BEND, Ore. - As excitement for one of America's largest multistage cycling races heats up, so have wildfires burning across Central Oregon.
And now their paths have crossed, forcing a late change of venue for the race's first stage.
"Mother Nature always trumps us," Race Director Chad Sperry said Monday. With a fire burning within two miles of the roadway, winds could change within 20 minutes and (we'd) have a catastrophic event."
Less than two days before kickoff of the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic, fires burning on the Warm Springs Reservation have forced a big change for the first stage of the race, the Warm Springs Road Race.
Now cyclists will hit the Cascade Lakes Loop Wednesday. They'll also take on the same mountain road Friday, just headed in the opposite direction.
"We're going to have two different start locations between those two days, two different finish locations between those two days," Sperry said. "I think it will have enough of a difference in look and feel."
Organizers said they're disappointed they have to leave Jefferson County out of the race and that cyclists won't get to break in the inaugural stage.
"These were brand-new roads we'd never seen before," Sperry said. "It was a challenging course."
But team directors told NewsChannel 21 they are not missing a beat -- despite the mishap, their cyclists are ready.
"In a terrible scenario, this is kind of ideal," said Bissell Development Team Director Omer Kem, noting that cyclists will have at least a day to prepare. "It's a different stage, but I think it will be a similar outcome, and it's going to be cooler."
Still, it was a close call, as organizers nearly canceled the stage.
"There's a lot riding on this," Sperry said. "We want to maintain that quality and enthusiasm for the pros."
Wednesday's race will start at Wanoga Sno-Park. The pro men start at 10:30 a.m. Pro women take off at 11 a.m. The men will do two laps around Mt. Bachelor and the women will do one.
More information: http://www.cascade-classic.org/