EWS racer Christina Chapetta is no stranger to enduros but this is her first Trans-Cascadia and her first race back from injury, “I’m just really stoked to ride and to end the season on a good, fun note. For me it’s not all about the racing, it’s just good to be back on the bike – and with a good crew of people.” When asked about any advice she got coming into the race, she said “[I was told] to get the liver ready, get the lungs ready, there’s going to be some biking involved – and bring raingear.”
Chris Johnston, who has raced the last four Trans-Cascadias, welcomed the wet weather, “it brings some excitement and adventure to it. I mean, who rides in these conditions normally?” He’s also happy to be back in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. “I am super stoked that it’s back in the same area again, last year’s trails were unreal, and they say there’s about 75% new trails again. That’s pretty frickin’ awesome, I’m really excited to see what they’ve got.”
Chris wasn’t the only one who was thrilled to be back. “There’s so much to explore in these areas,” says Geoff Kabush who has competed at every Trans-Cascadia and won the race twice. “We’re back in the same location but I’m excited to hear that we are going to race a bunch of new stages because that’s the most fun part for me; racing blind and reading the trail. It’s my favourite format and that’s why I keep coming back here.”
Racers began today with a 30-minute pedal from their drop-off point that took them to start of stage one – a massive 2500-foot descent broken up by a neutral zone. Trans-Cascadia introduced neutral zones over the last couple of years to accommodate for those really painful climbs in the middle of a descent that no one wants to race. It is an untimed section in the stage but racers must continue moving forward through it – regardless of whether you are pedalling or walking. “What we’ve seen with this is tighter race times over the four days which makes for more exciting racing,” says Nick Gibson, Race Director.
At the bottom of the first stage racers found a welcome fire, hydration, and a hot lunch waiting. When they were ready, shuttles dropped them in the same spot as earlier but this time, they headed in a new direction towards Stage 2. The transfer was an elevation gain of roughly 1900 feet over 3 miles.
“The first stage was super wet and mucky, so after Stage 1 there was a lot of managing bike, clothing, and equipment so it made for a long day and a lot of clean up,” says Geoff “Luckily, as we crested the ridge heading towards stage 2, the sun broke out and it turned into a pretty nice day.”
Stage 2 was a short and quick ridgeline descent with a couple of punchy climbs. From the end they had a gnarly hike that was almost 1000 feet elevation gain in less a mile and aptly named The Devil’s Staircase – Nick had (jokingly) assured racers at dinner the previous night “but it’s great, you’ll love it!”
At the top of the hike, Stage 3 was a sweet and speedy 1-mile descent and a favourite of the day for Trans-Cascadia newbie Brooklyn Bell. “It was fast, there was nothing I had to think about or worry about, I could just let go. I also really liked all the alpine and the stunning views on the way to Stage 4.” The gentle climb from the bottom of that stage 3 put racers into some truly unique terrain near Jumbo Peak with incredible fall colours and even the potential to see some mountain goats and views of Mount Adams.
Despite being cold and wet, Brooklyn was still all smiles. “It’s so fun, it’s so community based and so different from any race I’ve ever done. And it’s hard and hard in a different way. Today was so cool, we had no idea what kind of trails we would be riding and to go up into the high alpine and do this adventure ride and then descend through really fast flowy and a little bit more of moto style trails was really cool. High alpine, adventure rides, and fast downhill flow don’t always really go together. It’s cool to see the thought that’s been put into the what people would like riding.”