In the final preparation for the Olympic Games, Santiago Botero (Rock Racing) and Kristin Armstrong (Cervelo-Lifeforce) followed the same strategy to win the first stage at the Cascade Cycling Classic: get into the breakaway, set a high pace, and attack on the final 1.5km climb up Pilot Butte.
The high temperatures didn’t put a damper on the attacks. Steven Cozza (Garmin-Chipotle), continuing with the aggressive riding he showed at Tour de Nez and Curtis Gunn (Successful Living) attacked very early in the 83.2 mile (134 km) but the do was reeled in about 12 miles (20 km) later.
A group managed to escape from the field and the gap started to grow. Sensing the danger, Botero, Toyota-United’s Chris Baldwin and BMC’s Jeff Louder bridged up and the group was complete on the climb to the first KOM at 50 miles (80 km) into the race.
“Slipstream had missed the break all together so they formed a pretty organized chase group leading into the climb,” Louder recounted in the BMC team report. “By the time we hit the climb, the break had maybe 20 seconds on us. Botero attacked first, coming from behind me and went across,” Louder continued, “everyone was just looking at each other, so I decided to drop it into the big chain ring and make my move.” Riding with good legs and making smart decisions, Jeff’s aggression impressed everyone. “Louder’s move was spectacular,” Nydam gushed.
Joining Botero, Louder and Baldwin in the 12-man break were BMC’s Jonathan Garcia and Brent Bookwalter, 3 Bissell riders Ben Jacques-Maynes, Jeremy Vennell and Burke Swindlehurst, Glen Chadwick and Chris Jones of Team Type 1, John Hunt (Cal Giant), and Chad Beyer (USA).
The chase was on in the pack led by Garmin-Chipotle who missed the break completely. According to DS Chann McRae, “On the climb with Levi, Peter Stetina gets to within seven seconds of the breakaway. Levi will not pull through, so they don’t close the gap and the break goes up to two minutes.”
A ktvz reporter riding in the Toyota-United car (once you get over the gee wiz they’re going fast) filmed road captain Chris Wherry coming back to the team car to get information on the break. Once Wherry understands the teams represented in the 12-man group, he makes the decision to pull his team off the chase.
In the final climb, Botero put on his after burners and accelerated to win the stage. The break behind him disintegrated, Baldwin finished six seconds back for second place and Louder was third, 20 seconds behind the Colombian. Jones was fourth while Levi Leipheimer (Astana) charged out of the field in the climb, passed the remnants of the breakaway to finish in fifth place at 25 seconds behind.
Powerful ride by Botero especially as according to the Bend Bulletin, it took 32 hours to travel from Columbia to Bend as he “mistakenly was on a flight to North Bend on the southern Oregon Coast, and in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday he had to persuade a cab driver to take him 240 miles to Bend.”
Despite past successes, it will be difficult to defend the leader’s yellow jersey from start to finish of the five-day, six-stage race, Botero said.
“Obviously I would like to hold onto the lead, but there are a lot of strong teams here,” Botero said. “Our team has a lot of young riders so it’s going to be difficult. But Rock Racing will be trying to cover all the breakaways and just take it day by day.”
The 2006 winner Armstrong continued on her show of force demoed at Nature Valley and didn’t let a broken spoke in her rear wheel slow her down. The 90-women field started 5 minutes later on the same course as the men. A 7-woman break that included Armstrong was off in the early part of the race, and had to be stopped for 30 minutes to allow the race medical staff to attend to Team Type 1′s Ben Brooks.
The break that included Aaron’s duo Julie Beveridge and Felicia Gomez, Webcor duo Christine Thorburn and Katheryn Curi-Mattis were set off with the same time gap when the race resumed. In the last miles, Webcor used its numbers to try and drop Armstrong but the US Champion followed all moves.
Armstrong put in her attack on the final climb and crossed the line 3 seconds ahead of Mt Hood winner Beveridge and 17 seconds in front of Thorburn.
“I’m training, and I’m trying to stay safe, and I’ll take the win,” said Armstrong to the Bend Bulletin. “That’s how I’m trying to race.”
Photos: Copyright Kurt Jambretz (www.actionimages.cc)
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Communique 2 , where the men are taken to task for littering water bottles: “Although many riders made a conscientious effort to deposit bottles appropriately, the littering from the men’s field was deplorable and unacceptable. If this behavior continues, the race will be shut down. Your Choice—behave or go home.”
Full results here.