This year’s Mt. Hood Cycling Classic was a huge success, with 310 racers showing up to compete. Early in the planning, there was a lot of concern about the number of participants that would come, since the Washington State Championships and the British Columbia cycling championships shared the same weekend.
However, the end result was that we ended up with the largest stage race in the Northwest so far this year.
Thursday and Friday started out hot, with temperatures near 90 and little to no wind. The racers were treated to the beautiful scenery and surroundings of the Hood River Valley.
Saturday brought unsettled weather and the threat of rain. All day Saturday we waited in anticipation for the Cramer Mortgage Services Downtown Criterium.
Wet roads would cause the cancelation of the event as the technically demanding course would have been a nightmare to race on. Fortunately, the dark, ominous clouds stayed just to the west of us all the way through the race.
Record crowds were treated to some of the best racing in the Northwest so far in 2004. Racers agreed that this course is the most technically demanding in the Northwest, and riders were pushing the physical limits and luck as they negotiated the hairpin turns.
Then, just 10 minutes after the conclusion of the race, the skies opened up and poured rain. Sunday continued the theme of rain with much cooler temperatures. For the most part, it was dry to slightly damp out on the course until about three hours into the four-hour race.
With the climbs being brutal and the descents incredibly cold and miserable, the riders received little reprieve. In the end only the hardiest competitors finished the epic day.
In the men’s pro-elite division (Pro 1-2) a very tight race developed between Russell Stevenson of Seattle, Evan Elken of Portland, and John Hunt of Fairfax, Calif. Coming into the race, Stevenson already had a number of top finishes in the biggest races. But an overall victory had eluded him. Elken, on the other hand, was fresh off a decisive victory at the Ecology Classic race in Missoula, Mont.
After 200 miles and 18,000 feet of climbing, it came down to only 13 seconds separating the top three in one of the tightest and most exciting races this year.
Stevenson held his lead from the beginning to the end, finishing with a time of 8:02:08. Elken was only nine seconds back in second place, and Hunt was 13 seconds back to finish third.
On the women’s side, Suz Weldon of Seattle looked to add yet another victory to her collection. She led the race from stage two up to stage five, only to have a string of mishaps with a broken chain and two flat tires forcing her to finish nearly 27 minutes back of the winner.
Local phenom Alice Pennington put in the ride of her life, breaking away from the field up the second major climb of the day. She distanced herself from the field even more on the descents, throwing everything down on the tight and twisty roads. In the end, she would cruise to an impressive win of 1 minute, 14 seconds for Stage 5, and finish second overall behind Bend’s Lisa Magness.
In the downtown criterium race, Hood River wonder kid, Luke Pennington, was looking super strong in the pro-elite division. He was joined by two other riders, and the three of them worked together to put more time on the rest of the field with 12 laps to go around the Full Sail block.
In the end it was Chad Nickols from Seattle taking the stage win, New Zealand racer Adam Curry second, and Pennington third.
This event has become a huge stop for racers in the Northwest and it is due to the great local support from all of the city, county, state and forest service that this event is even possible.
A special thanks to Full Sail Brewing for filling the role of title sponsor and for funding this great event. We would also like to thank Cooper Spur Mountain Resort for hosting it, and Discover Bicycles for adding technical support. A host of other sponsors and volunteers also deserve a ton of thanks. See you next year!
Chad Sperry is the Race Organizer for the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic.