Trek-Livestrong owned the top of the men’s podium at the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon, Tuesday as Jesse Sergent and Alex Dowsett each finished in 3:35 to go one-two in the Old Mill Prologue. Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) powered her way into the women’s leader’s jersey Tuesday night, clocking a time of 3:53 to take the win ahead of Tara Whitten (Keller Rorhback) and Alison Starnes (Tibco-To The Top). Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) rounded out the men’s podium. Floyd Landis raced in a T-shirt, and finished 91st.
The two-mile time trial was a new addition to the 31st annual stage race and took place in the Old Mill District, home to the 2009 and ’10 national cyclocross championships. A series of technical corners bookended the pancake flat, out-and-back course. The middle third of the track followed a sweeping corner to and from the tight, two-lane turnaround at one mile. The skies were calm and clear-blue as riders got underway at 6:00 p.m. and crowds built as the sun set over the Deschutes River.
Whitten vs. Powers
Whitten, the 92nd of 107 starters on the women’s startlist, jumped out of the start house 45 minutes after Ashley Koch (Tribe) got things underway.
Just under four minutes later, the current track world omnium and points race champion found herself in the hot seat, assuming the lead from Meredith Miller (Tibco).
“I was really looking forward to this prologue because coming from the track I kind of like the 3K distance,” said Witten.
The 2009 Canadian national TT champion’s time held until Powers, the penultimate rider in the women’s contest, crossed the line and bested her by five seconds. The final rider to start, Starnes, came hard to the line, but fell just short to round out the podium. Powers was satisfied after her ride in the team’s cool-down area.
“I don’t just like to ride the time trial bike for fun, I train on it a lot. And when I knew this was two miles and that I like the shorter, harder efforts, I was like, ‘All right, I can do this,'” she said. “I trained at home, a lot of shorter VO2 stuff. I knew from last month my VO2 was real bad because I would go real hard and then explode, so just worked on that a lot the last few weeks and it’s been awesome.”
Powers lost her lead in the National Racing Calendar individual standings this month to Colavita-Baci’s Cath Cheatley and looked forward to the rest of the week as her last big opportunity to gain points in the season-long competition.
“This is our last stage race of the year, so to be able to kick it off with a win, and I need NRC points too, and Prestige Series points, and it’s our last race together really as a team, to be able to do it for everybody is awesome,” said Powers. “I have to get my points here and I have the team to help get the points too, and to help keep placing for team NRC standings, so it’s really exciting and it was kind of extra motivation. I didn’t realize I cared so much about the NRC until I wasn’t winning anymore.”
Bissell early, Trek-Livestrong late
As the final women wound down their legs at the start/finish, the men’s race rolled out at 7:15 p.m. Bissell made a strong showing early in the evening, at one point holding the top three positions on the board with Andy Jacques-Maynes, Rob Britton and Paul Mach. Starting 120th, teammate Frank Pipp topped Jacques-Maynes with a time of 3:39, but he was soon toppled by David Tanner (Fly V Australia), who registered a 3:38.
Tanner held his place atop the race for just more than 10 minutes, as Dowsett, less than a week after winning the European time trial championship in Turkey, stopped the clock in 3:35.
“I didn’t expect it today,” said Dowsett. “I did Europeans Friday afternoon and was very ill afterwards and I haven’t ridden a bike since then, traveling from Turkey to England to here, so I wasn’t expecting much.”
Dowsett’s time held as the sun set and the light began to fade. The speeds did not follow suit, however, and when Sergent crossed the line at quarter to nine, the main focus from the stage announcers was Ben Day (Fly V Australia) and Sutherland on course. Sergent, the world pursuit silver medal who beat Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and other to win the Tour of the Gila TT in May, quietly overtook his teammate, finishing mere hundredths of seconds faster than Dowsett.
“It was over before you know it, really,” said Sergent. “Before I knew it, I was coming around that corner and sprinting for the line.”
The Kiwi’s time held as Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Day and Sutherland closed the day out in near darkness.
Sergent admitted afterward that he felt some pressure, mostly internal, to do nothing short of win Tuesday night.
“It was definitely suited to me, being a pursuiter and coming off the track,” he said. “I’m pretty used to those short, sharp, powerful efforts, so coming second at the worlds at the start of the year to Taylor Phinney, I really felt like I had to win tonight. Anything else would have been a bit of a disappointment to me.”
“I wasn’t 100 percent confident,” said Sergent. “It’s been about a month since I’ve really tested the legs and tonight was all a bit of the unknown.”
The time gaps after the prologue were negligible. Just 12 seconds separate Sergent from Anthony, who finished 50th. The overall leader said he hadn’t thought much about defending the leader’s jersey as the race heads uphill Wednesday morning.
On Tap: McKenzie Pass Road Race
And he won’t have much time to think about it, either, as stage 1 rolls out at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The McKenzie Pass Road Race will take riders up a 20-mile climb from the Wilamette Valley with an early gradient that reaches nine percent before mellowing to five-to-six percent above treeline. From the summit of the race’s first KOM, riders will descend to the first sprint point in Sisters before reaching the base of the summit finish at Three Creeks Snow Park. The six-mile climb to the finish offers an average gradient of six percent and what is left of the peloton should thin out considerably in the first half of the climb.
- Last-minute entry Floyd Landis rode the prologue in a baggie, gray T-shirt after officials declared his logo’d skinsuit illegal. Landis finished 16 seconds off the win in 3:51.
- The night’s biggest cheers were reserved for locals Ryan Trebon (Kona) and Ian Boswell (Bissell). Trebon, fresh off mountain bike nationals, turned in an impressive 3:47, while Boswell stopped the clock at 3:52.
- 1. Alison Powers, Team Vera Bradley Foundation, in 3:53
- 2. Tara Whitten, Keller Rorhback Cycling Team, in 3:58 at 0:05
- 3. Alison Starnes, Team Tibco, in 4:00 at 0:06
- 4. Cath Cheatley, Colavita/baci Pro Cycling, in 4:02 at 0:08
- 5. Meredith Miller, Team Tibco, in 4:03 at 0:09
- 1. Jesse H. Sergent, Trek-Livestrong, in 3:36.79
- 2. Alex Dowsett, Trek-Livestrong, in 3:36.85
- 3. Taylor Sheldon, Holowesko Partners, in 3:36.25
- 4. Benjamin T. King, Trek-Livestrong, in 3:37.64
- 5. Nathan D Brown, Trek-Livestrong, in 3:38.26