Red-to-Red race brings test for trail

A mountain biker rides on the newly completed off-road cycling trail near Echo. <BR><I>Photo contributed by Brian Cimmiyotti</i>

After years of work, the Echo Hills Trail Builders will see their reward next week, when an Oregon Bicycle Racing Association race comes to town.

The Echo Red-To-Red mountain bike race, so called because it starts and ends at the Red Express on Main Street, will be the first race of the 14-race RiverCity Cross Country Series in Oregon.

Brian Cimmiyotti and several other mountain biking enthusiasts spent years building the trail, and the idea of holding a major race has been in their minds since the beginning, he said.

"We've been tossing around the idea ever since we've been doing training races out there, for the past three years," he said. "The desert-type course is so unique compared to races in Bend, Ashland, the Eugene area and Portland. It's actually going to be close to the original Oregon trail."

The trail also is 70 percent single track, which is the most exciting and fun sort of trail, he said

When the group took their idea to the Echo City Council, they were met with enthusiasm. It's unusual, Cimmiyotti said, for a mountain bike race to start in the middle of town.

"We feel that anything that brings people into Echo is a good thing," City Administrator Diane Berry said. "It helps business out and exposes people to town."

About 30 people have signed up for the race so far, but Cimmiyotti said he is expecting about 100, a somewhat smaller turnout than the typical OBRA race, which draws between 200 and 300 cyclists.

"We're actually the same distance from Portland, Spokane and Boise," he said, "so we're going to attract a different group than a typical Oregon race because we have people coming who are doing it just to race, not to be part of the series."

From Main Street, the route runs west on the Lexington-Echo Highway for about a mile, then turns onto Snow Road and heads into Alkali Canyon. There are two course routes, one 21 miles, and the other 27 miles long. Both end up back in front of the Red Express, where racers will be treated to a rice, bean, and veggie burrito from owner Brie Van Cleave.

Van Cleave got to know the local biking group when they stopped in for breakfast during their Sunday rides. Also, much of the trail is on land that belongs to her parents, Lloyd and Lois Piercy.

The entrance fee for the race is $25 for adults and $15 for juniors. Most of the proceeds will go toward Kiwanis youth clubs in Echo.

After the race, organizers will hold a raffle with donated bicycling merchandise. The grand prize is a pair of $200 custom-molded bike shoes from Louis Garneau.

Mike Ripley, the OBRA mountain bike representative, said he excited to hold the race in a place that has yet to see an event of this type.

"It's so beautiful and open - I can feel the vibe, and the town is really inviting. Bikers like to go to those kind of places because we're a tight-knit group."

Ripley said he was impressed by local mountain biking clubs such as the Chinook Cycling Club, which brings together bikers from the Hermiston area and the Tri-Cities.

"They get like 70 people just for group rides. That's pretty darn cool, when you can get that community-type culture that's active and participatory," he said. "We need more of that."

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