True grit wins Cycling Classic titles


News staff writer

June 7, 2006

After the sixth and most grueling stage of the Mount Hood Cycling Classic on Sunday, riders crossed the finish line at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort with looks of bliss mixed with pure exhaustion.

For men’s and women’s pro racers Nathan O’Neill and Leah Goldstein, the pleasure of winning the overall titles seemed to outweigh the fatigue of five long days of racing.

Goldstein’s win means she successfully defended her title as last year’s overall champion, this time over top-notch competitors Alisha Lion, Maria Abbott and Alison Powers, who finished second, third and fourth overall. Going into stage six, Powers held a 47-second lead over the field. She was unable to hold it, however, and finished the stage in fifth place at almost four minutes behind the top-three stage winners which dropped her to fourth overall.

O’Neill is the defending Australian National Time Trials Champion, and his strength in time trials proved to be a winning asset in the Mount Hood Cycling Classic. O’Neill jumped out to an early overall lead after the first stage, which was a time trial from The Fruit Company in Pine Grove to Panorama Point. He increased the overall lead by winning stage four, the Scenic Gorge Time Trial in Mosier, by 13 seconds. Going into the final stage of the classic, O’Neill led by 47 seconds. His fifth-place finish, at only 22 seconds behind stage winner Scott Moniger, from team Health Net, was enough to hold the overall lead.

“The level of racing was tremendous and many of the top racers put in some incredible performances,” said Event Director Chad Sperry. “Overall the race was a huge success. We had some incremental weather, but it held out when we really needed it to.”

In the Masters division, Lindsay Blount, of team Simply Fit/Action Sports, led the field of 45 male and female competitors with an overall GC time of 6 hours 58 minutes. David Zimbelman of Excel Sports finished second; Chris Daulisio, Mick Walsh and Brian McGuire rounded out the top five in the division.

In the Men’s 3 division Eric Anderson, Aren Timmel and Chris Daifuku finished within a minute of each other overall to make up the top three. In the Men’s 4, Mike McManus and Matthew Cianciulli dominated the field of 57, finishing almost five minutes ahead of the next closest competitor. The women’s 3/4 category came down to the wire between Karen Appelby-Kreig, Tracey Jacobs-Olbright and MaryAnn Levenson. The three finished in the same order, all within a minute of each other’s overall time of just under four hours.

In all, 515 riders from seven countries competed in this year’s event, ending in what organizers are calling the biggest, best and most competitive race in the cycling classic’s four-year history.

“I’m already getting flooded with e-mails from riders saying how much they enjoyed everything this year,” Sperry said. “And let me be the first to say, it was only possible with the outstanding support from the entire Hood River community. The only reason we can have an event this big in a community this small is with a huge amount of community support. I honestly believe it couldn’t be done anywhere else but here in Hood River.”

“I just want to say thanks for putting on a great event in a great place,” said Team Navigator rider Burke Swindlehurst. “The venues were beautiful, the town and its people very friendly, and the race was well organized and fun.”

In by far the most spectator-popular stage of the event, Saturday’s Downtown Hood River Criterium, literally thousands of onlookers lined the block surrounding the MHCC’s headline sponsor, Full Sail Brewing. And the riders put on quite a show. From a handful of skin-erasing crashes at the notorious carnage corner to sprint finishes in both the men’s and women’s pro divisions, stage five was loud, lively, upbeat and exciting.

For those unfamiliar with road racing, the sight of almost 100 riders screaming, wheel-to-wheel, around steep, sharp corners at high speeds begged the question, “How do they do it?” Spectators lined almost the entire course; some were posted at the corner of Wasco and Industrial to witness the occasional meeting of skin on pavement, while others lined the finish and stayed close to the music and beer garden. No matter where fans were on the course, everyone got a front row seat.

Save for a little road rash, the only downside of the downtown stage was from the women’s pro division. The race leader, Dotsie Bausch, had a 44-second lead and was favored to win the overall title. She took a sharp right on carnage corner and scraped her right pedal on the ground as she tried to accelerate out of the corner. The slight mistake caused Bausch’s bike to wash out and she hit the pavement at a high speed. The crash scraped the entire right side of her body and she was taken away in an ambulance with an eventual diagnosis of a broken collarbone.

“We feel just terrible about it,” Sperry said about Bausch’s wreck. “She’s a tremendous athlete and such a nice gal. We’re all really bummed her season ended at our event.”

For most pro racers competing on the National Racing Calendar — which the MHCC was on for the second year in a row — their next stop is the Philadelphia International Championships.

For local racer highlights and coverage of the kids’ race, see the June 11 issue of the Hood River News.

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