First thing's first: Bend's junior cyclocross racers are absolutely. Killing. It.
Cameron Beard, Colin Dunlap, Javier Colton and Lance Haidet—none older than 18—have raced near or inside the top 10 in a number of the northwest's ultra-competitive Cross Crusade series races which, participation wise, are the largest cyclocross races in the world. To put their achievements in perspective, these kids are racing against guys twice their age—literally, the average age of the top-five Category A men in last weekend's race at Barton Park was 35. And these whippersnappers are going elbow-to-elbow with the best in the northwest, some of whom, like Bend's Carl Decker, who's leading the nine-race series, are full-time sponsored professionals.
The reason for their successes? Heaps of motivation, a fitness-oriented community and, perhaps most importantly, one of the best junior training and race programs in the country—Bend Endurance Academy.
Cycling director Bill Warburton and his fellow coaches hold near daily training sessions that are more focused on skills and fun than they are on lung-busting VO2 max intervals (there are those, too). Participation has swelled in the last few years, from the kindergartner groups clear through to the high school ranks. And as numbers increase, a select few have risen to the top.
Beard, 15, Dunlap, 18, and Colton, 17, are all enrolled in BEA's cycling program, and along with pal Haidet, who's 16 and rides for California's high-profile Bear Development Team, are racing with an eye on the USA Cyclocross National Championships in Boulder in early January. They all seem well prepared. Competing in the elite men's Cross Crusade races, Haidet has finished as high as fourth this season. Last weekend, Beard and Dunlap were wheel-to-wheel at the finish line, finishing in tenth and eleventh place. Colton was 20th, but was 11th the weekend before. Their efforts haven't gone unnoticed.
"We're getting a lot of recognition across the county for the program," Warburton said. "Which is cool."
This year, Bend girls are getting in on the action, too. Last weekend at Barton Park, southeast of Portland, Katie Ryan, 16 and Ivy Taylor, 15, finished first and second, respectively, in the junior women's race. Like their young male counterparts, both girls are focused on the national championships. And, in a sign of validation of Taylor's efforts, she recently won a $500 scholarship from Tim Johnson's Mud Fund, a program that, according to its website, "provides scholarships to deserving junior boys and girls."
Cheer for the impressive underage Bend racers at the final Cross Crusade of the year, which will be staged on Sunday, Dec. 8 in Bend behind the Deschutes Brewery warehouse. The action starts on Saturday with a non-series, national-level race on the same course.
In recent years, the golden basalt columns at Central Oregon's Trout Creek climbing area have gained national attention among climbing circles for the near-perfect cracks that rise 70 to more than 100 feet above the craggy butte they rest upon.
So, it's surprising, to me that—despite covering this area, popular with burly climbers and adventurous hikers and birders, for the better part of the last year—few visit this stunning zone, located just 14 miles north of Madras.
Those who do make the trek north, however, are no doubt well aware of the area's nesting golden eagles and associated seasonal closures, orchestrated by the Bureau of Land Management. With another closure looming (it starts Jan. 1; please respect it) and because we're still seeing cooler temps and sunny days, now is the time to get out to Trout.
There's even a new incentive for those willing to make the hour-plus drive: improved trails. The BLM has teamed up with Heart of Oregon and, together, they have, according to the BLM's Lisa Clark, performed "major surgery," on the South Main Trail, one of three trails that leads to the crag. They've also added more than 140 steps to the North Trail and beefed up the Cool Wall Trail.
The hope is that, by better developing all three trails, visitors will have options for accessing the walls even if the eagles do nest (their nest failed last year). Depending on if and where the eagles settle down, the BLM could lift the closure—at least partially—earlier than August, which is the current proposal.
"The trails are important," said Eric Sorenson, the Access Fund's Central Oregon regional coordinator. "Our goal is to keep as much open as possible, as often as possible."
Sorenson and the rest of the climbing community have been praised by the BLM for respecting last season's closure and helping develop an agreeable management plan.
Hit the trails! All of them—at least those under 4,500 feet or so—are in prime mountain biking condition, and still free of snow. Firm and dust free, you won't experience better riding conditions in Bend. Go above 4,500 feet, though, and you'll encounter white stuff, especially on north-facing slopes. Still, trails as high as Heli-Pad and all those below are perfect.
Mt. Bachelor. Opening day is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 23.