USA Cycling officials disqualified 2019 Redlands Bicycle Classic winner Cory Lockwood from the Cascade Cycling Classic in Oregon last week after the Semper Porro rider was accused of intentionally causing a crash near the end of stage 3 that took down Serghei Tvetcov (Floyd's Pro Cycling) and Luis Villalobos (Aevolo).
The incident occurred on the final climb of stage 3, which ended with a long, grinding ascent to the Kapka Butte Sno Park outside of host city Bend. Eventual overall winner Travis McCabe (Floyd's Pro Cycling) won the stage from a group of seven riders that finished nearly six minutes ahead of the nearest chase group. Most of the biggest teams in the race were represented in the move, including Floyd's, Aevolo, 303 Project, Team California and Hangar 15, but noticeably absent was anyone from Semper Porro. That's where the trouble began.
With other teams unmotivated to chase their riders well up the road, and the general classification all but over except for the seven riders about to book a huge advantage, Lockwood and his teammates found little if any help on the pull to the finish. Aevolo director Mike Creed told Cyclingnews his rider claimed Lockwood twice locked up his brakes in front of other riders during the stage, angry that no one would help him work.
Lockwood's final rapid deceleration on the climb caused a pile-up, taking out Villalobos, who was the first rider on his wheel, a rider from Hangar 15 and Tvetcov, who told Cyclingnews he did not see what caused the crash.
"I was far back, so I didn't really see it," Tvetcov, a two-time winner at Cascade, said in an exchange of messages with Cyclingnews. "I think the Aevolo guy [Villalobos] was on his wheel, so I am crashed because all three guys were on the ground.
"The race was gone; the breakaway was five-plus minutes up the road, so who was interested in working? Just Semper Porro, but it was too late," Tvetcov said.
Cooper Shanks (Team Mike's Bikes) claimed the eighth spot on the stage, 5:44 after McCabe, while Tvetcov and Eder Frayre (Team California) followed him across the line 30 seconds later. Villalobos came in another second back for 11th place.
Both Tvetcov and Villalobos were able to finish the stage race. Villalobos, the young Mexican who is scheduled to move to EF Education First later this season, suffered a sore hand but is otherwise feeling OK, Creed said.
Tvetcov said he landed on the same knee that he crashed on at the Tour of the Gila, and he needed to see a chiropractor the next day because of lower back pain. Tvetcov also said he would likely miss the upcoming Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay from June 13-16 in Canada but hoped to return for the Tour de Beauce June 19-23.
Creed said he spoke with Lockwood after the finish, and the rider was initially reluctant to admit he had intentionally caused the crash by slamming on his brakes. Creed said Lockwood eventually admitted he did use his brakes, but he said he did it so he could move to the back of the group.
The USAC officials took a dim view of Lockwood's actions, however, and disqualified the rider from the stage result and the rest of the race.
"USA Cycling can confirm that as a result of the crash, a decision was taken by the race jury to disqualify Mr. Lockwood and recommend him for a suspension," USA Cycling Technical Director Randy Shafer said in a statement provided to Cyclingnews.
"USA Cycling will review the report, and if discipline is warranted, Mr. Lockwood will receive notice of an investigation and possible sanctions," Shafer said. "Based upon the investigator's findings, if discipline is recommended, he will have the right to request a hearing before further discipline is applied."
Semper Porro manager and coach Jordan Itaya posted on the Semper Porro Instagram account after the stage, saying he would have pulled Lockwood from the race if the officials hadn't acted first.
"I went to talk with the officials to tell them I was going to pull Cory from the race, and they informed me he has already been disqualified," Itaya wrote. "I support the disqualification, and I apologize again for the impact of Cory's actions."
Itaya said Lockwood's actions do not represent his team's ethos.
"I find any action of the sort absolutely unacceptable," Itaya wrote on Instagram. "This is not at all what I preach or teach at Semper Porro. Our aim is inclusiveness and support for other people. We never advocate for tearing others down. So, I want to personally apologize to every rider affected and the associated staff or officials."
In a subsequent email to Cyclingnews in response to several questions, Itaya said he plans to speak with USA Cycling again this week.
"I will reiterate that at Semper Porro we preach ownership and integrity, and we will accept whatever consequences USA Cycling deems appropriate," Itaya said. "We sincerely apologize for any actions - either accidental or on purpose - that resulted in the harm of other riders."
Cyclingnews' attempt to reach Lockwood through his team was unsuccessful as of Wednesday.
