The Queen stage of the Mt Hood Cycling Classic was the last opportunity for the contenders to shake up the GC but after all the attacks, no changes to the leader of the overall after Stage 4.
In the men’s race, only 31 seconds divided the three men at the top of the classification before the start of the stage, Rory Sutherland (Health Net-Maxxis) in front of Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) and Darren Lill (BIMC).
The pace was high as soon as the race got started, so much so that the media car was stuck behind the peloton as they started so fast. Neil Shirley (Jittery Joe’s), Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing), Symmetrics and Bissell riders and other were all trying to launch the break for the day to challenge the 101 miles with 11,200 feet of climbing course that finished off at Mt Hood Meadows ski resort.
Finally at around 35 miles (56 k) into the race, a 10 man break escaped from the field – Omer Kem (Bissell), Caleb Manion (Toyota-United), Kelly Benefit/Medifast pair of Andy Bajadali and Dan Bowman, Cal Giant teammates James Mattis and U23 National Champion Max Jenkins, Alister Ratcliff (Fiordifrutta), Jamie Sparling (Trek Red-Truck), and Successful Living duo JR Grabinger and Alessandro Bazzana were off. Sensing that this was the right break, Aaron Olson and Teddy King, both from Bissell jumped from the peloton and started to chase. Kem dropped back to assist his teammates.
Bissell trio trying to bridge to break below Mt Hood
At about 50 miles into the stage, the trio connected with the break, and working well together, the dozen riders started to increase the gap to over two minutes. Perfect tactics by Bissell to put pressure on Health Net-Maxxis, as King, with 1:41 from the leader before the start of the stage, became the virtual leader on the road.
With less than 20 miles to go, and with the gap hovering above 3 minutes, other teams sent riders into the rotation to assist Health Net-Maxxis in trying to reel in the break. BMC sent in two riders to protect Lill’s GC position which was threatened by King. Symmetrics also sent in riders, but their motive for doing so is much more nebulous.
With 10 miles to go, the gap was down to 2 minutes and 50 seconds. With 3 miles to go, Bazzana, Kem and Bowman came to the front to try and set up their respective teammate for the stage win, and Mattis took advantage of the opportunity.
“Coming up the climb with 5K to go, and I knew that we were on where the course came in last year, basically three of the teams sent one guy in at front, one guy pulled off and there was a gap behind him, the guys were sort of waiting for the finish, they all started to play games. I just like ‘boom’, and they just sort of looked at each other back there, and Caleb came up.” said Mattis.
The field was close on the heels of the disintegrating break, and they could see the pair up ahead in the final uphill meters to the finish. Winner of last year’s Wy’East stage, Lill launched an attack to drop Jacques-Maynes on the final climb as the field caught the remnants of the break. GC leader Rory Sutherland jumped on Lill’s wheel.
Jacques-Maynes could not keep up with Sutherland and Lill, and lost 16 seconds, and moved down to third place on GC.
Bajadali kept the KOM jersey with the help of his teammate Bowman.
The Sucessful Living team was satisfied with the results of today’s stage as they moved up from eighth to third place in the team classification, with Brad White finishing at 1:29 from Manion.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to cover both the women’s and the men’s race during this stage, so no photos.
In the women’s race, an early break composed Martina Patella (ValueAct) and Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine) was off the front, and the Aaron’s team, driven by Meredith Miller, led the chase. Jeannie Longo added her tremendous power to the chase in the final miles.
“The way the course was laid off, you knew that it was going to come down to the last 2 miles which is a shame because then a lot of time the people will sit around and wait.” said Mara Abbott, riding for the composite team Discover Bicycles/Athletes for a Cure.
After praticing patience, Abbott jumped from the field led by a weaving Longo to catch the break of the final climb to Mt Hood Meadows ski resort to win stage 4.
Longo, also riding for a composite team River City Racing, crossed the line 23 seconds behind with GC leader Julie Beveridge (Aaron’s) on her wheel. Last year’s overall winner, Leah Goldstein (ValueAct) finished in fourth place, 29 seconds behind Abbott.
Beveridge kept her lead in the overall classification with 13 seconds ahead of Goldstein, and fifteen seconds to Longo. Abbott, in fourth place, reduced her gap to 27 seconds before the final stage.