Conditions aligned perfectly Saturday for the inaugural Hood2River Relay Race, and if the unanimous expressions of blissful exhaustion at the finish line and after-party were any indication, the event promises to be bigger and better next year.
Sunny skies and warm — but not too warm — temperatures greeted the 320 participants who competed in the six-stage, 46-mile relay starting slopeside at Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area and ending riverside at the Hood River Marina.
The first stage was an alpine run down Meadows’ North Canyon trail, either on skis or snowboard, to the resort’s base area. The run was sun-softened and slushy, but still quite fast. From there, racers either tagged-off to their teammates or, for individuals doing all six stages, swapped-gear for the 2-mile Nordic loop that wound around the base area and ended at the mountain bike staging area.
Mountain bikers started their 7-mile course with a high-speed burn down the Meadows access road before turning into the forest for a thigh-burning lap in the Teacup Lake area. Road bikers had the longest leg, and although almost entirely downhill, riders pedaled their buns off to maintain speed on the 27-mile stretch from Teacup to Pine Grove. From there runners started their 6.7-mile leg with a slow climb on Eastside Road to Panorama Point before heading downhill, down Highline Road, through downtown Hood River to the event headquarters at the Marina Park.
Classic Gorge winds challenged competitors in the final leg of the event — a 1.5-mile paddle from the Marina, east to the Best Western and back. Interestingly, advantages between kayakers and stand-up paddlers on the stage seemed to be about neutralized due to the mix of wind and strong river currents. After a final upwind grind back to the beach, racers ditched their watercraft and sprinted to the marina park, where many reunited with team members before crossing the finish line to the cheers of a large crowd gathered for the after-party festivities.
Event organizer Chad Sperry, of Breakaway Promotions, says the day was a huge success.
“This is an event we’ve been trying to get launched for six years,” said Sperry, whose company organizes sports events around the Northwest, including the Hood River-based Columbia Gorge Marathon, Tour de Hood, Columbia Gorge Gran Fondo and the former Mt. Hood Cycling Classic. “There are always a few bumps in putting on an inaugural event, but the feedback and enthusiasm we’ve heard from people has been fantastic.”
Sperry said the short time frame between final approval and permitting for the event and its scheduled date gave Breakaway limited time to promote it, so next year’s numbers will likely be significantly higher, especially with the momentum the inaugural event seemed to gain.
“With all the events we’ve done, we’ve never had one generate so much support from businesses and the local community. It has really been fantastic. We’re looking forward to improving the event and making it bigger and better next year.”
At the finish line, competitors, friends, family and passers-by refueled with food and drinks and enjoyed a sunny, summer-kickoff concert by Gorge-local Tony Smiley into the late afternoon.
“One thing that blew me away me was how long people hung out afterword and just had a good time,” Sperry said. “The camaraderie between the racers and the festival atmosphere was great to see. We put this on as a racing, sports contest, but also want it to be a something for the whole community to come out and enjoy.”
Participants ranged from ages 8-68, with 45 percent women and 55 percent men. In addition to the strong Gorge representation, participants came from Portland, Seattle, Bend, Eugene, Truckee, Calif., Sisters, Gig Harbor, Wash., and as far away as Scottsdale, Ariz.
Highlights are as follows; for complete results visit hood2riverrelay.com.
Individual open top 5: 1st: Kevin Brown; 2nd: Tav Streit; 3rd: Emily Fisken; 4th: Ashley Kock; 5th: Brian Zabel
Masters top 5: 1st: Denes Balazs; 2nd: Patricia Smaldone; 3rd: Michael Gueguen; 4th: Kathleen Welland; 5th: Tate Metcalf
Team Men: 1st: CGTC Hoodlums; 2nd: Pasty Thighs
Team Women top 5: 1st: Melika; 2nd: Wy’east; 3rd: HRMS Hoodlums; 4th: Hot Lava Mama’s; 5th: Pink Panthers
Team coed top 5: 1st: Stoked Roasters; 2nd: Tag You’re It; 3rd: Lopezians; 4th: Everybody’s Relay Raceted; 5th: One Speed
Team Family top 5: 1st: National Lampoon’s Hood2River Experience; 2nd: Melkonian Family; 3rd: GS Sirens; 4th: Howell’s; 5th: Grubb Family
Team Business top 5: 1st: Team Providence; 2nd: Outside; 3rd: Cantshootwell (Meadows); 4th: Yakima Vigilantes; 5th: Key Players
Team High School: 1st: Eat Our Dust
Pair men under 80 (combined age) top 3: 1st: Kamikaze Kousins; 2nd: Misha/Ben; 3rd: Blazing Slow
Pair men over 80 top 3: 1st: less than Virile; 2nd: The Dougs; 3rd: Brian Woodward
Pair women under 80: 1st: XC Oregon; 2nd: Gorgeous Gorge Gorgers; 3rd: Merriam Legacy
Pair women over 80: 1st: 2 Jenn’s; 2nd: Leen Ralley; 3rd: Bonnie-Sues
Pair coed over 80: 1st: meadows Maniacs; 2nd: The Dynamic Duo; 3rd: Adventure2Fun
Pair coed under 80: 1st: Malmondboy; 2nd: H&H