Wow, such an amazing race. I was already amazed by the beauty of the time trial and the fun of the downtown crit, but the queen stage was just mind-blowing.
We expected rain and prepared for an epic day in the saddle, we spent ample time on the Marc Pro and dialed in what Clif we were going to be eating and drinking during the stage. 10,000 ft of climbing and some 95 miles through the remote mountains surrounding Mt. Hood. Justin, Art, and Nick gave me the lowdown on the course, where you can let everyone else uselessly battle each other for position, and where you definitely need to get in the game and move up. All of us were hoping that with Art and my help, we could keep the front group selection as steady as possible and give Justin a shot at winning the stage race overall.
Nick decided to drive the team car, which unfortunately, turned out to be incredibly important.
Art flatted on the first climb but swapped wheels super fast with the help of our awesome new “swag-neur”, Nick. He caught back up to us no problem. The pace was tough and we shelled tons of guys, but they all scrambled back to the peloton. It was during this scramble that disaster struck on a small descent from the KOM line where the road narrowed whilst turning left onto a slippery wooden bridge. I had no idea what had happened behind me, but when I saw that Justin and Art weren’t in the group going into the 2nd climb, I started to get a sinking feeling.
“Maybe gaps opened up on the descent and they’re still riding back to the group”, I hoped to myself.
As the climb continued and the pace ramped up, they were still nowhere to be seen. Thats when a couple guys reattached to the reduced field, one said Justin Rossi had crashed. Our friend, Kurt Wolfgang, said that he had seen Justin and he was moving around… Still, it sounded like his race was over.
Things got decisive over the 3rd climb and I made it into the front group of about 10 riders, while there was still a breakaway of 2 up the road. A ton of guys caught up when we started going really slow because no one wanted to drive the pace. The descent into Hood River Parkdale was a little bit insane. The final climb was agonizing at first, my legs just did not want to work. Things got fast and I was starting to get dropped.
Nick drove up. “HD!! Put your head down and catch them!! This race is almost over!!”
I gave it a quasi-finishing sprint, hoping I could make it up and then recover a bit in the draft. I made it and it seemed my legs were awake finally. The whole group was breaking apart so I kept bridging from one group up to the next. My legs were so toasted that I couldn’t really do any good power while seated, I just had to stand and throw the bars side to side really hard to keep going fast enough. Finally I finished, totally spent. 17th on the stage, easily my best result of the season up to that point, and the finish put me in 17th overall. Not bad, but it would have been awesome to help Rossi take a shot at the overall win. It was a bittersweet end to the race, but it was dramatic, epic even, and we’ll all remember our team’s crazy storyline from the last Mt. Hood Cycling Classic.
Here is a link to a more detailed general race report I wrote for NorCal Cycling News that you may enjoy.