The Cascade Classic is the longest consecutively run elite stage race in the country and has attracted most of North America’s top cyclists and teams over the years. The quality of the race courses, the beauty of Central Oregon and the fun atmosphere of the race has made it a perennial favorite and has the competitors returning year after year. This year is a 6 day race. I have been fortunate enough that my work gives me one day a year of paid time off to volunteer and I chose to volunteer as neutral water support at a feed zone on stage 3. The Cascade Classic has several races within the race including: Men’s Pro, Women’s Pro, Category 2, Category 3, Category 4, 35+, and 45+.
Stage 3 of the Cascade Classic is the Cascade Lakes Road Race. The Men’s Pro start at Summit High School in Bend and all the other races start at the Wanoga Sno-Park along Century Drive. They all climb up to Forest Service Road 45 to Sunriver and take that down to Forest Service Road 40 where they turn right. The route then goes around the Crane Prairie Reservoir before getting back on Century Drive and climbing up to Mt. Bachelor for the finish. I was going to be at the feed zone located on Century Drive at mile 62 of the Men’s Pro Race and mile 49 of the other races. This Feed Zone was the last on the route and about 22 miles from the finish.
I decided to ride up to the feed zone like I did last year and then ride back after the race. The morning was perfect for riding. In the 60’s when I started and warming up to around 80 during the day. Much better than the mid 90’s from last year. I got a bit of a late start because of watching the Tour de France and had to be at the feed zone by noon. I realized right away that I was not in as good of shape as last year but made descent time. My house is about 45 miles away from the feed zone and I hoped I would cover it in 3 hours. I rode my Trek 5500 because it had the easiest gearing and I had to ride over Mt. Bachelor to get to the feed zone. The climb up to Mt. Bachelor is not an overly steep one, from town it is 20 miles and 2,600 feet of climbing. There are several flat and downhill sections mixed in to give a bit of a break along the way.
On my way up I knew that I had the Pro Men’s race coming up behind me so my goal is not to get passed by them. I was passed by lots of race vehicles heading up to the Wanoga Sno-Park to get ready for their races that were to begin after the Men’s race went by. Many of the Female Pro’s were warming up when I passed the Sno-Park. There were also several spectators lining up at the top of the KOM when I went over the top. I realized at that point the race was not far behind so I booked it over the next couple miles to beat them to the FS Road 45 turn. I made it by about a minute and stopped to watch the race turn behind me. Over the top of Mt. Bachelor the mountains were out in all their glory and I made good time descending the backside along the lakes to the feed zone. I arrived a couple minutes late but had enough time to get ready for the racers to arrive.
If you have not ever seen a feed zone it is a chaotic place. When the pro racers come through there are pro vans all along the road and they are trying to get nutrition to their team’s riders. I was handing out bottles as neutral race support so we are trying to get bottles out to anyone who would like them. Now the problem is that there are over a 100 riders coming through in a pack and they are going around 25 miles per hour. We are standing still and trying to hand them a wet water bottles as they cruise by. Not the recipe for a calm experience. It all happens very quickly as the race passes through and for the most part all the bottle make it to the riders, occasionally one is dropped here or there and most importantly no one crashes. Last year I witnessed a rough crash caused by one of the volunteers not letting go of the bottle in time and I am happy to say there were none of those this year.
In between groups of riders we head up and down the roadside picking up discarded bottles and trash that the racers drop when they pick up new ones. This is an ongoing process throughout the day as we want to make sure to leave the area as nice as we find it. The feed zone is located along a straight stretch of road where there is a turnout so cars can park. It is only a stone’s throw from the Deschutes River and is a nice place to spend the day. There really is no shade though so it tends to be a hot day in the sun. This year I made more of an effort to stay hydrated as I really had a tough ride home the previous year. I also had brought with me so leftover pizza for lunch so I had energy for the return ride.
As the day progresses the riders continue to come though and it gets easier and easier as the races are slower making it just a bit easier to hand out the bottles. Also the feed zone starts to clear out as the amateur racers don’t have the van support like the pros do. Another thing I have noticed over the two years is that the slower the racers are the nicer they tend to be. The fast racers are a little more edgy as they come through and the ones off the back I think are just happy to see someone.
All in all the races all were a little bit ahead of schedule and we were all finished by 3:00. I had handed out an entire Rubbermaid of water bottles. Probably somewhere around 40-45 bottles and as I mentioned above, most importantly no one crashed. After we finished and cleaned up I refilled my pack and hoped on my bike for the ride home. I decided to take an easier route home as I was not sure I had the legs to climb Mt. Bachelor again. I rode down to Forest Service Road 40 and followed into Sunriver where I would get on Highway 97 back into Bend. The ride was warm and bumpy back in the forest and when I got into Sunriver I had to ride through a dirt road construction area for half a mile as well.
I kept plugging along and was happy to get on 97 even though there is some fast moving traffic. They have been working on the highway so the pavement is nice and smooth and the shoulder is really wide. It reminded me a bunch of my touring trip as I pedaled my way back home. I realized along the way that I was going to be a little later then I had hoped as my wife and I had dinner plans for the evening.
I gave her a call and had her meet me in town to save me a couple miles and minutes so we would not be late. All in all I put in 84.8 miles on the day, .6 more than the Men’s Pro Race. =) If you have not ever volunteered or watched a cycling race I recommend it. It puts a new perspective on all the things that are going on and how much support these racers need. Maybe someday I will be one of the racers, I highly doubt it though. As always, your mileage may vary.
- Gore Bike Wear Xenon Jersey – Good breathable jersey. Hard to evaluate with pack on.
- Gore Bike Wear Xenon Bib Shorts – I like the length of these shorts and they chamois is nice and comfortable. Only my lack of saddle time caused a bit of a sore bum.
- Craft Cool Superlight SL – Nice base layer but hard to test with pack on.
- Osprey Raptor 14 Pack – Held everything I needed and was comfortable to wear all 85 miles. The reservoir in the pocket kept my water cold most of the day. Was impressed by that.