Labour of Love - The Trans-Cascadia Returns for 2019

Words Trans-Cascadia
Date Jan 31, 2019

"Best trails, best conditions, best times, best feeling I've ever had on a bike - ever." ~Loris Vergier, 2018 Winner

There comes a moment after each Trans-Cascadia, usually while everyone is a little bleary-eyed eating breakfast around a smouldering fire on the final morning, when the question is asked: so, are we doing this again next year?

 With the success of the past four editions of Trans-Cascadia and the party vibe of an incredible week in the backcountry that everyone is still coasting on, the expected easy answer would be a resounding yes! But the reality is that putting on any event, especially an event like this – one that has developed into not just a race, but year-round advocacy work, extensive scouting, and trail building and maintenance – is an exhausting labor of love.

Our goal is to bring awareness to the great Cascadia region, promote trail advocacy, and leave behind a legacy of backcountry trails for the region. ~Alex Gardner, Race Producer

Alex Gardner, Nick Gibson, and Tommy Magrath created Trans-Cascadia, a four-day blind format backcountry enduro race, to share the incredible trail networks that exist throughout the Pacific Northwest with riders from around the world. But what has evolved since those first planning conversations has become much more than even they expected. In the last four years, working with Forest Service and local bikes clubs, the Trans-Cascadia team has reclaimed a total of 112 miles of dormant backcountry trails that had not been rideable for a decade or more.  Additionally, they have logged out and helped maintain the primary trail networks in excess of 300 miles. Last year, they helped co-found the Oregon Mountain Biking Coalition, an organization that is focused on protecting mountain biking opportunities, preserving backcountry access for everyone, and fostering communications between all user groups. 


What had originally been a plan for a 4-day event, developed to also include three formal Work Party weekends; essentially mini versions of the race where 30 - 50 participants camp and are treated to gourmet meals, beer, and good times deep in the woods while they volunteer their labor to clear trails. (Want to join a Work Party weekend? Information on these weekend can be found halfway down the Trans-Cascadia home page.)

 Last year, Trans-Cascadia took place in Washington state for the first time (the previous three years had been in Oregon) and 45 miles of trails were reclaimed as the direct result of years of planning and thousands of hours of labor. This model has been repeated each year with the event leaving behind a legacy of rediscovered and rehabilitated trails for all riders to enjoy

“It's super cool to see that they aren't only focused on opening trails that they are using to race, but that they are interested in reclaiming trails that haven't been maintained in a long time. Rather than only focusing on trails that they will need, they are simply using their time and energy to clear as many trails here as they can.” ~Cody Olsen, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance

Despite the sacrifice of time away from their families and careers, Alex, Nick, and Tommy are passionate about what they have created. And although immediately following the event, the question about next year may seem too exhausting to even consider, it is always, eventually, a “hell yes, we are doing this again!” Or as Alex puts it, “we are going to put on the best Trans-Cascadia we’ve ever done - again!”

 True to their blind format, the exact location for the 2019 race within the Cascadia Bioregion will only be disclosed to racers closer to the event dates (September 24 – 30, 2019) and the stage details won’t be disclosed until the nightly meetings during the race.


What can be expected is a mix of steep loamy tracks and rocky tech, high mountain ridges and alpine meadows, dense old-growth forests and classic Northwest bench cut. Racers will be treated to gourmet meals miraculously created miles from civilization, nightly social campfires, a well-stocked bar, and personal tents set up under the stars. As Tommy said when he welcomed racers last year, “The only things racers need to pay attention to is when to eat, when to get on a shuttle [on days that have shuttles], and when to eat again.” But the real experience of Trans-Cascadia year after year is the unique bonds and friendships that are formed through the camaraderie of it all. There is no wifi, no cell phones, just four days of biking, nature, and storytelling. 

“[The] focus centers around fun and adventure, all while hanging with your pals in a beautiful part of the world. This year I'm looking forward to the star-studded cast of the mountain bike community's finest! The trails, campfires, and no cell service also come to mind. It's a party in the woods!” ~Aaron Bradford, 2015 Trans-Cascadia Winner

Title sponsors Shimano, Santa Cruz, and Oakley will be returning for 2019. “These companies have a choice of where to spend their money,” says Nick, “and they choose to support our advocacy group. They support us financially - and also with boots on the ground. They give back and the work they do matters.”

Out of respect for the pristine locations in which the event is held, there are only 100 entries available. This race has sold out every year since it began four years ago – don’t miss out. Visit the website for more details on how to register. 

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