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Clearing the Air: Smoke, big time rides and more about chip seal 

I used to live in Los Angeles, where every bike ride exposed me to air thick with pollution. I would try to ignore it and not think too hard about what I was breathing.

I used to live in Los Angeles, where every bike ride exposed me to air thick with pollution. I would try to ignore it and not think too hard about what I was breathing. Frequently, local news people would report almost gleefully that exercising for a given amount of time, say 45 minutes, when the air was particularly bad was akin to smoking a pack of cigarettes. The message seemed to be that one should exercise inside like an animal in a cage, or just forget it and eat something instead.

Last week's forest fire was a good reminder of the clean air we consistently enjoy in Central Oregon and how easy it is to take it for granted. After only two days of not riding outside, I had full-blown cabin fever. Fortunately, the wind began to usher out the smoke on Friday. By Saturday, it was almost completely gone.

High Cascades 100

With most finishers spending between eight and 14 hours in the saddle, last Saturday's High Cascades 100 mountain bike race truly deserved the overused adjective "epic." The race featured over 80 miles of single-track and 11,500 feet of climbing, making it one of the premier mountain bike endurance events in the country.

"The after effects of a hundred-mile trail ride usually make you feel like someone has taken a 2x4 to your body," said last year's winner Chris Sheppard. He narrowly missed repeating his win after missing a turn and riding some three miles out of his way. He was able to chase down all but one racer, Cary Smith, and secured second place in a little over eight hours. Sheppard, the proud new daddy of one-week-old Parker, credits his wife April for his performance, who insisted he sleep in their camper for a few nights before the race to catch up on his rest.

It's nice to know that even badass racers like Shep, who recently won the BC Mountain Bike Stage Race, have second thoughts about spending an entire day in a mountain bike saddle. "Low point? Trying to convince yourself at 4 a.m. that sitting in a wet chamois for eight hours is a grand idea," said Sheppard.

Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number

In a town overrun with athletes, it's easy to overlook the accomplishments of some, especially those who quietly go about their training and racing. Those who don't tweet or blog, but just let their legs do the talking.

Local bike racer Teri Sheasby very quietly, and very firmly, placed 12th overall in the recent Cascade Cycling Classic. To put this in perspective, 105 women started the stage race and only 84 finished. Sheasby rode shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the country's best pros, including eventual winner Mara Abbott, who is 25 years old. This was Sheasby's fourth CCC and her best finish at age 48.

"There are days it was challenging to juggle everything," admits Sheasby who balances competing with motherhood. "But I think my children are observing a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment. There were many times they said they wanted me to stay home. And I would ask them if they wanted me to race well. The answer was always 'yes.' This is teaching them how to work hard for a goal."

Many competitors find inspiration in Sheasby's accomplishments, even while being schooled by her in a race.

OB, I Once Knew Ya

Another casualty of our zealous chip-sealing crew in Bend is OB Riley Road. Once a stretch of flat-ish pavement between Highway 20 and town, it's now rough with chip seal for no apparent reason. I won't mention the few blissfully smooth stretches of pavement left in Deschutes County for fear I'll get the crew fired up to go out and ruin it.

What the local government won't tell you is chip seal increases roadway noise and accelerates tire wear on both bikes and cars. Ironically, the one road that would be improved by chip sealing is Skyliners Road. Conflict between motorists and cyclists on that road is due in large part to its deterioration with no improvements due for at least two more years.

And let me preempt the inevitable letter to the editor citing that until cyclists pay taxes to keep up roads they shouldn't have a voice. The vast majority of cyclists are also motorists, workers and homeowners, making them - you guessed it - taxpayers.

Michelle Bazemore is the mother of two mini cyclists, a freelance writer and an amateur competitive cyclist for Sunnyside Sports.

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