At the bottom of one of the steepest climbs in the Cascade Cycling Classic, Robin Carpenter made the move that would lead to his first overall victory in a stage race.
With the help of Holowesko-Citadel teammate Travis McCabe, Carpenter pulled away from overall race leader Tom Zirbel on Archie Briggs Road, then held on along the finishing climb up Summit Drive to take third place in the 82-mile Awbrey Butte Circuit Race on Sunday.
More importantly, Carpenter got enough time on Zirbel to steal the yellow jersey and the overall win.
As pro men’s racers crossed the finish line near Central Oregon Community College in the final stage of the Cascade, many collapsed from exhaustion after racing for three hours in 90-degree heat.
But Carpenter — who was nine seconds behind Zirbel going into the fifth and final stage — was all smiles, knowing he had just won the CCC.
“This stage is always hard,” said Carpenter. “There’s those three climbs right in a row in the last 10K or so. You have to be on it. On the last part of the climb we had to keep a lot of pressure on. Travis was there and was able to commit fully to it.”
Carpenter, 24 and of San Diego, finished the race with an overall time of 12 hours, 47 minutes, 31 seconds. Lachlan Morton of Jelly Belly took second, nine seconds back, and Evan Huffman of Rally Cycling was third, 13 seconds behind. Zirbel, also of Rally Cycling, fell to fourth, 26 seconds back.
A group of about 16 riders broke away about 17 miles into the race, which included five laps of a 16.5-mile circuit along roads on and around Awbrey Butte through west Bend and Tumalo.
As the breakaway group’s lead grew to as much as 2:25, several of those riders became threats for the overall win. But the break was finally caught at the bottom of the grueling climb up Archie Briggs just three miles from the finish.
McCabe was in that breakaway, and as soon as Carpenter caught up to him, he helped lead his teammate up the final climb to the finish line.
“Coming into the stage race I knew that I had a chance because I was second (overall) last year,” Carpenter said. “And I’ve stayed close this whole week. Today is always a bit of a gamble. In the end, the race kind of just fell into our hands and I took advantage of it. It’s a great validation of my work, and also the team’s work. We had a little bit of a rebuilding year, because we lost four riders from last year. We’ve made some progress in working together. This week really felt like a team effort.”
Stephen Bassett of Team Jamis won the stage in 2:28:48, and Colin Joyce was second with the same time. Carpenter finished just three seconds back.
“I just knew it was going to be all about positioning through the first part of the final climb,” said Bassett, 21 and of Knoxville, Tennessee. “I had to stay calm and just follow wheels. I knew everyone was really tired. I knew it was going to be super long so I just took my time.”
He made his move with 100 meters to go.
“Just one bigger gear,” Bassett said, “and then I had just enough.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318, firstname.lastname@example.org .