Bedford, Walle win Banana Belt 3
HENRY HAGG LAKE — Brianna Walle (Ironclad Performance Wear) completed a clean sweep of the Cat 1-2 women’s Banana Belt series Sunday, sprinting away from the field to take the third-and-final race at Hagg Lake. In the Cat 1-2 men’s race, Team Oregon’s Stephen Bedford made the most of his only series appearance by riding to a solo finish more than five minutes ahead of the field.
Ryan Carlson (Cyclepath) was the only top series contender to score any points on the day, coming in seventh and moving into the lead for his second consecutive overall Banana Belt series win.
Forecasts for Sunday’s series finale called for more cold weather at Hagg Lake, including a chance of snow showers, but the weather around the lake cleared up nicely and remained sunny, dry and crisp until the last rider crossed the line.
Walle rode aggressively throughout the women’s combined Cat 1-2-3 race, attacking the small field repeatedly over the four-lap, 44-mile race. But it was her sprint that eventually won the day as she leaped away from the bunch up the last 200 meter wall to the finish. Cat 3 winner Alexandra Burton (Upper Echelon Fitness) came in next, followed by Heather VanValkenburg (Upper Echelon Fitness), Kristina Lackner (Hutch’s) and Lindsay Fox (Athletes Lounge).
Walle’s win Sunday also puts her in the lead for the women’s 2012 Oregon Cup.
Bedford Sails Away From Men’s Field
Cat 1-2 men stayed together for much of the first lap, but by lap two, the eight-rider Team Oregon/Laurelwood Brewing squad, which had mostly skipped the first two races of the series to compete up in Washington, seemed determined to put their mark on the seven-lap, 77-mile race.
The team first sent William Laubernds up the road. He was quickly joined by teammate Adam Edgerton and Veloce/Smith&Newphew rider Daniel Quirk. By the end of lap three the trio had more than a minute on the chasing field, where last week’s winner Colby Wait-Molyneux was trying repeatedly to break free but fell under the heavy reins of the large Team Oregon contingent.
One lap later the field had whittled the lead trio’s advantage down to 35 seconds and looked determined to end the escapee’s day. That’s when Bedford joined Veloce’s Paul Bourcier, Rapha’s Chris Hamilton, CycloSportiff’s Brandt Hueser, Therapeutic Associates’ Erik Hofland and River City Bicycles’ Ryan Weaver in a bridging group that would gobble up the trio’s advantage and add significant numbers to the break. Not satisfied with the new lead group’s pace, Bedford attacked again; this time only Bourcier was able to match his acceleration and join him off the front.
“We had a small gap but nobody wanted to work” Bedford said. “So when they sat up I attacked.”
The duo built a gap of about a minute by the end of lap five. The gap held there briefly before quickly ballooning to more than four minutes as the remnants of the lead group broke up and either dropped back to the bunch or clung to a slight lead in no-man’s land.
Bedford, who won the Mason Lake Road Race in Washington the week before, dropped Bourcier on the penultimate lap and headed out for the final circuit with a 2:05 lead on the Veloce rider, who was soon joined by Hamilton and Hueser to form a first chase group of three. But their efforts to bring back the lone leader were fruitless, as Bedford poured on the power and crossed the finish line one lap later with a 4:30 advantage over the chasers for a dominant win.
“It’s one of those things where when the elastic snaps, they just sit up,” Bedford said of his impressive time gaps. “If you keep the hammering you can build a good gap.”
Hamilton nipped Bourcier at the line to get second place. Hueser came in a few seconds later for fourth. Hofland held off the field to grab fifth place, while Team Oregon’s Scott Gray led the rest home more than five minutes behind Bedford to get sixth.
With all of the series contenders missing out on the day’s breakaways and the hot spot sprint points that count toward the overall, the race for the series win came down to the field sprint, where Ryan Carlson (Cyclepath) grabbed seventh and enough points to take the lead and the win from Matt Braun (Audi).
“I felt that I could out kick those guys based on a couple of trips up the hill past the dam,” Carlson said of his competition for the overall.
Bedford now takes a lead into the next Oregon Cup event at the Piece of Cake April 7.
Check out the PHOTO GALLERY from the entire day of racing.
Banana Belt #3
Cat 1-2 Men
1. Stephen Bedford (Team Oregon/Laurelwood Brewing)
2. Chris Hamilton (Rapha Racing NW)
3. Paul Bourcier (Veloce/Smith & Nephew)
4. Brandt Hueser (CycloSportif)
5. Erik Hofland (Therapeutic Associates)
Cat 1-2-3 Women
1. Brianna Walle (Ironclad Performance Wear)
2. Alexandra Burton (Upper Echelon Fitness) *Cat 3 winner
3. Heather VanValkenburg (Upper Echelon Fitness)
4. Kristina Lackner (Hutch’s)
5. Lindsay Fox (Athletes Lounge)