(View Photo Gallery)
(All images © J. Maus)
After Tuesday’s opening Prologue, the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic made its way a few miles east to Mt. Tabor Park where over 200 of the nation’s fastest cyclists competed in a 1.3 mile, multi-lap criterium race.
A warm sun, high clouds, and spring flowers welcomed a healthy crowd. They were treated to a perfect race for spectators that including grueling climbs, sharp corners and a downhill that catapulted the pack of racers at speeds of over 40 mph.
Standing just inches from the pack, I nearly lost my hat from the draft as they whirred by.
The action started with the women, and among the star-studded field was none other than Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli. By all measures, the 49 year-old Longo-Ciprelli is a living legend. With 51 French and world championships under her belt, she is still a threat to her competitors — many of whom are less than half her age. In a story on VeloNews yesterday, one of the competitors said she was “just in awe” at the thought of racing with her.
Longo-Ciprelli — wearing the racing uniform of Team River City Bicycles (they put together a composite team for the event) — finished 19th yesterday and I caught up with her after the race.
“I’ve raced in Idaho before and always wanted to ride in Oregon,” she said with a thick French accent. Peering out beyond the trees into the Mt. Tabor neighborhood she added, “There are many green areas here… it is quite beautiful. In France, in the city, we don’t have this many parks and quiet places.”
I asked her what keeps her going. “I try to get fun in what I’m doing,” she replied, “when the race is like today [her eyes shot skyward to clear blue skies] it is fun… but I did not like so much the rain yesterday.”
“I try to get fun in what I’m doing.”
–Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli when asked how she stays motivated
Longo-Ciprelli said she looks forward to the rest of her week in Oregon. As for her chances to snag a stage win or finish atop the general classification? I doubt anyone will count her out.
Back to the racing action — the men’s field tackled Mt. Tabor’s dreaded climb. As their race wore on, the crowd filled in. Just after the start/finish line, near the playground, the largest crowd had assembled and at least one group clanged a bell and screamed encouragement (and other things I can’t mention here) at the passing racers.
These men and women needed all the encouragement they could get. They raced their hearts out and the climbing took its toll. Check out a before and after portrait of local cyclocross legend Erik Tonkin:
He wasn’t the only one feeling the pain:
The Mt. Hood Cycling Classic left Portland last night and today the racers have another challenging stage — an 18 mile circuit up near Cooper Spur Mountain Resort (23 miles south of Hood River).
— View the BikePortland.org Mt. Hood Classic Photo Gallery (82 images).
— Follow the results at MtHoodCyclingClassic.com.