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Gord Fraser has participated in numerous Cascade Cycling Classics over the years as either a racer or a team director.
A three-time Olympian with more than 200 career wins, who is now the director of Floyd’s Pro Cycling Team, Fraser knows how crucial it was for the competition to return after a one-year hiatus.
“It’s difficult times for road cycling in North America, so this is the one major spark that road cycling has,” Fraser said. “It’s great to see (race director) Bart Bowen involved, a guy who’s put his heart and soul into cycling, both as a racer and now as a race promoter.”
The 39th CCC started with a bang Wednesday, as the pro men and women competed in the Tumalo Circuit Race along a course that included gravel sections.
Floyd’s Pro Cycling has one of the most talented teams in the race, including two-time CCC champion Serghei Tvetcov. Another Floyd’s team member, Alexander Cowan, won the first of five stages on Wednesday.
The pro fields are smaller than normal for the CCC — 83 for the men and 39 for the women, less than half the size of the fields in 2017 — as the race is no longer sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and some teams could not adjust their schedules to get to the race in late spring that has been historically staged in mid-July.
“We’re really excited to be here,” Fraser said of Floyd’s Pro Cycling team. “It goes a bit against our grain. It’s not UCI; it’s not Pro Road Tour. But it’s the Cascade Cycling Classic. It’s a legendary race, and of course we’re here to support the race as best we can.”
Bowen, who took over the organization of the race and started the CCC Youth Foundation, has made some significant changes to the stages, starting with the gravel sections in Wednesday’s Stage 1. Most riders seemed to embrace the change.
Wednesday’s pro women’s winner Jasmine Duehring, said this was her sixth or seventh CCC and called the event her favorite race of the year.
“I was out here two years ago, and it was great as always,” Duehring said. “So I was sad when it was off the calendar, but it’s come back now and I think it’s better than ever.”
Thursday’s Painted Hills Road Race is an new stage that will include 8,500 feet of climbing for the men and 7,200 feet for the women through dramatic terrain near Mitchell.
Saturday’s brand-new Twilight Criterium will take place in southwest Bend near McKay Park and the Pavilion instead of its traditional location in downtown Bend.
Fraser said that longstanding races like the CCC continuing to be staged is “imperative for the health of the sport.”
He added, “The race was going on when Bend was a very, very small town. To see this town explode into the recreation capital that it is, it’s pretty cool. I think it’s only fitting that they have their professional cycling race back.”