Alison Powers is back in the same-colored jersey she left Bend with a year ago.
The 2012 women's overall winner of the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic claimed the first stage of the 2013 CCC Tuesday night, finishing the 2.5-mile Tetherow Prologue in 4 minutes, 53.33 seconds.
Powers will wear the yellow leader's jersey for today's first stage of the five-stage Classic, the 74-mile McKenzie Pass Road Race.
The 33-year-old from Pinecliffe, Colo., who rides for NOW and Novartis for MS, was the only rider in the women's field to finish under five minutes. Shelley Olds of Team TIBCO finished second in 5:02.64. Laura Brown of Colavita was third in 5:04.93.
That gives Powers a nine-second lead in the overall standings, a pretty sizable time gap considering the brevity of Tuesday's race.
Tuesday's course was a loop on roads around the Tetherow Golf Club in southwest Bend.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong won the prologue at last year's CCC shortly before pulling out of the Central Oregon event to head for the London Olympics.
“Since Kristin's not here, I really wanted to win,” Powers said of the prologue. “Day by day, but day No. 1 you gotta win, and so I'm super happy to have a good race and really put a fair amount of time into the other (overall contenders). We have our work cut out for us, for sure.”
Powers said she was able to take a break from racing before traveling to Central Oregon for the Cascade Classic.
“I feel really good and fresh; I got to be at home for four weeks,” she said. “My sole focus those four weeks was to get myself ready for Cascade. So far, so good.”
Powers broke an elbow in a crash at the Redlands (Calif.) Bicycle Classic criterium in 2011, and while recovering, she made the decision to quit bike racing.
“I wasn't really having fun anymore, anyway,” Powers recalled on Tuesday. “So I was like, all right, this is a chance to see if I miss bike racing or not. At first I didn't, but then I did. And I really missed my bike. This opportunity with the team has been really awesome. They've reinstalled motivation.”
In the men's prologue later Tuesday night, Robert Sweeting of 5-Hour Energy claimed the victory, finishing in 4:28.19 as the sun set on the links golf course. Timothy Rugg of Kelly Benefits finished second (4:33.05), and Serghei Tvetcov of Jelly Belly took third (4:34.10).
Sweeting, of Asheville, N.C., is in the yellow jersey for the first time in a National Racing Calendar event.
“I've really been focused on this prologue,” Sweeting said. “And it was my goal to come out here and win it. I'm just really, really happy to be able to do it.”
Sweeting, 26, said he plans to help his teammate and two-time defending CCC champion Francisco Mancebo in today's road race.
“I'm going to do my best on the finishing climb,” Sweeting said. “I've never been in the front group on that climb before. And by front group, I mean Mancebo, because he's always by himself. I'm going to do my best to not lose too much time, and then maybe do a great stage 2 time trial. But if I pass off the jersey to Mancebo tomorrow, I think that'd be awesome.”
The 34th annual Cascade Cycling Classic continues today with the McKenzie Pass Road Race. The stage features the scenery of lava rock fields and the switchbacks of McKenzie Pass along with two gradual climbs. The first of the climbs is about 20 miles long through the switchbacks on state Highway 242. The final climb, about 10 miles long, comes at the end of the stage to the finish at Three Creek Sno-park south of Sisters.
The first of the pro men are expected to finish just before 1 p.m., and the first women are expected to finish at about 1:20 p.m.