With a little help from a local kid during a long ride, Alex Howes surged across the finish line first atop windy McKenzie Pass to take Stage 1 of the pro men’s Cascade Cycling Classic on Wednesday.
Howes, racing for a composite U.S. national team, finished the 108-mile stage from Prineville to the 5,325-foot Cascade mountain pass in 4 hours, 2 minutes, 36 seconds.
Bend’s Dillon Caldwell, a regional rider teaming up with Howes and three World Tour riders on the U.S. team this week, got into a 14-rider break early in the stage to help set up Howes’ victory.
“We’re super happy with him,” Howes said of Caldwell, 27. “When you have a composite team like this, you really want to let the younger guys have an opportunity when they can take them. When he was in that break we were 100 percent behind him. All right, man, here you go. It’s your shot. We had full faith in him.”
Spaniard Francisco Perez Mancebo of Hangar 15 Bicycles finished second with the same time as Howes, and Robin Carpenter of Holowesko was third with the same time.
The breakaway had about a two-minute lead at the bottom of the final climb near Sisters, but Howes and teammates Peter Stetina and Kiel Reijnen drove the main pack hard up the final climb to catch the break about halfway up the pass.
Reijnen rode hard near the finish, then let Howes take it to the line.
“Kiel took it into the corners,” said Howes, 29 and of Boulder, Colorado.
“All I had to do was the last 100 meters, really. It’s funny, because Kiel is, like, probably my biggest rival. So I’m sure it stings for him to give me the win today. He could have won if he wanted it but he just gave it to me.”
As World Tour riders, Howes, Stetina and Reijnen often race in Europe. Howes rides for Cannondale Drapac and Reijnen and Stetina for Trek-Segafredo. They are using the CCC mainly as training for bigger upcoming races, but they said they will race for stage wins and the overall win here if they can.
“We’ve always been good friends,” said Howes, who raced in the Giro d’Italia earlier this season. “It’s a fun group of guys because we have a few young guys, and a local with Dillon. So far it’s been a good trip and it’s fun racing back in the States. When you get to the end of a long season like this, a lot of times you can forget how fun racing can be. So we wanted to come out to Bend. It’s a great town.”
Howes is training for the Colorado Classic next month, and Stetina and Reijnen for the Vuelta a España in August and September.
Howes said he could lose some time on two-time CCC winner Mancebo and Carpenter, last year’s winner, in Thursday’s Skyliners Time Trial, and he does not have a time trial bike because he could not fit one on his car for the drive from Colorado to Bend.
“But if anything, that will make this a more interesting race because we’ll have to be more aggressive later in the week,” Howes said. “It should be a good race to watch.”
Caldwell said it was a hard day. He finished 14:58 back after riding in the break all day, but he was ecstatic that his U.S. teammate claimed the stage win.
“Having a guy up the road made it possible for our team to let some pressure off,” Caldwell said. “Alex took the win, so it was a successful day. Just knowing the course so intimately is really helpful. I felt really confident the whole time, knowing what was coming up next and knowing where I could let off a little bit and where I could make up time.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,