The Trans-Cascadia was my biggest stop yet in blind backcountry enduro racing, and it’s a stop I won’t soon forget. Here are some of my takeaways.
1. A little creativity can go a long way when it comes to technical fixes.
Rent the plastic lever. Ivan realized that he could attach a tire iron instead of his brake lever. While it probably wasn’t a confidence-inspiring stop, it seemed to do the job well enough for him to end the day. Fortunately, Shimano was back at camp to offer neutral tech support to all the riders, so the life-saving Shimano dudes got Ivan back on his feet, well enough to take 12th place in the race. peloton of beefy amateur men.
2. It would be great to see more women at these events.
If cycling culture in general tells women that sport is too hard for them, that running is too hard, that enduro is too brutal, what should women who have internalized this message do when they hear that a race like the Trans-Cascadia will probably be the toughest, toughest and brutal race they’ve ever done?
Sure, you can tell nobody tells women that cycling is too hard, but the message is there anytime a woman’s bike comes with fewer components than the equivalent male version or whenever a dudebro reassures me that every feature has a B line. I just think we can do better.
In order for more women to show up, especially in the “hard” races, we need to change the implicit message from “it will be difficult so you shouldn’t try to do it” to “it will be difficult and that is the point. “
It’s not Trans-Cascadia’s fault that the women’s field was small, especially since the race is supposed to be tough. The organizers did a great job creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere and it looks like all of the women who ran had a fantastic time. I think if more women showed up they would have fun too.
Now I want to thank the women who made up the small but powerful field. Jill Kintner absolutely dominated, crushing her two closest rivals (Corinne Prevot and myself) by 10 minutes in almost two hours of racing. Corinne seemed to have a smile on her face for the entire four days which was quite an achievement before she even realized she was on the podium. Alex Pavon, a Juliana racer, a former ski racer and a badass fought with me the whole race which was a good time. Morgan Kurz won his application through a competition from the Grow Cycling Foundation and is the first person I have met who hand-crafted woolen cycling clothing – I hope we’ll cover that in a future post. Briana Valerosi held the fort for the female amateur category and was a joy to be around. Freeski legend Michelle Parker chose the Trans-Cascadia to be her First time mountain bike racing, which is just mind-boggling. After those four monster days, most other races will probably feel pretty tame. And maybe less fun.
3. Try to arrive with your body in decent condition.
Okay, this one should be obvious to any breed, above all a huge backcountry race, but I’m saying this because I wasn’t ready. I had a weird summer that caused me to spend more time off the bike than in several years, objectively leaving me not mentally or physically ready to run, and a badly timed wrist injury a few weeks before the event did not help matters. I was about to find out if I could run until the day before the start of the event … and I clearly made the right decision to go, a choice I am infinitely grateful for. Still, I keep saying the week couldn’t have been better, but I’ll add the subtext that technically it would have been better if I felt a little fitter and a little less injured.
That said, even the injured had a blast. I was lucky to come out relatively unscathed, but many runners fell victim to the difficult course, with 13% of the runners joining the DNF list at the end of the race.
Race organizers warned runners ahead of time that the race would include around 5,000 feet (1,500m) of climb each day and even more descent, but the numbers barely did justice to the actual effort, being given that most of the climbing was hiking and most of the descent was not cruisey. RIP my right shoe, which started to disintegrate in protest halfway.
4. I finally have to have the blind race.
Every time someone returns from a Trans-Cascadia / BC / New England / New Zealand / Madeira / Somewhere Else Cool style race, they come back acting like it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. I think I finally understand. There is nothing quite like spending so much time in the woods, meeting fantastic people from all over who are all more than happy to be there, having virtually no phone service for six days and creating camaraderie over long days of driving and recapping by the fireside at night. And, assuming you love bike racing and think bike racing makes everything better, it’s racing too. There are so many victories.
The culture surrounding the Trans-Cascadia is a big part of what makes it so special, so of course it’s all about the people – people who (probably) shed blood, (certainly) sweat and (probably) tears. to make an event with so little certainty of whether the pandemic and wildfires would let the race go. While it felt good, on some level, to get to the end of the last day, it was sad because we wouldn’t all be getting on our bikes and going back together the next day.
And that’s all without talking about the trails. Reading a track for the first time is totally different from riding something that you have practiced, GoPro’d, and visualized in preparation for that final race as in other enduro races. Blind racing is raw, it cuts driving down to the essentials and forces us all to have fun and take ourselves a little less seriously. Discovering something new, unexpected and awesome is part of what makes the experience so cool.
I can’t write about the race without at least mentioning the high entry fee, as it tends to raise eyebrows, but the entry fee subsidizes the nonprofit organization’s track work and has contributed 500 miles of track that Trans-Cascadia has worked on helps put things in perspective. That, on top of that, cyclists don’t have to think about the logistics of the trip or anything other than riding a bike, eating good food and drinking unlimited drinks, making it a decent vacation. .
Throughout the race, after a bit of pain on the first day, things just kept getting better and better. I got to know the people around me, had absurd fun surfing the steep and loose trails, and enjoyed the sweet and bitter feeling of watching the trees turn yellow with the arrival of the fall. The event was the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer, and it was a special kind of magic.
5. The fact that the race took place is a testament to the resilience.
As we sat around the bonfire after the first day of racing we were told the track teams had just finished working on the course the next day. It would be the same for the third day. When there were few options and almost no time, those responsible for the work on the trails had no opportunity to stop when they were tired and pick up where they left off on another day. They worked tirelessly to make sure we had passable courses, and these are the true unsung heroes of the event. More on this in an upcoming article.
Overall, I showed up to the Trans-Cascadia after doing very few blind enduro races before and tried to arrive with the fewest expectations possible, just to let the event unfold as it would. It’s outside, it’s hard, and it’s party time. It’s safe to say that the Trans-Cascadia is doing good things for our sport.