A summertime tradition staged in mid-July since 1980, the Cascade Cycling Classic this year will take place May 29-June 2, with a new focus on junior and amateur racing in addition to the five-stage pro men’s and women’s races. With the goal of introducing more kids to cycling and expanding local engagement in the event, the CCC is offering a variety of youth events and spectator activities during the all-day Sul Fiume Criterium and Cycling Festival on June 1.
“The festival day is a huge part of what we’re trying to accomplish, because we’re really bringing a community involvement back to the Classic,” says Bart Bowen, race director for the CCC. “How do we reengage the community in this great event and still put on a pro race that is high level? How do we create opportunities to introduce youth to cycling in general? We’re lucky that in Bend, we have a lot of kids on bikes who have a lot of opportunities. When you look outside of Bend, even in Central Oregon, there’s a lot of kids who don’t even have a bike.”
Bowen has established the CCC Youth Foundation, the mission of which is to get more children and teens riding bikes in Central Oregon. This year’s race — the 39th edition of the CCC — will include men’s and women’s junior categories (ages 15-18) that will race four stages of the classic. The Criterium and Cycling Festival will include racing opportunities for even younger riders before the new Twilight Criterium near The Pavilion.
The criterium was moved from downtown Bend so there would be enough room for the festival, which will encourage participation in cycling activities, as well as spectators. Youth races and activities include the Strider Adventure Zone and a High School/Middle School Grand Prix. The festival also will feature food, a beer garden and live music.
The Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation had operated the CCC as a fundraiser, but increasing costs, traffic concerns and other issues prompted the foundation to look for another owner after the 2017 race. Meanwhile, longtime race director Chad Sperry stepped down.
In December 2017, Visit Bend, the city’s tourism organization, stepped in as the race’s main stakeholder, and Bowen, founder of Bend-based Bowen Sports Performance, took over as race director. The dates for the race were moved largely to avoid increasing conflicts with the peak tourism and traffic season of midsummer in Central Oregon.
According to Bowen, the CCC was canceled in 2018 because there was not enough time to plan the event after the race changed ownership and format. Worthy Brewing in Bend is the Classic’s title sponsor for 2019, as was the plan for 2018.
“It takes time to get people on board and reenergized,” Bowen says. “We reinvented some things. At this point, we have a lot of entries coming in, and it’s amazing to feel the fruits of our labor coming to fruition. It’s really starting to come together.”
Bowen says he is expecting a total of 400 racers across all categories.
The 2019 Classic will take place on many of the same roads as in past races, but the stages are virtually all new.
Pro racers will start their five-stage race May 29 with the Tumalo Circuit Race just north of Bend, which will include 3-mile and 1-mile gravel sections. The May 30 stage will be the entirely new Painted Hills Road Race that passes through Mitchell and the John Day River canyon, 80-plus miles northeast of Bend in Wheeler County.
“It’s hard, and it’s not really well-known by cyclists outside of Oregon,” Bowen says of the Painted Hills stage. “That time of year, it’s not excruciatingly hot. Doing it in July is impossible. I think it’s an area that will be talked about for a long time after the first time out there. It’s a little bit away from Bend, but we want to showcase Central Oregon, and this is a big piece that has never been out there.”
The May 31 stage will be the Cascade Lakes Road Race, which in late spring will not include the climbs to Mount Bachelor the stage has featured in the past. It will, however, include a new 2-mile gravel section.
The June 1 stage, will feature the Twilight Criterium at its new location, and the final stage, on June 2, will be a new version of the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race in northwest Bend. The pro race will not include a time trial this year.
“Every day really offers the opportunity for some significant changes in the race (leaders),” Bowen says.
Amateur and junior riders will race over three days in the Cascade Lakes Road Race on May 31, the Good Dog Time Trial and Twilight Criterium on June 1, and the Awbrey Butte Circuit Race on June 2.
“I definitely think it’s important to get more kids on bikes, and I’m really glad that Bart is doing more junior-focused racing,” says Ryder Uetrecht, a 17-year-old Bend rider on the Bear Development Team. “The Cascade has definitely been something that I’ve been wanting to do my whole life, because I used to have teams stay at my house, back in the old days of it. I think it’s going to be really good for getting more juniors from the community to come to these events and race more, hopefully.”
Uetrecht added that the new stages will be “a good, refreshing take on the Classic.”
For all the changes to the CCC, the one most noticed will likely be the new venue for the criterium, which over the past four decades has drawn thousands of spectators to downtown Bend on mid-July evenings.
Bowen says it was a tough decision to take the criterium out of downtown. But in order to provide the festival and expo, he said, it had to be moved.
“You just can’t facilitate that in the downtown area,” Bowen says. “There’s too many (street) closures, not enough parking, and not enough space for a big expo. The Pavilion area works because there’s parking, infrastructure, and a great course that’s very technical but exciting. And we have the potential to grow. There can be a lot of activities going on in one place and getting more involvement in the Cascade Cycling Classic.”