Mt. Hood releases 2012 route info
HOOD RIVER — The Mt. Hood Cycling Classic will revive two former stages for the race’s 10th anniversary edition June 8-10 in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Scenic Gorge Time Trial is back again this year, along with the return of the Columbia Hills Road Race. MHCC director Chad Sperry of Breakaway Promotions also moved the 2012 event, which features four stages over three days, back one week from its traditional spot on the schedule in hopes of avoiding the need to clear snow from the race route, an effort that has been required each of the past two years.
USA Cycling will sanction the men’s and women’s Pro/1/2 races, allowing riders holding UCI Continental licenses to compete. OBRA will sanction the remaining races, which include Masters 40+/50+men, Cat 3 men, Cat 4 men and Cat 3/4 women.
The racing begins Friday, June 8, with the return of the Columbia Hills Road Race outside of The Dalles about 25 miles east of Hood River. This relatively flat stage could provide a good opportunity for the sprinters before the roads turn uphill. The 18.6 mile loop features just a couple relatively gentle climbs and a speedy downhill run into the finish at the rural Petersburg one-room schoolhouse southeast of The Dalles.
The same course was used for the MHCC in 2006 and 2007, and each of those races ended with big bunch sprints. In 2006, Greg Henderson, racing for HealthNet, took the win in front of Symetrics’ Andrew Pinfold but was relegated for irregular riding. The next year, Bissell’s Ben Jacques-Maynes won a mass field sprint in front of Phil Zajicek (Navigators) and Jeff Louder (HealthNet).
The route has since been used for smaller fields of the Cherry Blossom Classic in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The winners of each of those stages came from solo or small breakaways of varying distances, proving this can be one tough course if there’s a strong wind blowing up from the Gorge onto the exposed Columbia Basin farmland. The men will cover four laps for just under 75 miles. The women will race three laps for about 60 miles.
Saturday, June 9, will be a challenging doubleheader with a morning time trial and evening criterium. The Scenic Gorge Time Trial course returns by popular demand after the race featured a shorter course near Mt. Adams in 2011.
“Mt. Hood is going to be tough in that it’s compact and there’s a lot of stuff,” Sperry said. “But we got a lot of complaints that we weren’t running that time trial course. So we’re bringing it back.”
Considered by many to be the most beautiful time trial course in America, this individual 18.5-mile test starts west of The Dalles and heads up and through the looping switchbacks leading to Rowena Crest. Riders then head down past orchards and farmland into the tiny town of Mosier before climbing again up through the tunnels and vistas of the Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway pedestrian/bike path and the finish in Hood River.
For every inch of scenic beauty along the course, there’s an equal or greater amount of pain. If the two significant climbs tucked in amongst the many rollers aren’t challenge enough, the Gorge winds that can howl through the exposed areas have been known to blow a rider from one side of the road to the other.
Riders will need to leave something in the tank for the Downtown Hood River Criterium later that day. The traditional 1km Hood River course is back Saturday evening with its technical downhill 180-degree corkscrew turn and reciprocal climb back to the finish after four more corners and 60 feet of elevation gain.
“It’s going to add a tremendous amount of challenge coming off a tough, tough time trial course and then having to compete in a tough criterium,” Sperry said.
The oddly shaped six-corner course loops around the Full Sail Brewery in the middle of town, and the local Hood River fans show up in force to support the event and cheer for the day’s heroes. Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12′s Kaitlin Antonneau won the women’s race in 2011 after lapping the field with a small group that included local hero Jade Wilcoxson, who now races for Optum/Kelly Benefit Strategies. Mike Olheiser, who is racing for Competitive Cyclist this year, soloed away on the first lap of the 2011 men’s race and held off the field for more than an hour to take the win.
The Three Summits Road Race is back on Sunday, June 10, to serve as the queen stage and finalè for the second year in a row after a prolonged absence. The classic alpine course winds, climbs and descends deep into the Mt. Hood National Forest on primitive single-lane forest service roads. Living up to its designation as the queen stage, the Three Summits Road Race often decides the overall podiums as well.
The men’s course climbs 10,000 feet over 91 miles, while the slightly shorter women’s course covers 70 miles with 8,200 feet of elevation gain. The race starts at the Cooper Spur Resort on the east side of Mt. Hood before looping around the narrow mountain roads that navigate the ancient forests and hidden lakes on the mountain’s north side. The climb to the finish at the Cooper Spur Ski area ends with more than a mile of silty gravel road. Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12′s Kristin Armstrong won the race last year in front of Canadian Clara Hughes and teammate Kristin McGrath. Yahoo! Cycling’s Nate English, who rides for the Kenda/5-Hour Energy team this year, won the men’s stage and the overall.
2012 Mt. Hood Cycling Classic:
Friday, June 8 – Stage 1, Columbia Hills Road Race
Saturday, June 9 – Stage 2, Scenic Gorge Time Trial
Saturday, June 9 – Stage 3, Downtown Hood River Criterium
Sunday, June 10 – Stage 4, Three Summits Road Race