Coming Together at the Trans Cascadia
Photos by Dylan VanWeelden, words by Kyle Von Hoetzendorff
“I love it when a plan comes together.” – Hannibal – Every single episode of the A-Team.
Picture this, you arrive at a parking lot just off the main road of very small town that is set alongside a river amidst vast stretches of timber covered mountains. Waiting for you is a series of off road ready shuttle vans. You load in your bike and gear then you’re whisked away to a remote, wifi-less, electronic less, civilization-less beautiful mountain lake. This is your idyllic base camp, and during the day you will be racing blind on little known trails where deep loam sits just ready for the shredding. Over four days and 21 stages you will gradually race your way back towards the better known trails of Oakridge, Oregon.
Each evening at the riders meeting, the organizers will announce the next day’s stages. This blind racing format helps to put all the racers on equal footing, test their trail reading skills, and reduces the amount of impact the trails receive as a result of the race–without knowing what trails you’re going to race on in a trail system as big as Oakridge it doesn’t make any sense to go out and run practice laps. After a long day of racing on absolutely mind-blowing trails you return to camp where a portable shower system, a roaring fire, cold suds, and delicious gourmet meal is waiting for you. Sign me up right?
Welcome to Trans Cascadia, the brainchild of Alex Gardner, Nick Gibson, and Tommy Magrath from the Modus Sport Group. Inspired by Nick’s experience racing in France’s Trans Provence and the group’s desire to create a racing event that not only provides an amazing experience for the riders but also prioritizes supporting the community in which the race is held. The strategy for Trans Cascadia was developed so that all profits from the event go back to the local trail community. But just saying you’re going to give profits back to the community does necessarily make for a good race. At $1000 an entry, the sticker price for Trans Cascadia is not cheap even if it is a good value, and in order to make sure that all of the riders had the best possible experience the team put in long hours making sure that every aspect of the race was dialed. With breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared on site by Chris King’s Chris Diminno , dialed shuttle transportation, hot showers, huge fires, and a timing system that worked flawlessly, the only concern the racers had was getting down the mountain fast!
Oakridge, Oregon has gone through some serious changes in the past 30 years. Once a thriving timber town, its economy was wiped out by the discovery that further logging would result in the complete extinction of the indigenous Spotted Owl. Fortunately the owl flies on, but nearly all logging in the area had been forced to stop and the town fell on tough times. Then along comes the mountain bike. Decades of logging meant that the Forest Service had built a vast network of a roads throughout the area, with hunting, hiking, and motorcycling trails cropping up between them. Soon enough mountain bikers began to realize the potential in Oakridge’s deep loam and long shuttle feed descents. While no means a panacea, cycling has helped to revitalize the town’s economy while allowing the owls to thrive, and with events like Cream Puff, Mountain Bike Oregon, and Trans Cascadia, there is more interest than ever in this Northwest mountain bike mecca.
In many ways Trans Cascadia feels like the opposite of a bike race. There were no orange vests, no whistles, or confused volunteers. Staff and competitor alike spend the day chatting in the relaxed enduro format and nights sitting around the fire bull-shitting about the day’s events. Throughout the week racer and crew get to know one another, competitors cheer each other on, and the event turned out to be as much a group camping trip with friends new and old as it was a race. Testament that there must be a common gene amongst people who spend a serious amount of time in the woods dedicating themselves to perfecting the art of hurling down nearly un-walkable slopes aboard mountain bikes, because we all got along without a hitch.
Still this wasn’t just a coexist love fest, with over $16,000 in cash prizes and 5k going to both the winner of the pro men’s and women’s field there was definitely a serious amount of racing going on. In the end it would be Aaron Bradford and Rosara Joseph taking the win. And God Damnit it, it couldn’t have happened to nicer people. Not to say that all you other racers aren’t nice. Hell, you know what I mean. But shit if these two aren’t just wonderful to be around. Who says nice gals/guys finish last?
So mark your calendars, bookmark the webpage, and send yourself a reminder, because next year if you do one race, do Trans Cascadia. – @transcascadia