Climbing up Flagline 17 miles into a 54-mile mountain bike race, however, is a real kick in the pants.
Once again, Central Oregon will play host to the U.S.A. Cycling Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships, Sept. 15, but rather than hold the start and finish in the Old Mill, a la the 2011 edition, the race will instead be staged out of Wanoga Sno-Park and will include more single track, more miles, more high altitude and more elevation gain than last year’s race, which featured miles of pavement and minimal uphill pedaling.
“It’s going harder this year for sure,” said Bend’s Adam Craig, who last year won the race in 3 hours and 10 minutes. Craig breaks down this year’s course, which boasts 6,000 feet of total climbing, like this: 67 percent single track; 33 percent double track and gravel roads. At present, Craig is super fit and should certainly be considered among the favorites again this year.
Bend newcomer Barry Wicks, a.k.a “Wicknasty,” another race favorite, agreed with Craig’s assessment.
“It’s definitely going to be a race of attrition,” said Wicks, who has already won a couple of National Endurance Series 100-milers this season: the Lumberjack 100 in Michigan and the High Cascades 100 here in Central Oregon. “It’s going to be pretty hard to go up Flagline, which is a pretty decent climb. It’s pretty stinking soft up there,” Wicks said.
From Wanoga, the course starts by heading south along dirt roads and trends uphill for about eight miles as the track takes racers under Century and up a sandy climb below Vista Butte. From there the course is fast and mostly downhill all the way to the Swede Ridge shelter before it kicks up again around mile 13. After climbing Swede Ridge past Swampy Lakes to Flagline, the course finally tops out at almost 7,000 feet (which is almost 2,000 feet higher than the highpoint of last year’s course) before it descends back toward Wanoga. Racers will finish by riding down Tiddlywinks and back up Funner, two technical sections that could decide the race winner.
“It's Bend—there’s no descent where you’re not pedaling hard,” Wicks said, adding that a full suspension 29er fitted with high-volume, low profile tires will be the bike of choice for the bumpy, pedaling-intensive.
Aside from Wicks, Craig and Carl Decker, who last year finished second a scant 12 seconds behind Craig, American Olympians Todd Wells and Sam Schultz are also expected to be in the mix for the win. Both Wells and Schultz recently competed in the Mountain Bike World Championships in Austria, but neither fared well, a fact which has left Bend’s favorites licking their collective chops.
“I think their best days of the year are behind them and that they’re fighting for their life, hoping that winter comes soon,” said Decker of Wells and Schultz. For his part, though, Decker said he’s been “sleeping in an oxygen tank and eating a lot of salads,” and is hungry for the win.
Bend’s Ryan Trebon said that he’s saving himself for the upcoming ‘cross season and will not contest the championship race.
Masters Road National Championships—Locals results roundup
Another U.S.A. Cycling national championship just happened in Bend, and a number of area racers walked away from the five-day, three-event race with hardware. Four Bend racers—Tim Jones, T.J. Paskewitch, Lisa Magness and Brenna Lopez-Otero—were even awarded national championship jerseys. Here’s how the week played out.
On Wednesday’s Prineville time trial, Jones and Paskewitch repeated last year's TT success as Masters Tandem 70+ national champs by winning this year’s 40-kilometer TT in 53 minutes, 58 seconds—nearly two minutes faster than the second place team. Local coach and ex-pro Bart Bowen teamed up with Bend triathlete Jim Rantala to take third in the Tandem 90+ age category. Lisa Magness, also of Bend, cruised to victory in the women's 50-54 age group TT.
In the 110-kilomter road race, staged at Mt. Bachelor on Thursday, Ben Thompson (35-39 age group) finished fifth while Eric Martin (45-49) also took fifth in his 84-kilometer race. On the women's side, Kerry Martin (40-44) finished fourth in her 84km race. Once again, it was Bend's Tim Jones and T.J. Paskewitch who dominated the tandem races, this time in Friday's 84km tandem road race—their second gold medal of the week.
In downtown Bend on Saturday, Bowen sprinted out of large field to finish third in the 45-49 age group. In the women's 40-44 age group, Lopez-Otero backed up her 2011 win with another victory in Saturday's national title crit race. On Sunday Helen Grogan managed a second-place finish in the women's 50-54 age group at the NorthWest Crossing crit.
Local inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame
And now to the most important news of the week...
Bend’s own Bob “Woody” Woodward, longtime mountain bike advocate, former mayor, and all around Bend icon will formally be inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Las Vegas next week!
Woodward began writing about mountain biking in 1980 after he spent a day in California riding with Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly and Tom Ritchey—the grandfathers of mountain biking. Woodward immediately recognized the sport’s potential for growth, and ever since that day on Mt. Tam, he’s been an avid participant and advocate of mountain biking.
“I was just an average cyclist who became enthused about a sport and did as much as possible to promote every aspect of it to a wider audience,” Woodward wrote in an email.
Even though Woodward was predictably modest about his induction, which will occur at Interbike on Sept, 19, we’re damn proud that Woody’s many journalistic contributions are finally being recognized for their importance in the growth of the sport.
Photo taken by Henry Abel