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On local backroads, getting lost is part of the fun

On local backroads, getting lost is part of the fun

Aaron Leritz checks a map on his phone somewhere
in the hills west of Scappoose.
(Photos: Judd Eustice)

Semi-organized, unsanctioned rides on a mix of gravel and paved roads are increasingly popular these days. There were three in the Portland area last weekend alone. One of the reasons people love these rides is the sense of adventure they afford. There are no markings or course officials. Riders are on their own except for the friends the bring or make. BikePortland contributor Judd Eustice tackled the Scappoose Soul Slaughterer yesterday and ended up getting lost. In the process, he had more fun than he ever expected. When he got home (after a shower and some food of course) he typed up a stream-of-consciousness recap in an email to me. He planned to clean it up before I posted it; but I thought it was fun to read in its original form. Hope you do too. — Jonathan

It was a bit of a mess from the start.

There were perhaps a dozen of us that showed up. A large contingent were from Team S&M and/or Sellwood Cycle. Mike Lilienthal, the organizer of the Slaughterer, showed up with multiple contusions all over his face from hitting the pavement on his bike after a night out. He wouldn’t be riding. Not many of us, if any, printed out the cue sheet and only a couple of us had the GPS file on our Garmins. However, they weren’t doing us much good. A local rider, James Ogbert, who works at Chris King, started leading us out and it was my understanding at the time that he had helped out on the planning. I caught up with my teammates, Aaron Leritz and Michael Kosmala and we were up front with James.

Left to right: Aaron Leritz, Michael Kosmala, Judd Eustice (author)

Map of Scappoose Soul Slaughterer route.
(Coalition Racing Development)

At an intersection, we realized that the rest of the group wasn’t with us any longer. After a long wait, we assumed they had taken a turn off somewhere and we kept going. We started riding up the Banks-Vernonia trail and it was beautiful with its lush rainforest growth and rolling gravel. I felt it was ideal for this type of riding. However, I also felt it was too ideal. Mike had bragged about how hard this course was and how the first 20 miles would take about 2.5 hours. This wasn’t that hard. He had also said that I was going to hate him about 45 minutes after we started due to the wicked nature of the course. I was beginning to praise him for the choice of the route and I knew that couldn’t be right. Not Mike. Something was wrong.

James couldn’t ride too much on the hills due to a torn MCL he was recovering from and when the trail met the highway, James bid us adieu and we thanked him for his help. But now we didn’t really know where we were headed. We had a general idea and followed the trail downward in relatively smooth fashion through the forest, listening to the calls and tweets of the birds like cheering fans as we raced along.

A gate near Highway 47 outside of Vernonia.

We came to a highway that was empty of cars but rolled along and all we saw as far as traffic on this Sunday morning were other riders on time trial bikes, obviously not on the Slaughterer. We asked one for some direction as to finding our way and he pointed out the gate on the side of the road several miles down that was a timber road that led to Vernonia. We carried our bikes over the gated barrier and proceeded up the hill on a road that was about as good as you can get for a working timber area.

As we made our way up the hills, the wear and tear of the previous days Ronde ride and my lack of sleep from the previous night began to catch up to me a bit. I let Mike and Aaron take off while I conserved my strength and found them waiting for me, which is not the way I like to find myself, pulling up the rear. But they were gracious and we kept going and moved through some gorgeous forest land with areas of clear cut that opened up vistas for us to gaze at. Unfortunately, the vistas were clouded over and the rain started sprinkling and the wind seemed just a little colder. We started to move down off the mountain.

“We all agreed that we were probably lost from the Slaughterer route, but we didn’t care.”

For anyone who has ridden one of these gravel grinders knows, the roads are very often poorly and/or cryptically marked and without proper navigation tools, it becomes a lot of guesswork and often the guessing is wrong. We almost had that. Our Garmins were worthless as providing any help. But our iPhones had service! We pulled up Google Maps and it pinpointed where we were and even gave us road names. Great! A long, winding mistake was almost made when we didn’t flip the phone upside down to orient us in the direction of north. Luckily, we double-checked. Sure of our way, we flew down the rocky descents and it was the most incredible riding. The views were amazing, the sounds of birds was music and the sight of a large buck sprinting across the trail was just the type of surprise that I look for when I ride. My friends and I were in heaven.

We all agreed that we were probably lost from the Slaughterer route, but we didn’t care. We were having a blast. That’s all that counted. Mike Lilienthal had led us out of our urban neighborhoods and pointed the way to some supreme riding that led us to the discovery that we needed more of this. We were away from the mundane routes that we ride every Sunday. We faced a little bit of uncertainty and made the ride all that more adventurous. We felt free and our conditioning was carrying us through the difficulty of the adventure.

