Cascade Cycling Classic back on track for 2019

Organisers of the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon, announced this week that the race will be back in 2019 after a one-year hiatus. The race will move from its previous spot in July to a new start date at the end of May.

Former pro Bart Bowen, who runs a sports performance studio in Bend, took over as organiser of the 39-year-old race when the previous owners pulled out after 2017. Bowen had hoped to put on a race this year, but time constraints and a late start forced him to postpone the 2018 event. Now Bowen and the 'Cascade Cycling Youth Foundation,' the non-profit group he formed to manage the race, have it back on the 2019 schedule from May 29 through June 2.

The Cascade Cycling Classic is the longest-running professional stage race in the US through 2017 when it was a UCI race for both the men and women. A staple of the US domestic circuit for nearly four decades, past winners of the race include Todd Gogulski, Alexi Grewal, Dale Stetina, Bowen, Jonathan Vaughters, Lance Armstrong, Tom Danielson and Levi Leipheimer, among many others. Two-Time Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong won the women's race twice.

In an email to Cyclingnews, Bowen said the race would be sanctioned by USA Cycling rather than by the independent Oregon Bicycle Racing Association. However, the 2019 race will not be a part of USA Cycling's Pro Road Tour [formerly the National Racing Calendar], and it will not be sanctioned by the UCI.

Bowen and his group are putting an emphasis on providing a proving ground for up-and-coming riders while putting on a race that engages the local community. Unlike its last running in 2017 as a UCI race, the Cascade Cycling Classic will once again field a full range of categories to embrace racing at all ages and ability levels, the organisers said in their announcement.

"Our primary goals as promoter this year are to see that the event becomes an avenue for new and young cyclists to become more engaged in the sport, but also to really engage the community at large more fully in the racing -- even those who may know nothing at all about bike racing," Bowen said in a press release. "Everyone gets excited about fast, head-to-head racing. We want to showcase this action in a way that benefits the community on the whole."

Previous race owners Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, a non-profit group that operated the race as a fundraiser, stepped away from the race in 2017 over concerns about increased costs and traffic conflicts during that time of year in fast-growing Bend. The race's former July dates conflicted with the height of the city's influx of tourists and other summer events, adding more stress to an already extended community.

That's when Bowen stepped in with Visit Bend, the city's tourism advocate, to keep the race afloat.

"Had Visit Bend not stepped in, I believe the race would be gone," MBSEF events director Molly Cogswell-Kelley told the Bend Bulletin at the time.

The new May 29 date would put the Oregon race in conflict with the East Coast Coast Pro Road Tour events at the Winston-Salem Classic on May 27 and the Armed Forces Classic June 1-2. The Oregon race would take place nine days after the Amgen Tour of California finishes and nearly a month before the US Pro Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Worthy Brewing will continue to support the race as a title sponsor for 2019, according to the release, while Bowen and crew are currently looking for more sponsorship partners.

Holowesko-Citadel's Robin Carpenter, who now rides for Rally Cycling, won the men's race in 2017, while Twenty20's Allie Dragoo took the women's title.

The Cascade Classic is not the only race to drop from the calendar this year only to return for 2019. Organisers of the the North Star Grand Prix in Minnesota had to cancel their event in 2018 as well, but they announced in September that the race planned to return next year as a Pro Road Tour event for the men and a UCI race for the women.

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.