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home : sports & recreation : sports & recreation June 20, 2018

5/29/2018 1:27:00 PM
Kicking off summer Stampede-style
Some 500 riders hit the trail in Sisters’ unofficial summer kickoff, the Sisters Stampede. photo by Jerry Baldock
+ click to enlarge
Some 500 riders hit the trail in Sisters’ unofficial summer kickoff, the Sisters Stampede. photo by Jerry Baldock

By Cody Rheault

In a fury of mountain bikes, spectators, the gallop of a horse, and the crack of a pistol, summer in Sisters kicked off early on Sunday morning. The unofficial start to the season began with the Sisters Stampede celebrating it's ninth running of the annual event.

May 27 brought perfect conditions, with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s as 500 contestants ranging from novice to elite raced along the Peterson Ridge Trail network. After a week of questionable rainy conditions - and a potential for disastrous trail conditions - the weekend was ideal, with well-packed and not-too-dusty trails.

The Sisters Stampede also served as the final race in the Oregon Off-Road Series - a series in which participants compete in seven races throughout Oregon with their best four times counted toward a competitive ranking. Mike Ripley, owner of Mudslinger Events, noted that the ease of the course draws many visitors young and old, serving as an ideal end to the series.

"You won't see as many youth and novices participate in races as you do here," he said.

The minor elevation gain and family-friendly atmosphere add to an experience many repeatedly come to enjoy. This years event saw 54 percent of it's contestants as repeats from last year.

For Zane Strait, a 12-year-old resident of Bend, this was his second Sisters Stampede and he finished second in his age group. He's no stranger to competition, though: he competed in the Pole Pedal Paddle as a solo contestant, performing all legs of the competition under the 2.5-hour mark. He also participates in a number of sports but says cycling is one of his favorites along with skiing. And he intends to compete in future Stampedes as well.

"We like it here because we know people and it's a good environment," said Shannon Strait, Zane's mother, when asked why they would like to return. "It's not like any other sport we've participated in.

"It's a family affair," she said.

Zane's father, Bill, also participated in the event as a volunteer at the registration booth.

For others the race has become a yearly visit to a place they love for more than just the race itself. Patty Barnard of Camas, Washington, said Sisters is attractive in that it reminds her of growing up in a small town and she loves the community feel the Stampede provides.

This year marked her third race at the Stampede, where she finished first in her age group.

"I felt better than I thought I would," she said. "There was a lot of adrenaline two days leading up to it but this year I pushed myself harder."

The past two years she never advanced beyond fourth place but she found herself shocked and pleased to walk away with more than just a great experience this time. Patty is also part of a racing team for Camas Bike & Sport and was joined by another dozen racers from Camas this year.

The Sisters Stampede represents everything she loves and an event she plans to continue participating in. And competing in the Stampede also gives her another reason to visit a place she wants to retire to someday.

"Location, vibe, course. Those are my favorites about the Sisters Stampede," she said.

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