“The stages have been amazing; the riding has been absolutely incredible.” -Greg Minnaar
“Tomorrow morning, we are moving camps,” Tommy Magrath, Director of Logistic, announced to the racers on Friday night. “So, this is your last night in this beautiful area, before we move to another beautiful area.”
Day 3 saw racers traverse between the two basecamps riding east along a beautiful backbone ridgeline complete with rocky outcroppings and viewpoints of both Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams while the production crew packed up the event’s entire existence and created the same home-away-from-home-but-deep-in-the-woods feel at the next location. Shuttles took riders about an hour out of camp where they had a 15-minute climb to the 2.5-hour ridgeline ride that would take them to Stages 8 and 9.
The first two days of riding were on the west side of the Gifford Pinchot – a non-motorized area that took the team thousands of hours to reclaim and saw them cut out hundreds of logs from a trail network that had been largely unused. “Now we are on the rawer-dog side of things. It’s a multi-use area and it gives another aspect of gnarly roots, ruts, and steep chutes,” says Nick Gibson, Event Director.
The first stage of the day was 1,609 feet of descending over 3.8 miles. But event with a lower angle grade the track was still fast flowing and included high-speed berms and some physical, rooty pedaling in the middle. “I was getting used to these ‘hold it wide open and let it go, not a lot of hard pedaling stages,’” says Joe Lawwill. “So, I pretty much started the stages today with the same mindset because these mountains are so massive, and the runs have been so long. I got after it and realized that I was in trouble and I had to slow it way down. It was hard to do because things were coming at me so fast, but I pulled it back together and it was still awesome. I couldn’t go full gas, that’s for sure, because of what happened last year.” What Joe is referring to is an epic crash he had while following Mitch Ropelato on Day 3 last year. Mitch described it best at the time, “We drop in and I was hauling ass, it was a little bit too fast for the conditions, but it was working out. Then we come into this one section – my glasses are all muddy, and Joe’s catching all the roost off me so he’s double as muddy – and all of a sudden I just see left! I lock it up and slide around the backside of the berm and park it into this tree off the trail and was like ‘saved it!’ Then I go to warn Joe and I look behind me, as soon as I look behind me I just see him on front and rear brake. He can’t go sideways because I’m standing right there – and he probably should have just plowed me, I would have fallen over into a tree and I would have been fine, but he just locked up the front and rear and skidded off into the trees. He looked like E.T. taking off, it was insane, and he just flew through the trees and out of sight. I was like ‘oh my god, he just died. He’s dead. There are a million logs out there – he must have landed on one and it shanked him and shish kabobbed him and he’s done!’”
After Stage 8, a hot on-course lunch was provided by the Transition crew and provided racers with a rest stop before they made their way down to the next stage. Wright Meadow is a gnarly beautiful descent down the drainage to the shuttle road with 1,821 feet of descending over 2.9 miles. A high-speed stage, it is rough, “but,” as Adam Craig puts it, “speed and roughness work together in good harmony here. It was neat seeing people’s faces at the bottom of Stage 9. They really enjoyed having some more rugged terrain.”
Rosara Joseph won the Trans-Cascadia Pro Women’s category for the first two years of the event and is back this year as a volunteer. “This is an amazing event, definitely a special one. It’s been great to be back. I’m still enjoying the atmosphere and the amazing riding and learning what goes on the other side – which I’m learning is a fuck-ton. As a racer, you’re unaware of what’s going on [behind-the-scenes] so I’m getting a little taste of it. I’ve been on timing and have been lucky enough to get some riding in as well, I’ve been heading out a bit earlier and riding in advance of the riders. I rode all of the course today and it was spectacular, we climbed up onto an incredible craggy ridgeline and, with views over to the volcano and the fall colors, it was pretty stunning.”
Francois Bailly-Maitre topped the Pro Men’s podium today with Loris Vergier in second and Geoff Kabush in third. “[Stage 8] was a tough one, really physical, especially the second half but the first part was super fun, fast, good berms, I could trust the grip,” says Francois. “Afterward it was just about fighting to get every second. But it seemed to work out because I managed to make a lot of time on this one, so it’s good. I made more time in the first stage, but I still had a good second stage. The second stage had more chutes and drops and rocks, more anticipation. It was pretty fun. Still fast and scary at some points. There are still five stages and I don’t know what to expect. Tomorrow is a long day, I will keep racing the same way. Riding clean and pushing hard when I can. We will see tomorrow night how it went!”
Emily Slaco topped the Pro Women’s podium again with Kim Hardin and Bekah Rottenberg in second and third.
“The stages have been amazing; the riding has been absolutely incredible,” says Greg Minnaar. “[Today] was hard. We were tired and not really that fit for it all, but just the views when you got to the top of Stage 1 – the scenery is beautiful, spectacular for the whole ride. With those tough climbs, it’s been rewarding at the top, and then obviously the trails down have been just some of the best riding we’ve done. It’s raw, it’s open, it’s got a bit of everything. From Day 2 to Day 3 it was such different terrain. And we’ve had a great group of people around us riding, so it’s been really fun.”
Matt Slaven has been at every Trans-Cascadia, “I thought the riding today was awesome. It’s Trans-Cascadia, the riding is always awesome. These guys come out here, they work all summer to clear all these trails, so we can race in the backcountry, otherwise, an event like this wouldn’t even happen. I love pretty much every trail that we ride every day.”
Racers have a big day ahead of them for Day 4 and their final 5 stages. Stay tuned for the final race update tomorrow.