Mt. Hood Cycling Classic rides into the sunset

Racing action starts Friday in last of event’s history

After 10 years of entertaining spectators with high-speed racing action and attracting competitors from around the world to experience some of the most grueling and scenic stages in the nation, the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic will ride into the sunset Sunday evening. And as a fitting end to the 11-year history of the event, Sunday’s final stage will put riders through what has become famous as one of the most brutal but spectacular race courses in America — the Three Summits Road Race.

Citing lack of corporate and industry sponsorship and changing interests in the world of road racing, organizers of the event — Breakaway Promotions — announced earlier this spring that this year will be the final for the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic.

“Since this is the last year we want to make sure the community takes advantage of everything the event has to offer,”  said Chad Sperry, race director. “We would love to have everyone come out and enjoy the fun one last time.”

Sperry stressed the Downtown Hood River Criterium stage Saturday as by far the most entertaining and spectator-friendly stage to watch. The course winds around a section of city blocks (closed to street traffic for the event) and allows spectators front-row seating around the entire course as riders are literally on the edge of their seats as they complete as many laps as possible on the tight, fast and very technical course. Racing kicks off at 4 p.m. for the stage and climaxes with the pro women starting at 6:45 p.m. and the pro men at 7:40 p.m.

Racers will start things the day before in the dry, rolling hills east of The Dalles with the Columbia Hills Road Race on June 21. The relatively flat stage caters to sprint-style racers, who will push the lead pack with their all-out style of racing. Racing begins in the morning at Calvary Baptist Church and ends at Columbia View Drive in The Dalles and riders will complete a number of 15.5-mile laps (number depends on division, pro men have five laps).

On Saturday, racers start the day with the Scenic Gorge Time Trial — a 19-mile battle against the clock from The Dalles to Hood River utilizing the Historic Columbia River Highway. Popularly described as the best time trial course in North America, the scenery on this stage will help ease the suffering of riders as they put their bodies to test against the clock and the Gorge’s famous west winds.

Saturday evening’s action is not to be missed. The Downtown Hood River Criterium has been a fan favorite since the stage was created, as spectators lining the course are treated with the sensation of packs of speeding bikes whizzing around the course at breakneck speeds in ridiculously tight order, often with painful consequences.

Riders trade the pucker-factor of Saturday’s action for the sheer pain and suffering of Sunday’s Three Summits Road Race, which is where the race is typically won or lost. Pro Men will cover 91 miles and 10,200 feet of elevation gain as they start at Cooper Spur Resort, end at Cooper Spur Ski Area and wind through the fresh air of Mount Hood’s north side forests in the Wahtum Lake, LoLo Pass and Red Hill areas. The final stretch for all racers will be an all-or-nothing climb from the bottom of Red Hill Road to the finish line at Cooper Spur Ski Area.

For more complete spectator information, start times, locations and course maps, visit mthoodcyclingclassic.com.

Tour de Hood

Paralleling the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, the Tour de Hood gives more moderate riders a chance to experience some of the same courses, but in a less intense atmosphere. The event also serves as a benefit to local youth programs. The two-day tour features a 42-mile Scenic Gorge Loop June 22 and a 55- or 71-mile Three Summits Challenge on June 23 where, for most, the object isn’t to win but to simply finish the course and have fun doing so.

Registration for the Tour de Hood is still open online or can be done ahead of time at the start of each stage. For more information on the event, see www.tourde hoodride.com.

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