Ben's Babbles: We all have to start somewhere

June 4, 2011

The top of Panorama Point was its usual quiet self. A few bike riders sit at the top of the overlook resting for a minute before they head back down. The occasional burst of PA and radio chatter flows over the low buzz of conversation from the dozen or so people standing around waiting as riders come to the finish line.

Every year this is how the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic starts in Hood River; not with a flood but a trickle.

By Saturday afternoon the same riders huffing one-by-one to the finish in front of a few scattered eyeballs will be zipping around downtown in a tight pack with hundreds of cheering spectators lining the streets to watch the annual downtown criterium.

But everything has to start somewhere, and most often it is in a quiet, subtle way, an idea equivalent to the Panorama Point prologue. It's only through want and desire that the ideas become big.

A little under a decade ago the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic was a crazy idea drawn up by a small cluster of cycling enthusiasts.

Back then they could never imagine how big the event would grow, how many years it would go or that the Breakaway Promotions, the Gorge-based company that puts on the race, would wind up organizing marathons, numerous "Classic" cycling events and national championships in mountain and road race biking.

"Back then we thought that two races was too much to do," Chad Sperry said last week when I talked to him before the Cycling Classic.

A few days after I talked to Sperry my stomach was in my throat as I bounced along in the choppy waters of the Columbia River in pursuit of some good sailing photos from the College Sailing National Championships in Cascade Locks.

"I'm trying to find some calm water," George, my driver, shouted over the roar of the wind and the engine.

There wasn't much of that to be found, but there were plenty of sailboats to be found on the water.

Hundreds of sailors flocked to the Cascade Locks Marina over a weeklong stretch for the women's championship, team championship and co-ed championship.

"We should bring them here every year," Cascade Locks Port General Manager Chuck Daughtry said as he surveyed the sails dancing across the water.

A few years ago people would not have envisioned Cascade Locks as a sailing mecca, but the local sailing community and the Columbia Gorge Racing Association began to build the town's credibility in the sailing world piece by piece.

Even when you have big dreams, you have to start somewhere.

Two years ago it hosted the international Moth class championships; this year it's the collegiate championships, and other big events are on the horizon.

Sometimes where we have to start from is not exactly where we would prefer it to be.

On Thursday night as the women riders finished up their time trial at the Cycling Classic, Sperry began assembling the medalists to put them on the podium before the male rider began coming across the line. He found Kristen Armstrong, the No. 1 finisher, and Clara Hughes, the No. 2, but No. 3 finisher, Armstrong's teammate Allison Starnes, was nowhere to be found. Turns out she had gone back to the start line.

Organizers waited as long as they could before the first-place finishers had to head down to get out of the way. In the official podium photos fellow teammate and eighth-place finisher Kristin McGrath stood in for Starnes on the podium.

When she finally made it back to the finish a few minutes later, Starnes looked crushed.

"It's my first podium finish of the year and I missed? Seriously?" she asked.

Instead she got her picture taken standing next to Armstrong.

The team leader and race favorite said her team would try to hang on to the yellow jersey through the weekend so that Starnes could have another shot at the podium.

"I sure hope so," Armstrong said of the chances the team could finish atop the overall medal stand come Sunday. "There is going to be some pressure; we just have to race our bikes and show that we want it."

And having the want and desire to see success is always a good place to start.

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