Floyd's Pro Cycling director Gord Fraser was following the breakaway more than five minutes up the road when he heard about the crash over the radio. In a phone call with Cyclingnews on Tuesday he described the incident as "unnecessary."
"It was very surprising to hear about a crash on the climb behind us by five minutes," Fraser said. "Why is there a crash when there shouldn't be a lot of urgency? The race was over."
Fraser said he heard more details later of how the incident occurred, adding that he can understand the frustration of being marked out of a race, but that is sometimes the inevitable consequence of racing well and getting results like a win at Redlands, the traditional opener of the US national calendar.
"It should be a sign of flattery, really," Fraser said. "You've won Redlands and you're kind of on the radar now. There is more focus on you. Yeah, it's frustrating. I've been in the same situation before. It's unfortunate that that's what happened, but luckily there weren't too severe injuries and damage."
Fraser also questioned whether a suspension was warranted.
"Hopefully, the lesson has been learned, because obviously he's got some talent and you don't want to hold something too much against him. It was just a stupid mistake, and I hope he'll learn from it."
Cascade is back after one-year absence
The Cascade Cycling Classic had been a staple of the US domestic national calendar for nearly four decades before organisers cancelled it last year, citing increased costs and more competition in a crowded community calendar as the host city continues to grow.
Former pro Bart Bowen, a Bend resident who was US national champion in 1992 and 1997, stepped up to resurrect the race this year, forming the Cascade Cycling Classic Youth Foundation to organise the event and moving the dates from July to an earlier slot on the calendar from May 29 through June 2.
Although it is currently on USA Cycling's American Road Calendar, one tier below the USAC Pro Road Tour, Bowen's event also promised to return to a focus on development and grassroots racing. The 2019 race offered two categories each for junior men and women, as well as a full slate of age- and skill-graded categories, which culminated with the pro men and women.
Pro racing started Thursday, May 29, with the new Tumalo Circuit Race stage, and featured three more road stages, a criterium and a 9km individual time trial. The race concluded Sunday with a reformatted Awbrey Butte Circuit Race.
McCabe took the pro men's overall win ahead of Zach Nehr (Project Echelon) and US under-23 champion Alex Hoehn (Aevolo). In the women's race, Sho-Air Twenty20's Emme Grant won the overall ahead of teammates Jasmine Duehring and Jennifer Luebke. US under-23 cyclo-cross champion Clara Honsinger (LUX-Sideshow-Specialized) was fourth, finishing 1:22 ahead of Rally UHC Cycling's Heidi Franz.
Fraser, whose team sponsor Worthy Brewing is located in Bend and was a major sponsor of the race, gave the event's return a 9.9 out of 10 ranking.
Fraser said the addition of several gravel sections on the road stages were welcome, although the gravel section on stage 3 was a bit "over the top" and strained the equipment and team cars to the limit. Fraser gave especially high praise to the stage 2 Painted Hills Road Race, which started outside of Bend in Mitchell and took the pelotons through the John Day River Canyon and the namesake Painted Hills.
"The course was breathtaking and phenomenal, a really European-style race," he said. "There's such a severe shortage of that type of road race in the States, so it was well worth the extra driving that day. Hats off to them to include that stage, a race of that calibre."
Fraser said concerns over moving the Saturday twilight criterium from the downtown venue that drew huge crowds to a park overlooking the Deschutes River were assuaged when Bend's active, outdoor-loving families continued to pack the roads lining the new route.
"The course was super technical, and the guys really enjoyed racing it," he said. "The last iteration of the criterium was very dangerous, with long straightaways leading into those tight corners. The new course was very technical, and that actually made it quite a bit safer."
New dates for the race meant for milder temperatures in Central Oregon as well, and the race also filled a hole in the domestic calendar leading up to the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the end of the month.
"Most importantly, we have new sponsors in the sport at a time when sponsorships are desperately needed," Fraser said. "So Worthy Brewing were not only instrumental in bringing the race back, but they also sponsor our team. We've got to support those new sponsors because we need them more than ever."
Also, Fraser said, it was just nice to have a race whose list of past winners includes Alexi Grewal, Dale Stetina, Jonathan Vaughters, Levi Leipheimer, Kristin Armstrong – and even Lance Armstrong – back open for business. Cascade is one of the few races that actually made a comeback after taking a hiatus from the calendar. Many races have tried, but few have pulled it off.
"Hats off to all the crew in Bend, and especially Bart Bowen," he said. "I know he worked very hard, and it was kind of his first taste of being a race organiser. It was a 9.9 out of 10. They just have to tweak a few things and I think Cascade will return to its former glory and probably even surpass what it used to be."