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The Oregon Stampede – by Iran Ryan
i have been told many times how amazing and beautiful the oregon stampede is and i always just sort of shrugged my shoulders with a “i will get around to it one of these years” indifference.
i signed up this year and more importantly, i went and rode it this past weekend. ryan and india have raved about it and i have done a few other velodirt events that donnie has put on. being impressed with how remote and adventuresome the other routes have been, the stampede route was no different.
this year it was moved from a fall event to a spring event and it was gorgeous. green fields, temps in the 70‘s and rain the night before made for perfect riding conditions. ward and i drove out the night before and opted for the comfy three rivers inn just east of the deschutes river. a good nights sleep, a truck stop dinner and bad motel tv made for the perfect preparation.
coffee, oatmeal and off to the start at 6 am. the sun was already shining and the air was cold in the campground as 80+ people milled around sorting out cue sheets and stuffing food into pockets for the 127 mile trek. with a unceremonious launch by donnie, we all rolled out and hit the first gravel patch in a mile or so.
being in a river canyon in central oregon means that there is pretty much nowhere to go but up one side or another. with the steepest and loosest gravel grade out of the way, the mass of riders quickly spread out and everyone found their tempo.
the oregon stampede is 127 miles with over 60% of the roads being gravel. the route starts at the confluence of the deschutes and the columbia rivers on the oregon, washington border and makes a giant loop south towards the town of dufur. continue south through the rugged white river wildlife area, east towards tygh valley and then turns north back towards the columbia river and the finish.
having ridden a whopping 5 or 6 hours over the last couple weeks, i was not going to take the bait to keep up with the leaders as they quickly rode over the hills and out of sight. happy to soak up the sunshine and chat as we churned along the wide gravel roads, ward, ryan, india, margi and i stuck together most of the day. everyone had a smile on their face and we all remarked about the colors of the fields. green grasses and yellow safflowers bloomed over entire hillsides. the terrain was rolling but it was clear that we would be climbing up and out of small canyons all day.
we came to a small abandoned grange hall, peed and took pictures of the weathered building. a few other riders rode by and we soon found ourselves on the long steady grade of robert’s market road. we could see riders spread out under the partly cloudy skies. once we hit the top, you could see for miles and miles even though the sky was a bit cloudy. this was the high point of the 9000 feet of climbing for the day. we started down and it was clear that the little bit of mountain biking i had done this winter on my fully rigid bike made me more comfortable than most on the loose gravel descents. shred!
we rolled along a sweeping paved road into dufur and saw a mass of cyclists sitting on the sidewalk filling bottles and eating some fine hotcase food. chicken strips and jojo’s seemed to be the food of choice.
we were soon rolling again and headed towards what seemed to be a higher climate with more pines and scrub oaks. soon we were on gravel and crossing a cattle guard as the road got much rockier. the white river recreation area was rough and a full suspension bike would not have been a bad idea. people were dropping like flies to fix punctures and tip toe through the massive rock beds that made up the “road.”
had it not been for cross, i would have panicked and i am sure crashed but you just have to let it all hang out and hope for the best. elbows out and relax. stream crossings, sand pits with tire tracks every direction. amazing. finding a rthym and trusting my sturdy continental touring tires, i bombed past margi and ward as they took cautious lines. i was having so much fun and trying hard to pick a good line that i didn’t notice my tools had all evacuated my seat pack on the rough stuff. i walked around a bit and found my king cage ti tire lever (sweet btw) but figured the other tools were a sacrifice to the gods of gnar.
after the wilderness area, the gravel seemed so smooth and we all regrouped before we enacted some team time trial style into tygh valley and the second stop of the day. stop, eat, water.
sherars bridge hwy is paved and with a stiff wind at our backs, we made good time to the deschutes river right before we started our climb out of the canyon. miles or twists and turns where you can see the road above you on the opposite canyon wall. ryan was feeling plucky and rode away. we scaled the canyon and eventually regrouped on top when we realized that margi had gone ahead and made the “winning” move of the day. none of us were here to make a race out of it but margi has the gumption to say the least.
with a stiff cross wind, we tacked our way to the grass valley store for the last refuel of the day. i consumed my favorite combination of coke and a frappachino. add some chips for the slow burn and we were off again for the last leg of the day. not easy as the afternoon wind picked up and our direction headed straight across it. some big rollers, loose gravel and late day sunshine made me recount the years i raced the trans-iowa and then i realized that i didn’t have 13 more hours of riding in front of me. i had taken my time all day and my body felt good.
the wind stretched our group out and i rode away having a feeling that i might be able to pick off a few people in the last 20 miles. i mean, if you got fuel left, burn it up right?
i passed a few riders and saw mad mike from sellwood on the hill in front of me. as the road turned into the wind, i noticed the footprints of people who have walked this stretch before me. over the top in my lowest gear, i tucked in and let it all hang out on the gravel descent. gordon ridge road followed the spine of the hill into the wind and i soon passed mike and one more rider.
as the road turned back to tarmac, i saw mike chasing me down and he caught me on the base of a gentle ride. we took turns pulling on the front not really knowing why we were working this hard. it was like were being chased by some mad max chariot with a v-8 or something. as the road started down into the final canyon descent, we knew we were close to the end and pushed harder. mike pulls off the front and says as he passes, “emptying the tank at the end is one thing but i think we just emptied the tank and lit the chassis on fire.”
a few more hard pulls into the wind and we were at the last turn just a mile or so away from the end. we see donnie and someone else at the intersection as we blow through the corner. the wind is right in our faces and before we know it donnie has passed us with a sprint and a heckling laugh. not to be shone up, mike and i sit on and pass him just before the left into the park.
we all sit up and smile. i look down at my watch and it read 7:39. with a late start in the morning of 7:40, we just broke the 12 hour mark for the ride. made it to the campsite where a few people where sitting in the grass, drinking beer, i laid out and enjoyed being done with a long ride on a beautiful day.
ryan, india and ward all rolled in shortly afterwards and everyone felt good. ward and i ate most of the cookies we had stashed as we toweled off and made a moka pot of coffee in the parking lot for the drive home.
it was a good day.