Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The Race Across Oregon is a 550-mile bicycle time trial contested by solo riders and two- and four-person relay teams. Earlier editions of the race, which has been held for 15 years, traversed the state, but the past five years have been a loop starting and finishing in Hood River.
The route travels through Mosier and over 7 Mile Hill to The Dalles, continuing south and east through Dufur, Grass Valley, Condon, Heppner and Ukiah. The return is through Long Creek, Fossil, and Maupin, then from Dufur over Forest Service Road 44 to Highway 35. Riders accumulate 45,000 feet of climbing over the length of the course.
Solo riders departed the Best Western Hood River Inn at 5 a.m. Saturday, July 20, with the teams leaving two hours later. Support crews kept their riders fed and hydrated, also providing navigation and mechanical assistance. The vehicles transported team members while not riding and their lights augmented those attached to the bicycles at night.
The first riders to finish were those of the High Performance Cycling team from Seattle, with a time of 28:33 and an average speed over 19 mph. The four cyclists started and finished together but rode individually for most of the race, exchanging approximately every 30 minutes, but with shorter intervals on the extended climbs. The team reported some difficulty with descending sharply winding canyon roads at night and smoke due to wildfires between Clarno and Maupin.
The first coed and second finishing four-person team, Only One Egret, included Carly Heron of Dee and her brother Chris from Corvallis. One of their two support vehicles had a flat tire and then lost the riders. After one rider exchange the front wheel of a bike was not secured to the rack and it was dragged behind the vehicle; fortunately only grinding down one handlebar end. The team rolled in with a time of 31:18.
The first two-person team, Over The Top, finished close behind at 31:35. Rather than exchanging at equal time intervals, the two racers from Vancouver and Sacramento divided the course into segments that suited their strengths.
The first solo rider, 60-year-old Gregg Geser, of Sisters, came in with a time of 36:46. Geser, like other riders, stopped for a dip in the John Day or Deschutes rivers to beat the scorching 100-degree temperatures in Central Oregon.
Slightly less ambitious racers had a 188-mile option finishing in Heppner, still a very challenging route. Race organizer George Thomas says everyone enjoyed the course and he looks forward to hosting the event from Hood River again next year.
The Race Across Oregon also has the distinction of being the 2013 and 2014 Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association North American 500 mile Time Trial Championships and winners in each category will receive stars and stripes jerseys.