Friday, September 12, 2008

9/7/08 High Pass Challenge Event Recap

2008 High Pass Challenge Recap (will appear in the October Cascade Courier)
By Tom Meloy

Temperatures in the 80’s, light winds, clear skies, and over 500 highly skilled riders combined to make the 2008 High Pass Challenge an incredible event. The HPC was yet another Cascade event superbly produced and organized by the highly efficient Cascade staff and volunteer team.
Given the stunning scenery, and no cars to contend with on the final push to and from Windy Ridge, the highest part of the route was an almost wilderness experience, assuming you could overlook sharing the spectacle with other cyclists.

We made it tougher this year, but many riders chose to go for the gold, attempting to complete the arduous 114 mile route in 7 hours of total time or less. Somewhere between 70-80 riders beat the 2pm cut off time to earn gold, and a similar number finished before 3pm to take home silver.

A noteworthy silver medalist was Kasey Board, a thirteen year old riding with his father. Kasey put some hurt on a lot of more “experienced” riders. Way to go Kasey! Another incredible performance came from Luke Britton, who put in a strong effort on a singlespeed bike, and completed the entire route.

I heard stories of riders who did not stop at all during the entire ride, apparently foregoing the event food stops, and eating food they had brought with them on the bike. Hopefully they were successful with that “pro move” that they never show on television!

Other riders with different goals rode hard, but paused long enough to take some great photos and socialize for a brief time at the well stocked food stops.

The HPC event was created to give “high performance” cyclists a late season hard ride they could then fondly recall over the ensuing rainy months. To make the event unique, it’s a challenge, with finisher “precious” medals to people who complete the route within certain cutoff times.

Riders started in Packwood, and then climbed 4600’ up to Mt. St. Helens’ Windy Ridge Viewpoint. From Windy Ridge, the riders returned to Packwood via quiet roads lined by lush forest. Total mileage was 114 miles with 7650’ of total climbing. Judging by the feedback on event day, the event route was not only tough, it was also noteworthy for its scenic beauty, as well as the overall low volume of auto traffic.

Thanks to all of the volunteers who made this event possible, as well as to the entire Cascade staff for organizing and delivering such a polished event in just the second year.
Special thanks go to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mt. St. Helens National Monument staff for sharing our enthusiasm for a new cycling event in the great Pacific Northwest.

Cascade Bicycle Club looks forward to many future years of the High Pass Challenge.

My Team HPC message board post:

Ok, it's time for some observations from someone who didn't ride the HPC this year.

Tracy and I did the Team Volunteer thing and we had a blast. I never knew "work" could be so much fun! We spent a lot of time at the start/finish line, both watching the launch at 7am, and then watching riders stream back in. I saw a lot of smiling faces despite how hard the ride must have been. Most seemed to prefer the heat to last year's cold.

I'm a little biased, but I thought (and heard from many others) that CBC did an absolutely incredible job with this event. We got the 7am start right, and it was easy to ask the riders to hold in the gate, and they pleasantly complied! David Douglass and the crew did a great job marking the course, organizing the food stops, etc., and there certainly was no lack of food.
I think the only thing that is a little odd is that some riders seem to miss the Cline Road turnoff, and wind up coming back up Rt. 12 all the way from Randle. At Iron Creek, at times we had three people flagging the riders who were descending, and telling them that the route was to the right, not back down the way they had come up. Even with that effort, we still had people ride right by us! We got everybody turned around, but the climbing must have caused a little brain fade. Next year we are going to sign that turn really well, and we'll do the same for the turn off Cispus onto Cline. For 2009, it will take a purely intentional decision to short cut the route.

It's a ride, not a race, but those who cut off some of the course to save time will likely do it again next year. Go figure...

One thing is for sure--Team HPC was well represented in the group of 70-80 gold finishers. As a matter of fact, I knew an awful lot of the early finishers, as many not only had red jerseys on, there were also many regulars from the Hills of the West Coast ride. It makes me think we must be doing something right when we go out and ride our ___ off every Sunday.

It was obvious that there were a lot of different goals and agendas amongst the riders. As long as a rider made it in by 5pm, I'd say he/she had a successful experience. Some took photos and socialized at every rest stop, while other riders never even got off the bike. I hope they practiced that "pro move" that they never show on TV before they tried it at the HPC!

I was just an observer at the 2008 HPC, but I certainly liked what I observed. Congratulations to all who had a great ride, and please keep the feedback coming.


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