Hundredths of a second separate the top women

Bend, OR - Kicking off today, the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic is the longest consecutively run elite stage race in the country. One of the premier stops on the NRC calendar, the six day stage race features an elite roster of women athletes including Canadian Clara Hughes, Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12's Kristin Armstrong, and Hughes' fellow countrywoman Tara Whitten. With 14 teams and 113 women taking the start line, the Cascade Cycling Classic is one of the biggest stage races in 2011.

The star-studded field began their six day journey late in the afternoon with a 2 mile prologue. A technical course which tested the riders' handling skills as well as their power, the course lends itself to the sprinters as well as the overall GC contenders.

Early on, Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY 12's Cari Higgins lead the race with a time of 4:03. She held on to her lead until Jade Wilcoxson came through breaking the 4 minute mark with a 3:59. But the fastest of the fast were still yet to come with Hughes, Armstrong and Whitten patiently waiting until the end for their opportunity.

Hughes was the first to come in with a 3:55, only a snick off her time was Armstrong, only three one hundredths of a second away. But, shortly after Hughes and Armstrong came across, Whitten came flying out of the final corner and up the finishing straight, winning the stage by mere seconds.

Tomorrow's 71 mile infamous McKenzie Bridge Stage will test all riders. With such small time gaps throughout the field, it is anybody's race to win or lose. With a field so riddled with talent, the racing is sure to be fierce, and the woman who stands at the top of the podium tomorrow will have fought hard for her victory.