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First stage of race finishes in Madras July 16

by: SUBMITTED ILLUSTRATION - The first stage of the Cascade Cycling Classic will stop in Madras July 16.The popular Cascade Cycling Classic, based in Bend, will expand into Jefferson County this year for the first time in the history of the race, which runs from July 15-20.

The elite race, which features international competitors, will include a grueling northern segment that begins in Maupin, passes through Simnasho and Warm Springs, and then crosses onto the Warm Springs Reservation side of the Deschutes River up past Lake Simtustus to Pelton Dam, where riders will cross over the dam and ride up Elk Drive to Belmont Lane and east to the finish line in Madras.

According to Chad Sperry, of The Dalles, race director, "We had been looking to expand, as well as increase the difficulty of the Cascade Cycling Classic in the past couple of years."

An Oregon Department of Transportation employee, Bill Hilton, who works for ODOT on permitting special events, suggested the current route.

"The key to the success of this course was to try and find a route from Warm Springs community to Madras, without tying up a significant amount of traffic on Highway 26," said Sperry, who praised the tribes and Portland General Electric for allowing the course to cross the dam, thereby minimizing the disruption of traffic.

"The beauty of this stage is it offers a unique and completely different look to the Cascade Cycling Classic, compared to the other stages," said Sperry, who has been working for months to coordinate the local portion of the event with Madras and Warm Springs officials. "The views are magnificent, and the scenery showcases the high desert terrain, with stunning views of the Cascade Range."

Locally, Joe Krenowicz, executive director of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce has been an enthusiastic supporter of bringing the event to town.

"This will be a great opportunity for a summer event which will occur in the middle of the week," said Krenowicz, noting that besides the cyclists themselves, there will be support staff and relatives staying in town on Wednesday, July 16. "This group typically has their own motor homes, or stays in hotels. The next morning, they go on to the next segment."

Every year, the event attracts 200 professional male cyclists — the largest pro men's field in the county — and 120 professional female cyclists, all of whom accumulate points for the national cycling circuit.

In its 35th year, the Cascade Cycling Classic is the country's longest running professional race, and has a National Racing Calendar rating of 2.2, which means it is one of the top-ranked events in the country.

"Events ranked at 2.1 are actually on the world circuit," Sperry explained. "There are currently four events in the U.S. that are part of the national circuit; they carry more weight and prestige, but their fields are smaller, drawing only 120-150 riders. Cascade is the most prestigious and largest on the national circuit for men."

"For the women, we are the largest, toughest, and most significant race in North America," he said, adding the the U.S. has no world circuit events for women.

Although Bend has long been the center of this event, organizers have expanded to other communities. Last year, Prineville, Sisters and Redmond were all part of the six-day route for the race, which was started in 1979, and has had well-known participants, including Lance Armstrong, who won the race in 1998.

The last North American to win the race was Levi Leipheimer in 2008. Last year's winner, Sergei Tvetcov, hailed from Moldova, while a Spaniard, Francisco Mancebo was the overall winner the two previous years.

The announcement that Madras will be the location for the finish line for the first stage of the race comes just one year after the Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway — a 30-mile scenic bike route in Jefferson County — was accepted as one of the "the best of the best" routes in the state.

The news also comes on the heels of the February announcement that Cycle Oregon would include a similar route in its schedule, which will bring about 2,200 riders to Madras for three days in September.

In contrast to the more leisurely Cycle Oregon event, the Cascade event is a race, with competitors vying for first place in the challenging event.

The finish line for the Cascade Cycling Classic will be on Southwest Second Street, near Friendship Park.

"The setting is beautiful and the location in town will make for a really fun finish and way for us to showcase the city of Madras," said Sperry.

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