In what is quickly becoming commonplace, the team once again lined up alongside 200 of the best cyclists in the world, this time at the 38th edition of the Cascade Cycling Classic. With organizers bumping the race status up to UCI 2.2 for the 2017 race, it was clear from the start it would anything but a 5-day parade.
The action started early for Anthony Fitch, who was caught up in a crash just a few miles into the opening stage. The incident cost him both a shattered wheel and a ton of precious energy due to a long chase back to the field. At the end of the 108 mile day, which ended atop McKenzie Pass at 5,325 feet, all would survive with the team’s youngest rider Joseph Garey (21 years) claiming best on the day.
At the stage 2 Skyliners Time Trial it was Garey again with the team’s best result, blazing through the 14.3 mile course in just 31:26. Not far behind Garey was long time Pacific Premier rider Chris Wyman finishing the course in just 32:29.
With 20 miles of climbing to start the day on stage 3, tensions were high as the group rolled towards the Mt. Bachelor ski area on what would become an epic day for all members of the squad. Although the group would be racing a total of 107 miles, there was little hesitation once the green flag was presented. Almost immediately the group shattered in two and the promise of a long day of suffering was quickly realized. The eventual winner of the day would complete the course, which included over 6,000 feet of elevation gain, at an average speed just shy of 28mph. The team’s one casualty of the day was Rex Roberts, who finished the stage but was eliminated by the 15% time cut imposed by the officiating committee.
As Joseph Garey stated in his recent blog summarizing the plight of the bicycle racer, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.” Stages 4 and 5, a 75 minute downtown twilight criterium and an 81 mile circuit race, proved at least part of this statement true beyond a reasonable doubt; not everyone can do it.
When the dust settled and the final calculations were in the Pacific Premier Bank Cycling Team had survived yet another battle with not only the Pro Peloton, but also with themselves. Finishing an amazing 69th in the final general classification would indeed be Joseph Garey, followed by Anthony Fitch who had fought back after his open stage mishap.
Although there would be no podium appearances on this occasion, there were still victories to celebrate. Not the least of which was the team’s determination as a group to support and encourage each other despite repeated opportunities to give in, or to give up. More than simply a challenge, bike racing often shows much like a fight for survival. And so this chapter ends with just that, another challenge, another journey survived.