“Best trails, best conditions, best times, best feeling I’ve ever had on a bike – ever.” - Loris Vergier
“We started coming out here 13 years ago riding our dirt bikes in this forest and we fell in love with it,” Alex Gardner, Race Producer told the racers. “Being on those ridgelines and seeing those mountains, from certain aspects you can see all four on a clear day, we started wondering how mountain bikes would work on these tracks. We weren’t quite sure and didn’t have the skills yet to host here, but we spent our time in Oregon and we figured out how to do it. And now we are back, so it’s a pleasure to have you guys out here enjoying these tracks. I think we’ve put together some of the best – for mountain bikes at least.” The rain held off for the last day of racing, allowing riders to experience the incredible mountain views and fall colours that first inspired the Trans-Cascadia crew to come to this area.
The night before, punctuated by the sound of firecrackers, Nick Gibson, Event Director, told the racers what to expect for their final day. “So, the last two days were rest days, right? Active recovery? Maybe? Probably not? I say that jokingly because I think these are great days, they definitely hurt stacked up, but they are also really great days on the bike. Tomorrow we’ve got five stages, one neutral, and your elevation profile is about 6,000 feet of climbing and about 9,000 feet of descending. The total ride time for Day 4 will be about 6-8 hours – if you keep moving.” An exhausted voice from the crowd hollered out “I can’t believe he said that with a straight face.”
Racers hopped the shuttle from camp in the morning and accessed the highest point on East Canyon Ridge possible. From there they climbed further up the ridge, with views of Mount Adams behind them, and continued along it to the start of Stage 10. The first stage of the day dumped riders down 1,300 feet over 1.9 miles. This stage ended at a road that took racers across and down to Stage 11; a fun and flowy downhill. After this second stage of the day, racer rode out to the meeting point for lunch. Here they loaded onto the shuttle and were driven 3 miles to the start of their next liaison.
Mostly a nice gradual climb, the mix of road and singletrack wound up the valley for 2.5-hours, ‘at a nice social pace.’ At the top riders were rewarded with Sunrise Peak and a 360-degree view from the rocky ridgeline. Stage 12 was 1,000 feet of descending in a half a mile. The fast and steep track offered gnarly rock sections and rooty drops with multiple line options. “It’s a spicy descent. We’ll just leave it at that,” Nick had offered at the racer meeting the night before. The descent dropped racers into a little trough that they had to work out of with roughly a 30-minute climb to the top of the next two stages.
Stages 13 and 14 totaled about 6,000 feet of descending. Stage 13 offered a spectacular view from the start before riders dropped into the essentially a downhill pumptrack with endless whoops and bumps to pump and jump complete with fast, ripping corners that allowed them to really open it up. At the bottom, riders had a ten-minute climb to the final stage of the event that Nick had described simply as “a beautiful way to finish off the day.” This stage had two distinct sections of riding; the first was a continuation of the whoops and fast corners from the previous stage and after the neutral zone the course got faster with steeps, rocky corners, bench cut, natural gaps, and moto whoops. At the bottom the Transition crew as waiting next to the shuttle with nachos and beers to treat everyone.
“It was a big effort. I’ve never ridden anything like it,” says Greg Minnaar. “We were just having a laugh because going up that climb, we were thinking ‘this sucks’ but right at the bottom, Loris, Elliot and I decided that we have to come back next year and do it again. And that’s how it is when you’re riding such good stuff you really do want to come back. I just couldn’t believe that we’ve gone through five stages today and not one of them was crap. Every stage is really nice and well thought out. You’d expect a crap stage here or there but for four days we haven’t ridden anything that was crap. You could try to say that one trail is better than the other, but it’s still far better than anything I’ve ever ridden.”
On Stage 11, Francois Bailly-Maitre broke his rim and Greg swapped wheels with him. “It was fine, the rim was strong enough and it held all tension, but sometimes the carbon could splinter off and cut the tire and it would be a bit shitty for the leader of the event to go out because of that. It was kind of a mixed thing because you have Loris is second, but you know two Santa Cruz’s were in the lead and they’ve got to have a fair battle.”
“I can’t thank Greg enough,” says Francois. “I felt way more confident with his wheel on my bike than trying to push with a broken wheel – you never know. I had a really good day, the trails were amazing once again, more features and a lot of good things to worry about like rocks and roots. I had a lot of fun and some crazy moments. I’m pretty stoked that Greg finished the race with the wheel intact, I’m glad his race didn’t end because of me.”
Emily Slaco took the overall win in the Pro Women’s category with Kim Hardin in Second. Ingrid LaRouche came from behind on the final day to take the third step overall. “Last year at Trans-Cascadia was my first time ever doing a multi-day race,” explained Ingrid, “it was all a learning experience. I was racing a lot more this year, so I was a little more familiar with this. There were a lot more girls this year than last year, so the competition was pretty stiff. The event is so cool and [women] should come and participate more.”
In the Pro Men’s category, Loris Vergier took the top step with Francois Bailly-Maitre in second and Luca Shaw in third. “I knew that yesterday I had lost some time, but I gave it my all, so I did the same today and had fun,” said Loris. “I tried to stay on the bike – and I did. It paid off. Best trails, best conditions, best times, best feeling I’ve ever had on a bike – ever. It’s just good to be here and fun.”
“It was an awesome day,” according to Luca. “The weather held out, for our five awesome stages and I ended up catching a few people and ended up on the podium. Either way, I would have been super stoked because it’s been really, really fun week and the result was just a bonus. I had fun and enjoyed myself and that’s what I came for. I was just having so much fun all week, these trails are another level, it’s almost like another sport out here.”
Following the final podiums, the Race Producer; Alex Gardner, Race Director; Nick Gibson, and Logistics Director; Tommy Magrath stood in front of the cheering and clapping crowd. “This is an impossible thing that we attempt to do each year and somehow it all comes together,” said Alex. “I think that the thing that makes that happen is the community that we talked about at the start of this event, the minds up here, volunteers, the people who give endlessly to see this thing happen. It’s got a mind of its own, it’s got momentum and it’s a pleasure to be out here with all of you. Thanks for coming out!”
“Without racers, we don’t have a race,” added Tommy, “without trail builders, we don’t have trails, and without volunteers, we don’t have any of this.”
Nick wrapped up the official part of the evening, “On that note, we’ve got beer left, we’ve got liquor left. . . let’s go have a good night!”