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After kicking off two weekends ago at the coast, the Oregon Triple Crown series moved about 85 miles inland to the “Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest” (that’s the official motto). There were only a few riders at the Sasquatch Duro on mountain bikes Saturday, but that didn’t stop them from riding off-road into the mountains.
A few hundred people — a mix of racers looking for fast times and ramblers looking for good times — lined up on East 1st Street in uptown Oakridge to tackle the “Big Squatch” or “Little Squatch”. The courses (43 and 30 miles respectively) offered paved roads through high prairies and a river, and dirt roads through forested timber lands that were once the lifeblood of surrounding communities.
With about equal parts pavement and dirt, nearly everyone was on a drop-bar road bike with tires ranging from about 35-45 mm in size (for reference, most Tour de France racers ride 25 mm tires).
The weather was moody in the days leading up to the event with showers and dark skies. (I arrived early and stayed in Westfir, a few miles outside Oakridge. Stay tuned for a story about that tiny town and its up-and-coming lodge). The sky gods smiled on the Sasquatch Duro and it turned out to be sunny and dry all day.
I did the Big Squatch course and enjoyed almost every minute. I say “almost” because I didn’t feel great on the big climb at the start and once I recovered it was too late to catch back onto the lead groups. Thankfully the rest of the day was darn near perfect. Once we got off-road (at mile 7) I started to find my legs and had a solid riding partner to the peak of the first climb which topped out at about 2,800 feet (we started at 1,200). As you can see on the route map above, the course took us over a series of creeks with the most boring names ever: We pedaled over First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth creeks.Click for captions. (Photos: Harry Apelbaum/Apelbaum Studios)
After the peak, the day’s real fun began. We careened down National Forest Road 1928 and hung a sharp left on the legendary Aufderheide Scenic Byway. Ripping along the pavement with the majestic Willamette over my shoulder was a treat. I couldn’t savor it fully though, because I knew what was coming. I’d done some reconnaissance Thursday night on the route’s big climb, NF 1912.
Once we left Aufderheide, we crossed the river and headed (what felt like) straight up for six grueling miles. We punched out over 2,600 feet of climbing to get to Windy Pass, before an eight mile descent took us back down to the river. I felt like I flew down that descent (there’s some photo evidence here)! The corners seemed to melt away as I held onto my bars and carved the damp dirt with full trust that my brain, body, and bike would do the right things.
The last two miles were paved and flat on the Aufderheide Byway. It was a remote finish in Westfir, meaning the after-party and free food were about four miles away in Oakridge. As luck would have it however, I was staying in Westfir, so my day was done. And the patio-dwellers at Westfir Lodge welcomed me back with smiles and congratulatory toasts of great Oregon beer.
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