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Cascade Cream Puff 100
Oakridge/Westfir, Oregon, July 28, 2002
A Race of Attrition
Report by Richard Sweet, from the Webcyclery/EWEB Windpower team
Billed as the toughest 100 mile MTB race, it boasts 18,000 feet of climbing, with more than 50% singletrack. Entry is limited to 100 participants, which is mostly done to limit the impact on the local trails but also done to keep the event manageable. It also gives it a family feeling that includes the racers and the volunteers. Started in 1995 by Scott Taylor, it went for four years without reaching the maximum number allowed and after a year off, Don Person picked up the promotion and it has filled up each year within the first two weeks.
The race consists of three laps of the same loop that is approximately 33.5 miles long with 6,000 feet gain in vertical elevation. It starts out with a 17 mile climb on gravel roads, which then leads you onto a 2.5-3 mile climb on singletrack. The top of Sourgrass Mountain is at 4,700ft, which marks the top of the climb, but the climbing not quite over - racers still see another 3-4 miles of climbing on the descent. The singletrack is a fast, twisty trail that can see speeds upwards of 30mph, but be warned - one mistake will see you sailing over the edge, dropping 100-400ft off the bank - that's if you don't hit a tree first.
There were two new sections added this year, a 2.5 mile loop at the top to replace the pavement at the bottom, and the Westfir Tie trail that skipped the pavement and dropped you onto the river trail at the bottom. The Tie trail was put in at the last moment due to construction on the Red Covered bridge, which has been the traditional spot for aid station #1 and the finish line. It has to be one of the most brutal 1 mile-long section of trail someone could find - with pothole after pothole, and begs for speed.
In the past, there were only two or three racers that even thought about trying to win, but over the past few years endurance racing has seen more and more people in actual race mode rather then just survive-and-finish mode. This year there were at least five or six possible contenders and 10-15 really wanting to actually race for 100 miles.
These hard men included:
Dale Knapp (Kona-Voicestream), 1st CCP100, 2000-2001; Erik Tonkin (Team S&M), currently 2nd overall, Oregon pro/semi-pro; Rick Hunter (Hunter Cycles), 1st CCP100, 1996, 2nd CCP100, 2001; Chad Swanson, currently 4th overall, Oregon pro/semi-pro; Brian Wilson, 14th CCP100, 2000; and Richard Sweet (Webcyclery/EWEB Windpower), 1st SS and 5th GC, CCP100, 2001
And for the women:
Anne Grande (Kona-Voicestream) 1st CCP100, 2000 & 2001; and Stella Carey (Kelly Bicycles) 1st SS CCP100, 2001
Early break rips the field apart
The race started at 5.25am with 96 starters rolling out to the base of the climb. A group of 10-12 jumped clear at the base of the climb and ripped the race apart. I was in a group of 3-4 about one minute back, at around the second mile I looked behind me and no one was around. Five miles into the race and there were 15-18 riders at the front of the race. In the past, the front group had consisted of 7-10 riders while the rest just settled into there pace for the rest of the day. Last year Dale Knapp jumped off the front and remained there all day with out much of a challenge.
Three miles up a climb I broke away from the group I was with in an attempt to bridge up to the front group. Being on a singlespeed and knowing the course I knew I had to get to them before the six mile mark, as the road flattened out for about one mile and they could cruise pretty well; I caught and dropped a couple riders until finally catching one that worked with me. As we were getting to mile six we were about 200 yards behind the front pack of what were now 5-6 riders.
As we hit the flat to downhill part of the road I was not able to spin the legs fast enough to hold the pace and dropped back. I rolled through aid #2 about three minutes back and could here 3-4 guys coming up from behind. A group had formed just behind me and soon caught me over the next two miles where the climb was more gradual. I was able to hook onto the back of the train and stay with them for about 1.5 miles until we reached another downhill. At this point I wasn't too worried since we had three miles of steep climbing coming up.