We finally got down to Vernonia and we were faced with a choice of taking the road (Highway 47) back to Scappoose or going back over the trails in the timber area and not knowing where we were really headed. Google maps pointed out that there would be many twists and turns that would slow us down, as we would have to stop at each intersection and re-orient ourselves before heading forward. Then the rain really started. None of us were prepared for this. All the weather reports seemed favorable and we were under-dressed. So we took the highway. 20 miles back to Scappoose. Again, what a lovely ride, other than the cold rain. We loved it! The rolling hills, the lack of heavy traffic and the forested canopy made it exceptional.

This won’t be the last time we make our way out there. In fact, we’ll probably go back next week.

On local backroads, getting lost is part of the fun

On local backroads, getting lost is part of the fun

Aaron Leritz checks a map on his phone somewhere
in the hills west of Scappoose.
(Photos: Judd Eustice)

Semi-organized, unsanctioned rides on a mix of gravel and paved roads are increasingly popular these days. There were three in the Portland area last weekend alone. One of the reasons people love these rides is the sense of adventure they afford. There are no markings or course officials. Riders are on their own except for the friends they bring or make. BikePortland contributor Judd Eustice tackled the Scappoose Soul Slaughterer yesterday and ended up getting lost. In the process, he had more fun than he ever expected. When he got home (after a shower and some food of course) he typed up a stream-of-consciousness recap in an email to me. He planned to clean it up before I posted it; but I thought it was fun to read in its original form. Hope you do too. — Jonathan

It was a bit of a mess from the start.

There were perhaps a dozen of us that showed up. A large contingent were from Team S&M and/or Sellwood Cycle. Mike Lilienthal, the organizer of the Slaughterer, showed up with multiple contusions all over his face from hitting the pavement on his bike after a night out. He wouldn’t be riding. Not many of us, if any, printed out the cue sheet and only a couple of us had the GPS file on our Garmins. However, they weren’t doing us much good. A local rider, James Ogbert, who works at Chris King, started leading us out and it was my understanding at the time that he had helped out on the planning. I caught up with my teammates, Aaron Leritz and Michael Kosmala and we were up front with James.

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Racers tackle Rose Garden Circuit race in Washington Park

Racers tackle Rose Garden Circuit race in Washington Park

(Photo: Pat Malach/Oregon Cycle Action)

The rain came into play once again last night at the Rose Garden Circuit Race, which held in Portland’s Washington Park. Thus, the streak for wet weather over the past two seasons of the series is still without end. The wet road made for some slippery turns, but this week’s race had more upright bikes at the finish and few if any injuries to riders. This is in contrast to last week’s opening event, which saw its fair share of crashes.

This is the second year of the race, which is sponsored by West End Bikes (1111 SW Stark) and put on by Steven Beardsley and Tony Kic of Giro Events. Their race brings the spring season of road racing right into Portland proper. The 1.6 mile circuit loops around the International Test Rose Garden and Washington Park reservoir for a fast sweeping downhill with a nearly 8 percent uphill climb to the top of each lap. Mr. Beardsley describes this course as being even more challenging than the legendary Mt. Tabor Circuit race held in Mt. Tabor Park. (And Beardsley should know, he’s won his fair share of races at Tabor.)

Race promoters Steven Beardsley (L) and Tony Kic.

So far this year, participation numbers are slightly up at the Rose Garden Circuit Race and more people are showing up each week. Last week’s field had a total of 75 racers with the largest majority in the Men’s 4/5 category and several categories of Master’s 4/5 added to that. The time limits on the course range from 20 minutes for Women’s 4/5 to 30 minutes for Men’s 4/5 and Women’s 1/2/3 with Senior Men riding for 50 minutes.

Riding the loop course (check out the route here via RideWithGPS) is like doing repeat sprint intervals both sitting and out of the saddle, a high pedaling cadence, and attempts at recovery. In short, it’s a great workout that gives you a taste of race speed and chances to work on strategy. It has all the ingredients for prepping riders, both new and experienced, for the upcoming race season.

Team Sorella Forte dominated the Women’s 4/5 field.
(Photo: Judd Eustice)

Jeff Condry was all smiles after his second race ever. Last week, he finished third in the Men’s 4/5. Last night, he finished second.
(Photo: Judd Eustice)

There are two more weeks left in the series (4/18 and 4/25). You can register at the event for $15. Learn more at GiroEvents.com.

