After a series of cancellations on the US racing schedule, the National Racing Calendar's (NRC) Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic has become a highly valued commodity for professional men's and women's teams and it is set to take place from July 20-25 in Bend, Oregon.
The series' leader in the men's standings, Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home p/b Colavita) will not be participating due to a mid-season break leaving the race wide open for a nearly 200-rider peloton. The women's leader Cath Cheatley (Colavita-Baci p/b Cooking Light) is raring to take on nearly 120 riders contesting the women's race, the last stop of the Women's Prestige Cycling Series.
The battle for the NRC victory will continue between the top three ranked riders trailing Amaran: Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies) in second, Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis) in third and Zwizanski's teammate David Veilleux in fourth.
"Luis has been racing since March and had a tremendous season," said Jamis-Sutter Home's Directeur Sportif, Sebastian Alexandre. "He was very strong in all the races that he has done and very consistent. He needed to take a break so we have decided to take it easy in July to try to train properly for the Tour of Utah, a race that suits him well.
"I don't think it will affect his NRC chances," Alexandre said. "All the riders are skipping one or two stages races during the season because it is very hard to do all of them."
On the women's side, Cheatley is closely followed in the NRC ranking by Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation), who is 93 points behind in second place, and Shelley Evans (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12), who sits in third place 263 points back.
The event marks the fourth and final round of the Women's Prestige Cycling Series. The series opened at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in March and went on to the Tour of the Gila in April. The battle continued with round three at the Nature Valley Grand Prix last month and will conclude at the Cascade Cycling Classic.
"Being part of the Prestige Series and especially being the last event, has really brought a lot of attention to the race," said Executive Director Chuck Kenlan. "We are proud to be an important stop on their calendars.
"I think having National Champion and Giro winner Mara Abbott here is an exciting piece of news," he said. "I also think that this is probably the strongest women's field that we have seen in a long time. With the NRC standings close and the Prestige Series so close, the race should be incredibly aggressive and exciting to watch."
The current US national road champion and recent winner of the Giro Donne Mara Abbott is currently leading the series with 360 points, ahead of Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) who sits 41 points back in second and Evelyn Stevens (HTC-Columbia) who is 85 points behind.
"It is wonderful to have the recognition and special emphasis put on women's cycling at these races," Abbott said. "Leading the series is most meaningful to me because it gives me the chance to represent that effort and to try to use my racing to create more opportunities for women's cycling in America."
The racing will start with a three-kilometre Old Mill p/b Wells Fargo prologue held in Bend's Old Mill District, that has replaced the Smith Rock Road Race. The racing will head straight into the mountains during stage one's 118 km Mackenzie Pass Road Race p/b Robberson Ford and will finish up the west-side of the mountain for the first time since 2004. "This is a long grueling climb with multiple switchbacks and through exposed lava flows," Kenlan said.
The racing will continue with stage two's 26km Skyliners Time Trial p/b Hutch's Bicycle. The course is a variation of the one used for the US Elite National Time Trial Championships in June. Stage three brings the field back to the mountains for the 134km Cascade Lake Road Race p/b Pacific Power.
There will be one day for the sprinters at the stage four's Downtown Criterium p/b Desert Orthopedics & Rebound Physical Therapy. The Cascade Cycling Classic will conclude at the fifth and final stage, a 132 km Awbrey Butte p/b Deschutes Brewery Circuit Race.