This week, the Cascade Cycling Classic—the longest consecutively-held stage race in America—is hosted on five different days here in Central Oregon.
A winner of multiple state championships in California and Nevada, seven Master's National Championships, and two Master's World Championships, Julie Cutts knows the course well—and two years ago moved to what she calls "the most wonderful place on Earth."
"Although the Cascade Classic passes through the most beautiful scenery of high desert mountain landscapes," she adds, "there are not typically spectator friendly unless one is lucky enough to catch a ride in a support/referee vehicle."
Short of hitching that ride, Cutts gave us her top-three vantage points for the race.
Saturday's Criterium (Downtown Bend)
"On this night the races add a new level of entertainment with fast flat roads, tight corners, and racers flying past you every few minutes," explains Cutts. "At speeds of 30 to 40 mph it will be sure to thrill any spectator."
Cutts suggests watching from the last corner turn before the finish where she says the real magic takes place.
"The stream of riders flying by, the sound of carbon wheels rolling across the pavement, and the vibration felt from the sidewalk like a freight train traveling full speed ahead, shows all of its power," she explains. "So much bumping and hustling and wheels traveling inches away from each other. One little slip could spell disaster, making for a hold-your-breath, nail-biting experience!'
The final stage on Sunday takes riders on a loop up and over Archie Briggs, with the men climbing the challenging hill five times and the women three. "Archie Briggs is the steepest and most grueling of the climbs. This is were the competitors find out what they are made of as it is the last section before the racers head to the finish line," says Cutts.
She adds that this is the time in the race when competitors question their sanity, but spectators yelling encouragement leave a big impression in the racers' minds.
Park at Robert Sawyer Park and walk the river trail to where it intersects with Archie Briggs.
The Finish Line
The finish line of any of the five stages is Cutts' third choice for spectating.
"As a racer, it's always nice to have somebody there at the end of a race to cheer, console, or lend a helping hand," she explains.
Cutts adds that the finish line is where emotions are let loose—from the rider that finishes first to those that finish at the back of the pack. For Cutts, competing at this level has taught her many things about life and she now sees her role as passing that experience on to younger riders.
"Me and the other Bend-based riders on the team are all mothers over 40 years old and we have professional jobs." she says. "We continue to race in this sport to support the next generation of lady racers and teach them what we've taken years to learn."