History was made — and repeated — at the Indie Hops Mt. Hood Cycling Classic Sunday, as last year’s final stage criterium winner Jamie Sparling won the stage for a second consecutive year, while for the first time ever the serpentine and technical downtown Hood River course was reversed due to rain.
Sparling, who rides for the Canadian amateur team Total Restoration, was active in breakaways during every stage at this year’s Mt. Hood stage race. As he did in 2009, he finally found success on the final day, this time from a four-man move that went clear early on in a 60-minute criterium that was shortened from 90 minutes due to Oregon’s “June-uary” rains, which plagued the event from start to finish.
Those rains prompted Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) officials to reverse the course, which removed a tricky and sharp 120-degree downhill turn, and also to neutralize the stage from affecting the overall classification for all amateur categories, including the women’s 1-2-3 field.
The men’s pro-1-2 event was sanctioned by USA Cycling, rather than OBRA. Prior to the race chief official Dot Abbott, race director Chad Sperry and Roger Worthington from title sponsor Indie Hops conferred with team managers and riders and decided the men’s course would also be reversed, and shortened 30 minutes, but that the stage would count towards the GC.
“We decided that given the circumstances the most prudent move was to run the course the opposite way and shorten it from 90 to 60 minutes,” Sperry said. “The last thing I want to see is the GC leader crashing on a wet corner and that determining the overall. At the same time there were several riders in close proximity on the top five, and we wanted to give everyone a chance to take a crack at it.”
Indeed, only 13 seconds separated second overall, Mike Creed of Team Type 1, and fourth overall, Paul Mach of Bissell, with third overall, Nate English of Echelon Gran Fondo-Z Team sitting just three seconds behind Creed.
However race leader Marc de Maar of UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis held a comfortable 43-second lead over Creed, and with the strongest team in the race at his disposal, his yellow jersey was never in doubt.
Mach and English were both active early on, but the UHC team, led by Eric Barlevav, Chris Baldwin, Max Jenkins and Morgan Schmitt, set a hard tempo at the front that discouraged attacks and kept de Maar out of trouble.
“To tell you the truth, I was really stressing before the stage,” de Maar said. “I don’t have a lot of experience racing criteriums, and the rain wasn’t helping my confidence. But I had a lot of faith in my team, they’re all very experienced with this style of racing, and they kept me out of trouble all day. Everything went smoothly, but I’m still very glad it’s over.”
With protecting de Maar’s overall lead its top priority, UnitedHealthcare was content to let a breakaway get away in order to maintain order at the front of the field. After 15 minutes of racing, four riders were happy to oblige. In the move were riders from four of the strongest amateur teams in the race — Sparling, Ian Gray (Rio Grande), James Mattis (Cal Giant) and Ryan Parnes (Yahoo!).
The move quickly opened up a 30-second gap, extending its lead by a few seconds over each 80-second lap. As the break approached the back of the peloton, the four men agreed they would feather the gap from behind so as not to lap the field.
“We saw some pretty sketchy riding, people sliding all over the place, so we decided to just split the primes and agreed to just let the gap stay at a safe distance,” Gray said.
Because of the course’s reversal, the tough S-turn climb at the end of the course — which topped out with a left-hand turn just 200 meters from the finish line in front of the Full Sail Brewing Company’s brewery — would prove to be decisive. The first rider over the top would almost certainly take the stage.
The final time over the hill Gray, a climber, got the inside line on the left-hand turn, effectively blocking Parnes, who was also vying for the shortest line. Sparling sat just right of Gray, as Mattis fell off the pace. The three men sprinted the downhill straightway to the finish, with Sparling beating out Gray; Parnes rounded out the podium.
“With the rain I knew there was a pretty good chance the GC guys would let a break get away today,” Sparling said. “When Gray took the inside line, it boxed out Gray, which was good for me. From there it was just a sprint to the line.”
Sparling said he would next head to the Tour de Beauce, where he would race for the Canadian national team.
UnitedHealthcare team director Gord Fraser, who had never raced Mt. Hood throughout his storied racing career, was pleased to leave Hood River with the overall win.
“We have a big team, big enough to field a squad in Philly and here, and it’s good to get everyone some race days,” Fraser said. “Take a rider like Eric Barlevav. I don’t know if he’s ever ridden to protect a yellow jersey like that. It’s good for him to contribute to protecting an overall lead.”
Fraser added that while de Maar might have helped contribute to the team in Philadelphia, it was important for him to race Mt. Hood as a lead-up to the Tour de Beauce, where earning UCI points will help him earn a spot on the Dutch Antilles world championship squad.
- Seattle-based amateur team Hagens Berman took the team classification, a whopping 8:22 ahead of Team Rio Grande. UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis was third.
- Cal Giant’s Jesse Moore secured the race’s KOM jersey.
- Olympic Nordic combined gold medalist Billy Demong (Cole Sport) dropped out of the criterium after crashing on the first lap. Demong said that although it was his second crash of the week, he would be back to race the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon, in July.
- Leah Guloien (Total Restoration) won the women’s criterium, which did not affect the general classification. The women’s race was marked by heavy rains, prompting women’s overall leader Molly Van Houweling (Metromint) to pull out halfway through, citing the dangerous conditions; less than 10 women finished the stage. Van Houweling finished the stage race 1:01 ahead of runner-up Robin Secrist, with Sue Butler (River City Bicycles) finishing third overall, 1:13 down.
- Scott Gray (Cyclesoles-Sagebrush Cycles) won the overall of the men’s Cat 2 race, which ran within the same peloton as the pro-1 men. Gray finished seven seconds ahead of Eric Fischer (Clif Bar).
- 1. Jamie Sparling (CAN) Total Restoration Cycling Team
- 2. Ian Gray (USA) Team Rio Grande at 00:00:00
- 3. Ryan Parnes (USA) Yahoo! Cycling Team at 00:00:00
- 4. James Mattis (USA) California Giant Berry Farms/specialized at 00:00:00
- 5. Adam Switters (USA) Yahoo! Cycling Team at 00:00:19
Final GC, men:
- 1. Marc Demaar (USA) UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis in 11:37:50
- 2. Michael Creed (USA) Team Type 1 at :44
- 3. Nathaniel English (USA) Echelon Gran Fondo/z-Team at :47
- 4. Paul Mach (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling at :57
- 5. Sam Johnson (USA) Hagens Berman Cycling at 2:12
Final GC, women:
De Maar soaks Creed with a blast of Full Sail Ale.
Criterium winner Leah Guloien.
Better part of valor
Overall winner Molly Van Houweling abandoned the crit but didn't lose her overall jersey.
First to fourth
Last year's winner Paul Mach finishes fourth overall.
With no race radios, UnitedHealthcare team director Gord Fraser used a board to communicate with riders.
Sparling (left) has won Mt. Hood's closing crit two consecutive years.
Rubber side down
De Maar stayed upright through the wet criterium and held onto his leader's jersey.
Michael Creed rode a safe criterium and took second overall.
On the front
UnitedHealthcare's Chris Baldwin rides the front for de Maar.