The model of the Trans-Cascadia – a backcountry, blind format, 4-day enduro race – has been built around the practice of re-opening long forgotten or neglected trail networks deep within the Pacific North West. The result is a hard-earned backcountry singletrack race with deluxe accommodation, gourmet food, and plenty of beer shared around the campfires with likeminded riders from around the world.
The process to achieving this requires thousands of hours of labour annually and often years of planning before being able to move to a new area - leaving behind a legacy of rediscovered and rehabilitated trails for all riders to enjoy. This year the race is moving to a brand-new zone in Southwest Washington and through a series of work parties involving the local community, sponsors, TC Crew, and even some returning racers they have already reopened upwards of 45 miles of reclaimed trail.
Cody Olsen is the Trail Maintenance and Volunteer Manager for the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and was onsite to help with the work. “It’s super cool to see that they aren’t only focused on opening trails that they are using to race, but that they are interested in reclaiming trails that haven’t been maintained in a long time. Rather than only focusing on trails that they will need, they are simply using their time and energy to clear as many trails here as they can.”
The basecamps of these work parties are not unlike the event itself. Roughly 50 people showed up for camping and long work days two weeks ago and were treated to gourmet meals and plenty of good times around the campfire. Much of the work required in this new region is basic maintenance, cutting back brush, and clearing out logs – hundreds of them. Due to a lack of volunteers, budget, and time, the trails had fallen off the radar and haven’t been ridden – some of them haven’t seen attention in over 20 years.
The trails here are steep, challenging, natural, and diverse with high speed sections and true PNW loam. With nice long descents of 2000-3000 feet, this high alpine area truly helps you realize how remote the racing will be. “It’s a little bit of a different ride when you know you are that far away from help. You just ride a little different,” says Allan Cooke, Marketing Manager at Santa Cruz Bikes. Allan was onsite to lend a hand for his third year in a row and was thrilled to check out the new area firsthand, “driving in at 2am with the full moon, I was getting that feeling like, ‘they did it again, they mined it out, they found it!’ We were pretty stoked and haven’t been let down one bit.”
“For me personally, when I have the opportunity to be representing a brand, working for Santa Cruz, and to partner with a group like these guys, it’s not just something we want to write a check to. It’s not just for the promotional side of it or ‘hey, look at us’ but we actually really enjoy this; being around these guys, putting in the hard work, and seeing the fruits of that labor. We want to get our hands dirty. This week there are six of us up here – there are a few hourly employees from production, from the line, and who get to clock in while they are out here digging. People are motivated to get out here and do the work and the company is motivated to back it. We are out here this week because we actually love this.”
Similarly, Steve Blick from Oakley has found value in actively being involved in Trans-Cascadia. “Oakley is deeply invested in the mountain bike world, so it is exciting to be involved with an event that celebrates all aspects of the sport: the athletes, great outdoors, mountain bike culture and more,” said Blick.
“At Oakley, we develop products and technologies used by world’s best athletes, so it is cool to see those products and technologies validated at an event like Trans-Cascadia. For example, this year, you will see Prizm™, Oakley’s revolutionary lens technology designed for both sport and everyday environments, on the faces of many of the athletes racing. Specifically, you will see, Prizm™ Low Light and Prizm™ Trail that have been designed for the wide-ranging MTB environment – revealing nuances that would be missed by the naked eye and allowing riders the ability to spot unexpected obstacles and changes in the terrain. This year’s Trans-Cascadia will also be one of the first events where the Oakley DRT5, our new highly versatile, do-it-all trail helmet, will be used in competition. What could be better than seeing some of the world’s best athletes relying on your products to get the job done?”
Blick went onto say, “For the brand, it is an honor to be involved from a product side, but it is also great to give back to the community and celebrate the sport that we all love so much.”
Ben McCormack has been working with Trans Cascadia since last year and has been involved with each of the Work Parties dedicated to this new location. Sussing out the best approach when tackling such a massive expanse of potential trails takes a lot of pre-planning. “We are looking at maps and talking to people – and then looking at maps some more and prioritizing. We’ve been able to hook in with some local folks that have a lot of knowledge about the area and know what’s good and what’s worth looking at.” The progress over the hundreds of hours that have already been invested in this new location has been inspiring. “It’s amazing. Just clearing the trail – what we did today, in a day, is a big deal!” There was much excitement around the fire at the end of the weekend as everyone shared stories of what they had accomplished towards preparing this new location and some of the riding they had experienced. But the true celebration of all this work will come on September 26, when 100 racers venture into the backcountry to find what has been uncovered.