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Hood River pedalers impress on home course

June 8

Luke Pennington arrived at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic’s fifth-stage finish line Sunday in the bed of a pick-up truck, with a wool blanket protecting him from the rain.

He rode the final 60 miles of the course in this vehicle, rather than the blue Trek 5200 road bike which he had ridden to a third-place finish one day earlier in the Downtown Criterium Race.

Pennington broke his chain 15 miles into the last stage, just past the Dee mill and just before the race “really” began near Whatum Lake Road.

“I was really gunning for this stage (the Three-Summit Road Race),” Pennington said. “The two I was going for were the Crit and this stage. This was the king of all the races.”

The broken chain cost Pennington eight valuable minutes — too many for a competitor whose hopes for a top-10 overall finish in a field of 75 hinged on a top-30 finish in the final stage.

“There’s no way you can make up eight minutes,” he said.

By dropping out of the race, Pennington dropped to 50th overall, giving the 10th spot to Ryan Trebon, who was one of five Oregonians to finish in the top 10.

Washington native Russell Stevenson, who finished second overall at the inaugural event last year, finished first this year in the absence of last year’s champion, Dylan Sebel. Oregon native Evan Elkan gained from Sebel’s absence as well, finishing second.

Just 16 hours before the overall winners were announced, Pennington was breaking away from 72 of his competitors along with Stage 5 winner Adam Curry and Chad Nicholz, who finished 38th overall. With his hometown crowd rallying him from the Full Sail brewery, as well as the finish line, Pennington held on to the third spot.

Pennington’s sister, Alice, and his father, Jim, also competed in the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic.

Alice, a professional mountain biker and Oregon State University student, finished second overall — three minutes and one second behind winner Lisa Magness.

After starting the Classic with a 19th-place finish in the Panorama Point Prologue, Alice slowly chipped away at the lead, and finished with one of her finest-ever races to win Stage 5.

Her time of 4:21:47 not only beat Magness by one minute, 14 seconds; it was more than five minutes better than every other women’s competitor in the field.

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Among the other local highlights was White Salmon, Wash., racer David Zimbelman, who performed very well in the final stage — despite an untimely flat tire — to finish fourth, and ninth overall in the Masters division.

Marty Burck of Hood River also raced strong, finishing 12th overall in the Masters. Meanwhile, Jim Pennington — a top-10 Masters finisher in 2003 — finished 15th in the 40-and-over division.

In the Category 4 (sport) men’s race, Hood River local Toby Meierbachtol, racing for Disco Velo, won both the overall race and the “king of the mountains competition” decisively over Portland’s Matthew Wolpert.

Meierbachtol’s time of 3:53:44 in Stage 5 was 40 seconds ahead of Wolpert, and 6:52 ahead of another Disco Velo rider, Cary Mallon, who finished in 4:00:36 to surge into 13th place overall.

Fellow Disco Velo team rider Brian Towey finished the Three-Summit race in 4:13:29 (25th place), while Dan Kleinsmith finished 38th in a time of 4:33:01. Towey finished 25th overall, while Kleinsmith took 36th.

In Category 3, the best overall finish for the Hood River riders was Ted Cramer, who finished 13th — about four minutes behind the winner, Sean Van Horn. In addition, Tre Hendricks placed 20th in Category 3.

For the local women, Alice Pennington was the big winner, taking second place overall. But in the end, everyone who participated was a winner.

“It’s fun for the amateur locals like myself to be able to ride against some of the best riders around the Northwest,” said Kristen Dillon, who finished 15th overall. “It’s terrific to see the sport of road racing take off here in town, and it’s been great to see such an elite group of riders come through here.”

Dillon said she enjoyed Sunday’s Three-Summit race the most, and she was pleased to compete this year and “not just try to survive.”

“In terms of soreness, I’m somewhere in the middle,” she said after placing 13th in 4:46:30. “I rode as hard as I possibly could, and I feel like I made some progress since last year. That’s what I will take away from this competition.”

Dillon was also vocal in her praise of race organizer Chad Sperry, and Discover Bicycles owners Shane and Julie Wilson.

“They are all so committed to this event, and they deserve a ton of credit for making it happen,” she said.

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