A report from the Mudslinger mountain bike race

A report from the Mudslinger mountain bike race

Mielle Blomberg smiling through the muck.
(Photo: Shane Young/Oregon Velo)

Mielle Blomberg, blogger and team member of Les Femmes de S+M, and sent in this race report from yesterday’s Mudslinger cross-country mountain bike race. — Judd Eustice

As race promoter Mike Ripley blew the starting whistle for the rain-soaked racers, we sounded like a flock of angry geese in the middle of the gravel road as our disc brakes sounded off in unison. 325 of my closest mountain bike racing friends took part in yesterday’s wet adventure, also known as the the Mudslinger, held in Blodgett, Oregon for its 25th year.

Ripley reported that of the 325 total racers, 50 were beginners and, in a sign of the mountain biking’s general health in Oregon, 25% of the entire turnout where first-time riders or juniors.

With a short course of 10.5 miles, the Mudslinger gave new racers a taste of what great singletrack, challenging root sections and 1500 ft. of climbing feels like. This race also offered spectacular views at the top of the exposed climbs. For the higher category riders, 22.5 miles and 3850 ft. of climbing added double the elevation and some very technical trails like “Root Down” and the aptly named “Collarbone Alley” — which has deep gullies called water bars running horizontally across a steep, descending trail.

Everyone had their own goal for this race, like climbing that steep hill that you walked last year, or completing a technical section without “dabbing” a foot down. And for the first time racers, just getting to the finish was an accomplishment.

The mud on Sunday could be described as slick as snot and riding in it felt more like a mud-surfing than mountain bike racing. Photographers positioned themselves at different sections to capture the action and maybe a face plant or two.

Post race, the muddy-faced mob enjoyed pasta, and a massage therapist was on hand with free massages. For those that didn’t take home a medal, they might have taken home one of many raffle items like a new helmet or a set of Rolf-Prima wheels. All I took home was a sack full of muddy clothes, a very tired pair of legs, and memories from another great race.

Browse more stories in our Racing section.

Racers hunt for fast times at Sunday’s Crank Time Trial

Racers hunt for fast times at Sunday’s Crank Time Trial

This racer relied on his spidey-sense.
(Photos: Judd Eustice)

Portland’s racing season has gotten off to a great start. Yesterday, 160 riders put off their Easter festivities to test their fitness at the first event in the Crank Time Trial series at Portland International Raceway. The field doubled in size since its inception two years ago, and promoters Chad Smeltzer and Justin Tutor anticipate even larger fields in the next race on Memorial Day, May 27th.

The race, once again blessed with pleasant weather, provided an ideal setting for fast competition. The 12-mile closed course (6 laps x 2 miles) with light winds and no impediments to avoid, enabled everyone to push the pace and some blistering times were recorded.

The fastest leg on Sunday belonged to Colby Wait-Molyneux (Pro 1/2), who completed the course in 22:50.43 (that’s a sustained speed of about 30 mph!). This beat his previous record time of 23:29 that he put down two years ago. His next fastest competitor was William O’Donnell (Pro 1/2) who cruised in at 23:44.82.

The competition was impressive in most categories. The Men’s Masters 40+, for instance, had over 80% finish below 28 minutes. The top ten Men’s Masters 60+ all had times within two and a half minutes of each other that would have been in competitive in all categories but Pro 1/2.

Leia Tyrrell led all women with her time of 25:41.40, which beat last year’s record of 26:12.99 set last year by Jessica Cutler.

Photos:

Event promoters Chad Smeltzer and Justin Tutor.

L to R: Sarah Tisdale, Alison Medellin, and Karin Wohlert.

At the starting gate.

As mentioned before, field sizes have grown considerably since this time-trial event began at PIR two years ago. The Eddy Merckx men’s category (named after the legendary racer by the same name), for example, had 13 racers last year and that number doubled to 23 this year. This open field (meaning any age or skill level could enter) was very competitive as the top racer, Brian Kesselman, had the fastest time of 26:48.46 with the top ten finishing within a minute-and-half.

If you’ve ever been curious to participate in a “race of truth” against the clock, the Eddy Merck category is an ideal place to start. There’s no need to invest in a special time-trial bike or an aerodynamic helmet and outfit. In fact, these items are not allowed in the Eddy Merckx category. This is basic time-trialing. Because of these restrictions, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more growth in time-trial fields as the seasons wears on.

— Judd Eustice is our new racing contributor. See more racing coverage here.