Stage 3 of the Cascade Cycling Classic followed a classic route known as the Cascade Lakes Road Race, but a new 2 mile gravel sector meant this year’s edition was sure to be exciting. We reasoned a breakaway would have a good chance of getting away from the peloton and riding away, so I rolled to the start line ready to set off fireworks.

Sure enough I found myself in a strong breakaway just minutes into the race, motivated to push the pace alongside Travis McCabe, Alex Hoehn, and others to make up an 8-man move. We cooperated well, communicated with one another, and all did our part to extend our gap.

The famed gravel sector lived up to its reputation, as the 2 mile sector felt like racing on a sandy beach littered with golf balls made of lava rock. It was an unrelenting stretch and flat tires were plentiful, but my background in motocross and mountain biking served me well as I came out unscathed.

The final stretch of gravel came about 12 miles from the finish, and it put the hurt on our group. We lost a few breakaway companions, but we maintained over 5 minutes from the nearest chasers at the base of the finishing climb. From there, it was a matter of conserving energy, marking the strongest riders remaining.

Our group whittled down to 5 in the final Kilometer, where a teammate of Travis McCabe helped set him up for the sprint. I boxed my way in, found good legs in the sprint, and came in for 2nd. An exciting finish to a dramatic day of racing!

By Austin Stephens