On an absolutely beautiful course in downtown Portland, the sprinters came out and had fun in the Mt Tabor Criterium, stage 1 in the Mt Hood Cycling Classic. The riders went around an extinct volcano surrounded by lush foliage on a 1.3 mile course with 135 feet of elevation.
The riders hit the climb immediately after the start/finish line, then went around a 90 turn and then bombed down the baskside with a final turn back with a slight uphill to the finish line. Not your typical crit, and the crowd loved.
I was started to wonder if Portland was really a bike crazy town as the crowds were disappointing during the Prologue, but they made it for it at the crit. Under sunny skies, they came out and parties, families, tattooed and pierced cyclists and even mountain bikes (ha) cheered on the riders.
The biggest cheers went for the local guys, Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing), Evan Elken (Jittery Joe’s) and Erik Tonkin (Kona). I always knew when one of the Oregonians tried a move because the screams could be heard all around the course.
Back to the race, the women started off with a high tempo, with Meredith Miller (Aaron’s) giving it a go at first, but then Jeannie Longo came to the front and pulled for a few laps (yes laps).
Riders were dropped pretty early and then the women settled in, the flurry of attacks decreased in number. A few attacks were still tried but nothing went away.
“I don’t know if people are saving it for the rest of the week, I was kind of expecting it more today.” said Meredith Miller (Aaron’s) when I asked about the low number of attacks during the 60 minute crit.
US Crit Champion Tina Pic (Colavita/Sutter Home) was worried when she saw the course the first time during warm up. But that didn’t stop her from outsprinting GC leader Joanne Kiesanowski (Tibco) and Julie Beveridge (Aaron’s).
“I was scared of that course when I saw it. First I thought this climb is pretty brutal, it’s funny when we got in there, it wasn’t so bad because this part you could actually… you had a fair draft coming up, it leveled a bit, really it was just this little bit and in the pack it wasn’t as bad as alone. It was actually quite fun, it was a really cool course. It was a surprise.” said a very happy Pic afterwards.
Longo came back to the front in the final lap, drilling it again before the sprinters came by her, and she finished in 19th place in the sprint.
Continuing her winning ways Pic picked up the yellow jersey, and celebrated with her whole team.
“My team did so much work today, as usual, we’re really cohesive this year, I sat, I didn’t do much today.” said Pic.
The crowd was bigger and louder when the men took to the line. Bissell came immediately to the front of the field, patrolling and setting a high tempo, covering anything that moved. Attacks were attempted left and right, and riders tried to placed themselves the top 30 everytime over the climb, and Bissell was feeling the pressure but still nothing went.
“We made a pretty good plan before the race if it comes to the sprint to do it for Hilton, and I cover his wheel and see what comes up but at the end we were short with the leadout and I had to move in front and do a leadout for him which was perfect, that was the plan to make him win today, everything went perfect.” said Toyota-United’s Ivan Stevic.
Clarke crossed the line first with Stevic on his wheel, and Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis) in third.
“I’m going to plan to win the overall” laughed a delighted Clarke at the end “Just kidding. We’re just going to keep racing day by day and see what happens.”