Last Sunday wrapped the 38th edition of the UCI 2.2 Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon. The women celebrated equal payouts to that of the men’s, for the prize purse thanks to a grassroots initiative by the community.
The girls arrived the week prior, prepped and hungry for positive results. Since NorthStar Bicycle Festival last month, the team has been on an upward trajectory, motivated for the opportunities that lay ahead. By weeks end, the team had secured three riders in the top 15 on GC, including Emma Grant, Whitney Allison, and Abby Mickey, with two podium spots on Stage 3 and 5.
“I couldn’t ask for a better way to start wrapping up the season,” Mary Zider said, Director Sportif for the team. “The CCC was a true testament that persistence does eventually pay off. These ladies continued to stay focused on the details within the race, and on being the best teammates possible.”
Racing kicked-off with the McKenzie Pass Road Race that had the women race for 88 miles, finishing with a 7-mile climb up a volcanic landscape. Kirsti Lay crossed the line just ahead of her Rally Cycling teammate, Sara Poidevin, with the eventual overall winner on Sunday, Allie Dragoo (Twenty20) rounding the podium. Emma Grant finished just inside the top ten, with Whitney Allison not far behind in 14th.
Stage 2, out and back Skyline Time Trial, saw Allison with another top ten finish in a TT, this time 7th on the stage after her strong 8th place finish at nationals late last month. The Cascade Lakes Road Race was up next, where Grant finished third on the stage, thanks to the teamwork leading into the finish.
“It’s huge, I’ve been chipping away all season,” Grant added. “In the back of my mind, I wanted a breakthrough result, but that hasn’t happened. It’s been a gradual progression, really satisfying. I had a really good 3-week boot camp in Boulder (CO), so it’s nice to be able to have it pay off.”
Stage 4 brought the race back to downtown Bend, for the Saturday twilight crit. Crowds were lined along the entire 1-mile circuit, cheering the riders on as our crit specialist, Jessica Mundy, stretched her legs. Mundy was able to finish in the top 10, just 11-seconds down from stage winner, Claire Rose (Visit Dallas). Amber Pierce also finished in that same group, inside the top 15.
The finale on Sunday for the Awbrey Butte Circuit Road Race was a race of attrition with punchy climbs and high speeds. Stage 5 saw chaos however, as the pro men’s race caught the pro women’s race on the final lap, just 500 meters from the line.
The women raced 3 laps for a total of 49 miles, but the 14-mile circuit proved to be too short around, as the commissaries were trying unsuccessfully, to keep the finish clear for the men and women to cross the line without confusion.
Grant, having thought she had secured the win, raised an arm to celebrate but was instead narrowly passed on the line by Rally’s Sara Poidevin – the eventual Queen of the Mountain, and Best Young Rider winner. There was also disappointment for Alison, who had attacked and was heading for a top result on the stage not far back, when she was suddenly plowed down from behind by Silber Pro Cycling’s Stephen Bassett – himself on his way to a possible stage win before the crash.
“Stage 5 was really where the magic happened,” Alison explained. “Abby got in the early move, and we were able to relax, stay out of trouble, hydrate, and be in a good position for the field split thanks to Gillian, Astrid, Emma, Jess, and Amber. I was able to get in the next significant move, getting caught at the top of the final QOM with a few kilometers left. I’m looking forward to more racing with Emma and the whole crew. We’ve bonded deeply on and off the bike.”
“It clicked this week,” Grant said after the podium ceremony. “We took another notch up at this race, but it’s too bad this season is drawing to an end. We still have Colorado where we have two really good stages, so hopefully we can build on this momentum and finish strong there. We’ve got a great crew this year; it’s been really fun.”
“Emma has worked so hard and deserved to be successful this past week,” Zider added. “Last year, you could really see her struggles dealing with her artery stenosis condition. When she decided to go forward with the surgery, I knew she’d have a quick recovery and be just fine. I never stopped believing in Emma because she never stopped believing in herself. She has this fire and work ethic that separates her from most…I couldn’t be happier for her. We’ll look to carry this momentum into the Colorado Classic.
The squad is now in Colorado training in the high altitude of the mountains prepping for the Colorado Classic. The 2.HC UCI-ranked event begins for Team Colavita on August 10 in Colorado Springs, with the stage 2 circuit in Breckenridge on August 11.