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The Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder stage race is its promoter’s hardest-to-pull-off event. It’s also the crew at Breakaway Promotions’ favorite.
“The sense of community every night at camp and every morning at breakfast — you don’t see anything like it at anything I’ve ever done,” Breakaway’s founder Chad Sperry told VeloNews.
“There’s nowhere to go! Riders gather around the campfire, literally, every night, and they suffer together daily. The pros are hobknobbing with the Joes. It’s such a beautiful thing, and that’s why everyone loves it. It’s just a very unique format that I haven’t seen from a competitive or racing standpoint. We’re all in it together for five days.”
For such a bold assertion to come from Sperry, who’s been in the business for 20 years, must mean that the five day stage race is indeed something special.
Breakaway debuted the event in 2019, and 2022 will be its third edition. From June 22 – June 26, riders and crew will form a traveling caravan in the Bend, Oregon backcountry. Over five days, ‘pros and Joes’ will ride 350 miles of remote United States Forest Service roads in the Cascade mountains and camp and commune together nightly. The event has gained a huge following during its short tenure, and many of the pros returning in 2022 have been at the two previous editions.
For anyone who has the event on their bucket list but hasn’t been able to put aside the time yet, Breakaway is offering a unique opportunity to get it on the 2023 calendar.
The Pro Pick Challenge is a contest that is free to enter and right up a gravel racing aficionado’s alley.
Those participating in the challenge choose the male and female winners of each stage, as well as the two overall winners. After the event concludes, a contest winner will be determined based on the most accurate selections. Picking the correct overall female and male winners is the most important; criteria will move to correct picks of stage winners if more than one person selects correct male and female overall winners.
Sperry said he wants people to put some time and thought into their choices.
“I want folks to research the pro athletes,” Sperry said. “Go online, go onto VeloNews.com, see who’s hot and who’s not. Who just won Unbound. I want them to invest themselves in the course profiles and say, ‘oh this is mountain bike-oriented, Blevins is gonna blow it out. Or, ‘Oh this one is more roadie-oriented, it’s perfect for Stetina.'”
The prize is a VIP package for the 2023 Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder which includes entry fee, VIP tent service, bike-ship package, nightly massage, lodging before and after the event, and more.
The contest kicks off Tuesday, June 14 at 5:00 p.m PST, and participants have until June 21 at midnight PST to enter.
For those wanting to dive into the homework, here are some images and stats to get you started. Women to watch include 2022 Unbound champ Sofia Gomez Villafañe, BWR Asheville winner Sarah Max, returning OTGG champion Sarah Sturm, and MTB/’cross legend Katerina Nash. In the men’s race, keep an eye on 2021 OTGG winner Pete Stetina, Specialized’s marathon pro Russell Finsterwald, NorCal phenom Sandy Floren, and pro ‘crosser Kerry Werner.
More information on the stages can be found here.
Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder
Stage 1: Sisters to Blue Ridge, 74.1 miles; 6,606 feet
Stage 2: Blue Ridge to Oak Ridge, 61.6 miles; 5,970 feet
Stage 3: Oak Ridge to Oak Ridge, 47.3 miles; 4,387 feet
Stage 4: Oak Ridge to La Pine*, 95.1 miles; 9,924 feet
Difficulty: Very hard
Stage 5: La Pine to Sisters, 83.6 miles; 6,504 feet