The first day of Trans Cascadia started off with a bang, in the heart of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. This land is traditional indigenous territory of the Wenatchi and Syilx peoples.
After an unfortunate but necessary break in 2020, the race is back with the safety of the runners above all else. Enduro blind, the riders receive the card of the day the day before, with no chance to explore the trail before. This makes for a pretty interesting event, leveling the playing field for all runners.
Race director Nick Gibson was delighted to start. “I am delighted to put people on the course after a year of delay. We are delighted to show people this region, this is the very first bike race on these tracks.”
With a full volunteer staff spending countless hours getting ready, the runners made it to Foggy Dew Campground, their home for the next 5 days. A remote backcountry experience with all amenities except cell service, runners are treated to a camp that feels more like a living village. Following Covid testing and orientation, attendees devoured a superb Southern-inspired meal prepared by Hannah Carlos of The Bayou Catfish Under the Stars.
“Driving blind is something special… you have to be very comfortable on your bike and just react to the track,” says Geoff Kabush, two-time winner and one of the three-five-time finalists of the Trans Cascadia. .
Racing producer Alex Gardner gave a preview of what was to come. “We have a lot in store for you guys. We’ve learned a lot over the years and Nick has put together an amazing course. “
Santa Cruz Bicycles sent Walker Shaw and Tobin Ortenblad to the event, both fresh and excited to run the trails blind. “It’s a different style of racing than what we did, but I’m pretty excited for it,” Shaw said. Aside from a minor steer between veteran Kabush and Ortenblad, the whole day was spent deep in the forest with runners enjoying the transfer stages as much as the race.
Dillon Osleger of Specialized Soil Searching even stopped for a short period of fly fishing as he neared the podium. “The granite and all that ice age felt like home. It’s just like what I grew up riding.”
The larches were in full bloom, as the runners made their way through the early hours of the first day of racing. The first stage started after a technical climb of several hours, leading the riders to Angel’s Staircase, an exposed rocky climb, switchback after switchback. The second stage took the runners on a cool and smooth 1.5 mile descent before returning to camp. Times were tight, smiles were everywhere, many riders said the second stage was the best track of their lives.
“I’ve done Trans BC, Andes Pacifico, BC Bike Race, and it’s my favorite track I’ve ever been on,” said Chris Karwisch after finishing the stage.
Back at camp, the community vibe was fluid and Pearl Izumi, Shimano, and Santa Cruz helped organize the party. Hard. A hot dinner and conversations around the log fire finally put the camp to sleep. After just two stages, the times were tight with Kabush in the lead, closely followed by Myles Morgan and Myles Trainer. For pro women, Jill Kintner has taken the first step. “I always wanted to do this race … It was a tight turnaround, I was in Italy a day and a half ago … They feed you, you have a tent, everything is set up for you to do biking !”
Travel restrictions have dramatically reduced the international scope, making the event a bit more local, reminiscent of the first year. With fields stacked across all categories and a sold-out race, the weekend is sure to excite. With no leader’s jersey to present after a year of absence, the race organizers provided all participants and staff with personalized jerseys presented by Pearl Izumi.
The evening was spent around a bonfire, with a full bar, hot showers and all the amenities that make the event special. The energy was at an all time high as many runners hadn’t seen each other for over a year, the community and connection were there in spades, and everyone might have been awake a little too late. .
The Trans Cascadia is more than just a race. Hundreds of hours were spent clearing the course. These trails remain open to the public for everyone to enjoy. Trans Cascadia staff and volunteers have logged nearly 20,000 hours in the woods to date, with over 500 miles of trails groomed and over 100 miles recovered. The race is only a catalyst for free access to our public lands. Stay tuned for more daily reports as the race heats up.
Results of day 1
1) Geoff Kabush
2) Myles Morgan
3) Myles Coach
4) Aaron Bradford
5) Tobin Ortenblad
1) Jill Kintner
2) Corinne Prévot
3) Alexandra Pavon
4) Alicia Leggett
5) Michelle Parker
This event is under a Special Use Permit from the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.