Photo: Casey B. Gibson
LUIS VILLALOBOS BEST YOUNG RIDER IN CASCADE CLASSIC, 10th OVERALL
July 24th, 2017
BEND, Or. - Looking for that final push. Top ten overall. Those were the ambitions as set by Aevolo Cycling sports director Mike Creed, going into the UCI2.2 Cascade Cycling Classic. Luis Ricardo Villalobos delivered just that by finishing tenth overall and securing the white young rider jersey along with it.
"We ended up top ten, so that was good," said Creed. "There were still some spots the guys lost time when they didn't need to - but that's why we're here. To help them past these mistakes."
The McKenzie Pass Road Race formed the first stage in the five-day stage race. After 108 miles from Princeville to McKenzie Pass, Alex Howes (US national team) outsprinted Paco Mancebo (Canyon) to take the stage win. Jack Burke and Villalobos had been able to get themselves in the front group, both finishing top 25, at three seconds from Howes - and into the top four of the young rider classification, tied on time.
"Luis, Zeke [Mostov] and I had the same role for each of the stages; to make sure we had options and potentially slip one of us up the road to place higher in the overall GC," said Burke.
Four Aevolo riders started their campaign for the best young rider jersey with success. Lance Haidet and Mostov slotted into 33rd and 34th place respectively in the stage, taking up positions five and six in the young rider classification.
As the Mexican U23 time trial champion, all eyes were on Villalobos for the stage two individual time trial. The 14.3 mile course covered the Skyliners Road, going westward out of downtown Bend. A 180-degree corner seven miles into the course saw the riders return to Bend over the same road.
Villalobos posted a thirteenth time, within a minute from winner Evan Huffman (Rally Cycling). His result moved him up into the top ten overall and into the lead of the young rider classification, with Burke and Mostov moving into positions two and three.
While it was expected that Gage Hecht would do well in the stage four criterium, he already made his mark in the third stage. He finished fifth in the 108-mile stage, eleven seconds from winner Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo).
"The stage consisted of two long climbs, one at the beginning and one at the end," Hecht explained. "The first one, the group went very hard up and ended up breaking the peloton into pieces. Over the top of the climb, a large group got up the road."
"After regrouping, the main pack began to chase back the break and caught it at the base of the final climb," Hecht said. "That one was quick. A few riders managed to get a small gap about halfway up. Three guys stayed away. Behind them, it was a sprint over the top. I ended up second in that group sprint."
"Luis really helped Gage get that top five on stage three," Creed added. "It was nice to see Luis do that without much instruction or prompting. He's a real champion and will be known in a few years."
Burke rolled across the finish line in the same group, jumping up to twelfth place overall.
Hecht wouldn't be Hecht, though, if he wasn't also part of the action in the criterium in downtown Bend. The 75-minute race was full of action from start to finish. Hecht was active at the front, contesting and winning intermediate sprints.
Villalobos, Burke and Mostov safely crossed the line without any time loss, retaining their top three positions in the young rider classification.
"There was a lot of effort that the guys put in to help me achieve these results," Hecht said. "As well as keeping GC placement for Luis, Jack and Zeke."
"A lot of this was supplying everyone with water," Hecht explained. "Because Bend is high, hot and dry, there is a big need to stay hydrated. Even though there were multiple feed zones throughout the race, they were in flat sections of the course where it was near impossible to catch a bottle. The guys did a great job of carrying the water we needed up to us throughout the race."
The Worthy Brewery road race formed the fifth and final stage of the Cascade Cycling Classic, five laps on a 16.4 mile circuit, with start and finish at the Central Oregon Community College.
Mostov, Burke, Hecht, Villalobos and Haidet were all part of a group that finished within four seconds of winner Howes, who took his second stage win of the week. Robin Carpenter (Rally Cycling) secured the overall win.
Villalobos finished the Cascade Classic in tenth place overall, securing the white young rider jersey. Burke and Mostov added two GC top-15 notations for the team. With the riders' results, Aevolo Cycling finished third in the team ranking, behind American UCI team UnitedHealthcare and the US national team.
"Luis and I were able to contend a good GC overall place, but not quite contend the stages," Burke noted. "I'm disappointed with my performance here, but because of injury and illness, I had to take some time off after Beauce."
"I've been fortunate enough to be the team's GC leader at most of the race we've done," Burke added. "So it's nice the guys that have been gutting themselves for me all year got their shot at the leadership role."
While Burke looks toward a good block of time to focus on a big training block, Creed is crafting plans for another team training camp in a few weeks. "But no hard and fast plans yet," he said.
Hecht meanwhile travelled from Oregon to a cyclocross camp in Helena, Montana. "It will be a good chance to begin early preparations for the upcoming season," Hecht said.