Slow-er and steady-er the way to go
The plan worked. As I crested the top, there were only three guys left with me and five riders in front of us. We came into the upper most aid station just two minutes down off the leaders. As we did the outer loop and came back into the aid there were three of us left: Rick Hunter, Aaron Kereluk and me chasing the front five, consisting of Erik Tonkin, Chad Swanson, Dale Knapp, Brian Wilson and Miguel Crawford. About two miles into the trail I had the opportunity to attack and dropped Rick and Aaron with about three-quarters of a mile to go to the top of the trail climb. I wanted to get over the top first and start the descent first as I knew the trail and figured I could put some time on them - that was the last I saw of them until the finish.
I came through aid #1 to start the second lap about two minutes behind the leaders. I caught and passed Miguel who had blown up about 4 ½ miles up the climb. He had been with the front pack until just before that and figured I was only a few minutes back. My legs were feeling the effort of lap one and I decided to find my own pace and try and recover for lap three. I came into the top aid station 11 minutes off the lead group of three now riders, as Brian had blown and decided to drop out. So now Erik, Dale and Chad were duking it out up front. I think Dale attacked first then it was countered by Erik who was able to get a lead until he flatted at the bottom of lap two which saw them come back together. I made up seven minutes on the descent coming in aid #1 4 minutes behind them.
Mind goes into survival mode
So far I had ridden all 66 miles but about 6-8 miles of the race alone and was hurting pretty bad. Lap #3 took its toll on me as well as the others out on the course: it was getting warmer, close to 90 degrees - you were not able to climb fast enough to create any wind to try and cool you and the air was very still for the first eight miles of the climb. I kept expecting to get passed as I was suffering up the climb - my mind went into survival mode and kept the legs turning but on a singlespeed, when you crack, it is so hard to keep going. At aid #2 in the middle of the course I was able to get some more water and some GU, and about 2 miles later started recovering. I had lapped one person already and saw someone else in front of me and figured it was another rider I was about to lap. As I caught up to him it turned out to be Dale Knapp and he had cracked pretty bad.
With a second wind I was able to attack going over the final gravel road climb and get to aid #3 before him and start the trail. I was hurting, but knowing I was in third, if I could hold it together I could hold onto a podium finish. I went downhill faster this time then the previous two laps. I was 14 minutes off the two leaders and was hoping I could make up time, but when you are that close to the finish, everyone tends to pull something special out of the bag. Erik kept the same gap as he had on me at the top and I was able to pull back about 5 minutes on Chad to come in as third overall and first singlespeed.
Hard but good
It was a hard race this year - harder then years past, as it was a little warmer and the trail was a little rougher; there was also no 2.5 mile pavement section to recover on and there was some tougher riders competing for the overall. Dale held on for fourth overall, coming in at 9.59, just over half an hour behind Erik Tonkin at 9.27; Chad was at 9:33 and I was at 9:43. I came in almost 1 hour ahead of the next singlespeed and beat my record by a half hour on a harder course!
Anne Grande of Kona-Voicestream had to abandon do to some back problems and Stella Carey of Kelly Bicycles cleaned up the women's field. The only junior this here abandoned on lap #3 do to heat cramps and he too was on a singlespeed. Out of the 96 starters, THANK YOU to all the volunteers that help put this race on - without them it would not happen. They were all so willing to help you, with anything from filling your hydration pack, lubing your chain, stuffing you with food and motivation.
Full results to come shortly Overall 1 Erik Tonkin (Team S&M) 9.27 2 Chad Swanson (Team S&M) 0.05 3 Richard Sweet (Webcyclery/EWEB Windpower) 0.16 4 Dale Knapp (Kona-Voicestream) 0.22 Open Men 1 Erik Tonkin (Team S & M) 2 Chad Swanson (Team S & M) 3 Dale Knapp (Kona-Voicestream) Singlespeed 1 Richard Sweet (Webcyclery/EWEB Windpower) 2 Dale Plant (Kona) 3 Bert Ojerio (Paul's Bicycle Way of Life) Open Women 1 Stella Carey (Kelly Bike Company)