Portland’s first unsanctioned, virtual stage race starts this weekend


Event flyer

This weekend a new type of cycling event will start on the streets in and around Portland. It’s called La Boucle Des Roses and it’s unlike anything we’ve heard of before.

French for “The Loop of Roses,” La Boucle is an unsanctioned race/ride with five stages that will take place between this Saturday March 4th and Saturday April 1st.

Unsanctioned rides are nothing new to Portland. We’ve seen huge turnouts for the annual De Ronde and its sister ride, La Doyenne. Last weekend there were about 70 people who showed up for the Timber Logjam. “Organizers” of those events simply pick a date and mark a route (both online and on on-the-road), and sit back and let the promotion happen through word-of-mouth. What makes La Boucle different is its presentation as a multi-stage event and its use of an online platform to tabulate times and rankings for everyone who enters — regardless of when they complete the routes.

La Boucle’s organizer Will Hahn says the event is a “stride forward for Oregon cycling.” It’s his response to a recent decline in sanctioned road racing events statewide. A recent thread on the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association email list titled, “State of Cycling, Its Decline, and Events” brought out dozens of voices to hash out the causes and impacts of why people are racing less and why events continue to fall off the racing calendar. Membership at OBRA is down as well and it seems like everyone has an opinion as to why. Ideas I’ve heard include: the difficulty of getting permits for road closures and a lack of affordable and quality venues; a lack of profit for promoters; people doing their own rides and “competing” via Strava; and so on.

Hahn’s La Boucle avoids some of those hurdles (administrative costs) and embraces others (use of technology). The low overhead allows Hahn to manage the race for a relatively low entry fee of $22. The five-stage Baker City Classic by comparison, costs $140. To help raise money for the prize purse, Hahn has set a GoFundMe campaign. So far he’s raised just $20 of his $2,000 goal. To protect himself from legal claims in the event of a crash or other accident, Hahn will require each official participant to fill out a waiver form.

Here’s more from Hahn’s description of the ride on the Ride With GPS event page:

The idea of this race grew out of the desire to grow Oregon bicycle racing from a grassroots level, to promote the tenets of good bike riding and to satisfy the missing holes in the Oregon race calendar. My intent is to draw riders from all walks of life, to pit them against excellent courses that would otherwise be off-limits and create a renewable system of racing that eases the costly burdens of race promotion.

I will describe this as a race, but it is more akin to a mass start Gran Fondo, open to all and free…

These courses are (for the most part) difficult and long. They are all marked with paint, but it is up to you to know the courses before hand. There are no referees or course marshals, no follow cars and no feed zones; other than those provided by yourself. Riders who break traffic laws aren’t following the tenets of good bike racing, sullying the image of cyclists and creating an unsafe atmosphere for other riders, please don’t be this person.

There will be a roll-out at 10:00 am from the bottom of NW Saltzman Road (off Highway 30) for Saturday’s opening time trial stage. You don’t have to be there to have your time counted and the course will be “open” for a one week period. To vye for prizes however, and to be considered an official participant, you must show up to at least two Saturday starts in the five-week series.

For the full details, view the official Technical Guide (PDF).

Credit to Hahn for trying something new. Do you think it will catch on?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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