Last month was the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon, and it went fabulously for the KR women’s team. The KR team was repeatedly complimented by the top professional teams as performing like a “real” professional team. We also received almost daily mention in the most popular cycling news sites and were the only team to be consistently in the daily top 3 team rankings. We were by far the most visible non-professional (not full time or salaried) team in the race.
The Cascade Cycling Classic is one of the toughest races on the National Race Calendar (NRC). Set on a very difficult stage filled with high temps, big climbs and a bit of altitude for fun, over 100 of the best women in US cycling started. Add to it the battle for the overall NRC rider between Cath Cheatly (Colavita) and Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation), AND Mara Abbot returning from winning the Giro Donne to show she is the best in the US too, this was going to be one really, really hard race.
Keller Rohrback racers Tricia and Amy recruited their favorite regional competitors and composite teammates from the season to assemble a fantastic power team. Tricia made sure we were covered on all fronts inviting climbers and strong time trialists 18-year-old Jasmin Glaesser (GER, the only Junior in the Cascade Classic) and Jess Hannah (CAN), and all-rounders with sprinter strength, Leah Kirchmann (20-year-old current Canadian criterium national champion) and Tara Whitten (current World Track champion in both the Omnium and the Points races).
Even against this strong field, everyone was going to have the opportunity to shine. The most significant challenge for the team was that this was the 1st NRC stage race for all except Tricia. The Pro teams had a serious advantage knowing all the key players to watch and being very familiar with the courses from past years, as well as the National Road and TT championships on the same courses in June.
The first day consisted of a 2-mile prologue. The girls did great on the twisty short course in Bend’s Old Mill District, with Leah taking 2nd in the Best Young Rider competition, and Tara rising to the podium taking 2nd in the overall. The announcer struggled with chatty details on Tara, since she wasn’t on his list of professional team riders (maybe he didn’t read up on the World Track people to watch?). Calling her a “black swan” and a “surprise,” he was expecting that she would win until 2008 TT World Champ, Alison Powers threw down a ridiculous time and put Tara and KR in a still very respectable 2nd out of 100+ women.
Day 2: McKenzie Pass, a 74-mile road race with 25 miles of relentless climbing. The race was going to be challenging enough with a 15 miles of the climbing in the middle and hot, hot, hot temps, but we had a bit of extra excitement just for fun.
Tara’s bike was run over by another composite team’s car 7 minutes prior to the start, her saddle being the only damaged part, the Metromint director lending us a saddle, and the Colavita mechanic and neutral support making every effort to get her bike back in working order in less than 5 minutes. Talk about an adrenaline rush!
Our Team support Christine had her first day in the car driving in the caravan, hears over the radio that we now have 3 (read it: THREE) riders in the breakaway. Chalk up our 2nd reference in cycling news.
At the end of the day, Keller Rohrback was 5th in Team GC (out of 14 teams), and only 7 seconds out of 3rd. We were counting on our time trialists to hold or better our position.
Day 3: Time Trial! You might think that a 16-mile individual race would be simple with regards to logistics. You would be wrong. Let’s see some numbers:
8 bikes (6 TT bikes + 2 road bikes for warm-up)
5 disc wheels + borrowed wheels
3+ mechanical issues
1 set of rollers
3 chairs (yes, I know, not enough for everyone at once) thus –
3 large beach towels
6 start times
1 follow car
1 doping control call-up
Day 4: Cascade Lakes Road Race, 71 miles long starting straight up and on fire from the gun and ending with a 10 mile climb, this was painful.
Most of the field was dropped in the first 5 KM as the pro teams were battling it out to move up their top riders against Mara’s small, but strong team. A pile up of riders near the beginning of the race included 3 KR riders, but also included some of the top GC riders, so the peleton waited for them to return before closing the gap to a small break group.
Since KR was not in the break, we worked together with PB&Co and Webcor. Tara turned it on when it was her turn and maintained her top 10 GC placing. She continued to be the top placed person that was not on a professional team.
Day 5: Dowtown Bend Criterium
The Saturday evening criterium was fast and furious, with the expected teams making attacks and attempting breaks. Nothing stuck, though, and KR was active throughout, staying in the mix.
Leah, benefitting from her European racing experience with the Canadian National Team, earlier in the year was in great position all night, she hung on the TIBCO lead-out train through the finishing straight, and nabbed 3rd place. That meant the 2nd podium finish for the team and more coverage and notoriety.
Day 6: Awbrey Butte Circuit Race
Sunday’s road race is on the same course as the National Road race, which Mara Abbot rode to victory in June. It was the last chance to sort out the climbing jersey and for Alison to take over the race and overall NRC lead from Cath Cheatley, who was holding strong. With no cloud cover and no shade on the course, temps rose into the high 90’s, and the hills took their toll on the field. The team covered and bridged to moves bidding their time until something big happened. After the horribly hard Archie Briggs climb in the 2nd lap, a small break formed, and Tara covered it. The break didn’t include any of the top GC riders other than Tara, so she took a gamble and attacked, leaving them behind. She managed to stay off solo for an entire lap, taking 1st place for KR, and moving up into 6th in the overall! Everyone on the team also moved up in General Classification, and the team finished 5th in Team GC, leaping ahead of Webcor on the final stage.
Pictures and articles from Cycling News and Velonews:
Leah on pointy end of Crit –
Crit Finish –
Leah’s podium pic from the Crit Saturday –
Tara’s win at Awbrey Butte