prineville Reservoir and race 142.8km.
Stage 2: Skyliners Time Trial
The Skyliners time trial makes a return for 2017. Gone for several years as the county repaired the roads, the 22.8km out-and-back time trial climbs steadily to the turnaround before the headlong rush to the finish. This stage should further cement the general classification contenders from the rest of the peloton.
Stage 3: Cascade Lakes Road Race
This stage starts on the west edge of Bend and heads immediately up to and then past Mt. Bachelor. The men descend past turquoise green alpine lakes toward a couple of mostly flat loops around the Crane Prairie Reservoir before lighting off again toward the top of the mountain. The 172.8km course stops short of the traditional finish at the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, however, finishing at the Kapka Butte Snowpark after a long-but-gradual climb. The women race a similar 140.4km course without the extra loop around the reservoir.
Stage 4: Downtown Bend Criterium
This race is a test of speed and technical skills, as the fairly straightforward rectangle in downtown bend has a series of tricky turns in corners 3 and 4 as a wide boulevard transitions into a narrow one-lane road and then back again. The long finishing straight means a big wind up for the sprinters. The women race first for 50 minutes, followed by the men for 75 minutes.
Stage 5: Awbrey Butte Circuit Race
This staple of the Cascade Cycling Classic has hosted multiple national championships throughout the years. The course starts on the edge of Bend and heads immediately toward the farmland outside of town. The first significant climb comes about 16km into the loop on O.B. Riley Road before the feedzone, followed quickly by the lung-collapsing ascent of Archie Briggs. A nice kicker to the finish at Central Oregon Community College on the final lap ensures the stage winner has earned the victory. The men start at 11 a.m. for their five-lap, 131.2km race, while the women start at 11:50 a.m. for their three-lap, 78.4km final stage.