For both the men’s and the women’s race, the battle was for second and third spot on the overall classification as the leader, Kristin Armtrong (Cevelo-Lifeforce) and Levi Leipheimer (Astana) had an (almost) unassailable lead coming into the final stage of the Cascade Cycling Classic.
The riders were faced by heat and humidity in stage 6, the Deschutes Brewery-Awbrey Butte Circuit Race that looped around Awbrey Butte.
In the women’s race, Armstrong followed the same pattern by riding at the front, setting a high pace and start to reduce the numbers in the field, a pattern that she has repeated for most stages, keeping safe at the front. The tempo was so high that she basically detached herself from the field on the first QOM, and that set Amber Rais (Tibco) in motion. Rais jumped and bridged up on the second lap of the 4 laps of the 67 miles (108 km) stage.
Back in the field, the Aaron’s team threw in multiple attacks to try and dislodge Christine Thorburn (Webcor) from the second spot on GC and move up Julie Beveridge. But Webcor covered all moves and then the teams focused on defending their current standings.
The duo would work well together to make it to the finish line 2:56 before the field where Rais outsprinted Armstrong for the win. Webcor’s Gina Grain won the field sprint for third place.
Armstrong won the 2008 Cascade Cycling Classic overall followed by Thorburn and Beveridge. Armstrong also won the QOM classification, Beveridge was named Best Young Rider and Webcor won the team classification.
Riding without any teammates, Armstrong set the scenario in the first stage where she outsprinted her breakmates for the win, took hold of the yellow jersey and never let go. She then went on to win two more stages, the time trial and the Cascade Lakes Road Race, and increased her lead in every stage.
Last year Ricardo Escuela (Successful Living) finished second on the same stage when he started his sprint too far out. This year he timed it perfectly, outpsrinting outsprinted Shawn Milne (Team Type 1) and Bissell’s Teddy King for the win.
With 2 riders, Jeff Louder and Darren Lill, in second and third place on GC going into the final stage, the BMC team came into the stage with a primary goal of not losing any gains, as they didn’t think that the stage lent itself to gaining over two minutes on Leipheimer. As Leipheimer only had one teammate Chris Horner, the task of controlling the race came to the BMC team, and so they went to the front to keep an eye out on things.
A 12 rider break broke away from the field in the second of the five laps, and the break included the usual suspects. BMC came to the front, and kept the gap at around 2 minutes. In the final lap, with less than 10 miles (16 km), the group was re-absorbed. Leipheimer attacked, Rock Racing’s Santiago Botero and Louder jumped on his wheel but the move didn’t work as the field caught up.
In the final miles, King attacked and a select group of riders that also included Moises Aldape (Team Type 1) and Ivan Stevic (Toyota-United) went with him, and the sprint was on for the finish line.
“I kept talking to myself and told myself to toughen up and deal with the heat,” Milne said about feeling strong in the heat and humidity. “Finally, the adrenaline kicked in the last lap.”
Aldape led out the sprint for Milne and Escuela was able to come around for the win.
Leipheimer won the 2008 Cascade Cycling Classic overall followed by the BMC duo of Louder and Lill. Aldape won the KOM competition, Garmin-Chipotle’s Peter Stetina won the Best Young Rider competition and with five riders finishing in the top 15 overall, Garmin-Chipotle also took home the best team honors.
In other good news, the condition of Ben Brooks had remarkably improved since his violent crash Wednesday. The Team Type 1 rider was transferred out of intensive care Sunday and according to team report, was joking around with members of the team who visited him after the race.
Photo: Copyright Kurt Jambretz (www.actionimages.cc)
Stage video recap from KOHD-tv
Reports from Bend Bulletin
Reports and Photos from cyclingnews and velonews
Photos from Cascade Event Photography
K-Man has pics of the men’s podium over at Racing with K-Man.
Full results here.