Everyone in Bend, Oregon, seemed to have one thing on their mind on this unseasonably chilly Thursday afternoon in the last full week of spring: The seventh annual Blitz mountain bike race. This year’s edition was a bit colder than was expected. But such a denial of expectations is rather apropos for the event. The Blitz has made a name for itself in large part due to its denial to be quantified.
Is it an enduro? Not really. The Blitz is a single-stage race. So it’s a downhill? Well, the race does begin at Wanoga Sno-Park in the Cascade Mountains, and racers lose significant elevation as they make their way to the finish at Bend’s Tetherow Golf Course (itself a beautifully defiant example of this community’s love for cycling culture). But it also has a fair amount of climbing, evidenced by past victories by cyclocross champions and cross country pros. So no, it’s not a downhill either. Cross country, then? That’s probably as close as you can get to an accurate label. But being that the course has about 1500 feet of elevation loss, and only around 500 feet of gain over 17 miles, it hardly qualifies as traditional XC either.
Perhaps the best evidence for this event’s lack of a traditional label is the start list. Each year, cross country professionals such as Carl Decker and three-time Olympian Todd Wells line up next to enduro pros Josh Carlson and Adam Craig (himself a former XC Olympian).
In last years men’s race, Wells was first to the finish line, but then Craig took the lead back. How’s that you ask? Well, racers must finish a pint of beer before they are officially “done.” And it’s not just any old beer. Bend’s Deschutes Brewery serves up some very rich craft brew, which as many of the racer’s faces reveal, is not easy to chug after an hour of all-out pedaling.
Wells was a bit stunned at the seriousness of the beer chug portion last year. But this time around he was not to be denied, taking the win ahead of his little brother Troy, with Decker in third.
In the women’s race, Joanna Patterson took the hole shot, winning the first of four $1000 primes. But by the time the ladies made it down to Tetherow for the second prime of the evening, Kelli Emmett had taken the race lead by a fairly wide margin and who hold on for the win.
The turnout for this year’s festivities was at an all-time high, with the parking lot. Ultimately, rain did hit and the crowd began to dissipate in favor of a drier venue down at the Deschutes Brewery Public House. However, Bend has left its mark once again — not just on the pocketbook of the victorious racers who finished the day with a piece of the $20,000 cash purse — but on the vibrant local cycling scene as well.
Rain or shine, this place is a wonderland of great beer and great bike racing. Check out the photo gallery below for more sights and scenes.
1. Todd Wells
2. Troy Wells
3. Carl Decker
1. Kelli Emmett
2. Laura Winberry
3. Brooke Blackwelder