If you're a Bend bike racer of any ilk, by the time Memorial Day dawns, you'll have earned at least one grilled bratwurst and a beer. With three bicycle races over the holiday weekend in Central Oregon, local competitive cyclists will have a choice of which hurt locker to enter without having to travel far from home. Meaning no excuses, no epic excursions over the Cascades to get your competitive groove on. It's going down here.
And, come Monday, depending on how many races you've done, you can down multiple brats and brewskis with no guilt, all the while flexing your awesome quads.
PBR and Trucker Hats
On Saturday, pump up the tires on your road bike and head over to Bend's southeast side for the Bend Don't Brake Road Race. Unlike many road races, which typically include long, decisive climbs, the Bend Don't Brake course is a rolling, 9.9-mile loop favoring powerful riders who live for sprinting.
"It's nice for local racers to have a different type of race," says Amanda Atwill, the Bend Don't Brake race promoter. Atwill, a Category 3 racer from Bend, was inspired to organize a one-day race for locals, even though she'll be too busy working to participate in the race herself.
"I love being a part of the cycling community," says Atwill. "I love how much it gives back, and I appreciate what a great group of friends we have, and what a great community we have."
Atwill is donating all proceeds from the two women's races at Bend Don't Brake to the Leia Tyrrell Recovery Fund, benefiting an Oregon rider who was injured in a race in early April. The proceeds from the men's races that day will benefit the Bend Endurance Academy, a junior athletic development program.
With the promise of Bend Don't Brake trucker hats for all podium finishers, and an ice-cold six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon for race winners, you can bet on some super fast sprints to the line.
If you've wanted to try road racing but have been too intimidated, Bend Don't Brake provides a great opportunity for beginners. A pre-ride clinic at 11:30 a.m. will focus on the basics of road racing for the uninitiated, and there are beginner category races for both men and women. For more information, visit benddon'tbrake.com.
Cowboys and Cold Ones
If your idea of a perfect mountain bike race is one that starts - and more importantly finishes - at the doorstep of a craft brewery, you're in luck. Three Creeks Brewing will serve as the headquarters for the second annual Sisters Stampede on Sunday.
"Most mountain bike races start out in the woods and the racers don't get the amenities of being in town," explains Joel Palanuk, the race director of the Stampede. "We like to create a party atmosphere afterward. We've got a live band, fun prizes and a kids' race."
The firing of a Colt 45 will signal the start for the elite category racers, and a cowboy on horseback will lead the racers out. The course uses the Peterson Ridge Trail system, and after a four-mile section of double track, features primarily single track with a few technical lava rock sections.
More than 350 racers participated last year, and Palanuk anticipates this year's Stampede will be even bigger.
"A lot of people who'd never done a mountain bike race raved about it last year," says Palanuk. "Ultimately, I'd love to get new people in the sport, and grow the sport in the state of Oregon."
According to Palanuk, the Sisters Stampede is "super beginner friendly," and says although the beginner course is abbreviated, still gives those racers a taste of the larger trail system without excluding some challenges.
The Play Outdoors Kids' Race, for shredders ages 9 and under, is free. All kids who race win a pair of Smartwool socks. Palanuk, who lives in Sisters with his family, is committed to exposing mountain biking to kids from non-cycling families.
"It's really cool to see a lot of kids completely outside of cycling get to experience it," says Palanuk, whose son attends first grade in Sisters. "The elementary kids haven't stopped talking about the race since last year, and many of those kids are from families that don't even ride bikes."
For more information visit sistersstampede.com.
For those who still have some legs left, or for those who forego the Stampede, Criterium, Bend will offer more high-speed road racing on Sunday afternoon in Northwest Crossing. (While it would be logistically difficult to do the Stampede and Criterium Bend, and even impossible for some of the categories, consider the sprint between part of the challenge.)
The Criterium Bend course, just under a mile in distance, is south of Summit High School. Four races will be staged between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., including a Category 4/5 (suitable for beginner men), and a Women's race (with beginner women scored separately).
Criterium races generally feature small courses, making them spectator friendly as the racers pass by multiple times. The finish line of Criterium Bend is located on NW York Drive and will be a great place for spectators to watch Sunday's action unfold.
For more information go to obra.org.
Hands off Horner, Cali. He's Our Homeboy
All the hours of training on the open, wind-swept and chip-sealed roads of Central Oregon obviously paid off for Bend's Chris Horner, who emphatically won the 2011 Tour of California last week. Hailed as the most prestigious - and perhaps most "euro" - stage race in the United States, this year's Tour of California did not disappoint. Stage 4 of the eight-stage tour finished on Sierra Road, a lung-bustingly steep grade of almost 10 percent.
Horner, working for teammate and race favorite Levi Leipheimer, set the pace at the base of the climb and found himself with a gap. At 39 years old, and the second oldest racer in the TOC, Horner charged to the finish as the clear winner. Not only did he ride away from Leipheimer, but also the Andy Schleck, the second-place finisher in the 2010 Tour de France and a renowned climber.
Despite California tourism ads televised during the coverage to the contrary, in which Horner calls Cali "home," we know one of the world's best competitive cyclists lives and trains in Bend. And the next time you see Chris rolling up to the stoplight at Franklin and Hwy. 97 on his way into or out of town for a grueling training ride, give him some props by tapping the horn and throwing up the peace sign.