Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder stage 5: Summer camp winds down for the season

Sturm and Grotts win stage while Gomez Villafañe and Blevins secure overall wins

Photo: Wil Matthews

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The Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder is a five-day stage race in the Cascade Mountains near Bend, Oregon. Each day a pro will be reporting to VeloNews from within the event. 

The final morning of the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder arrived. As l lay nestled in my cozy sleeping bag, I didn’t want to get out knowing after today, summer camp would be over until next year.

Eddie Anderson, packing up to leave camp. (Photo: Wil Matthews)

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Over the last four days our small traveling circus crossed over the Cascade mountains twice on some incredible gravel roads along with some phenomenal scenery.

Some races may finish with a parade lap on the Champs Elysees, but not the OTGG. Stage 5 packed a heavy punch with over 6,000 feet of climbing, a distance of 83 miles and a mountain top finish to really make sure you emptied the tank out there.

No rest for the weary on the final day of the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder. (Photo: Wil Matthews)

The early miles of the course featured Oregon’s tiniest gravel — some call it sand — which proved to be challenging to ride, sucking what little power the legs had left in them.

While the top three positions in GC were fairly settled, I had a tight battle in store with Eddie Anderson. We’ve spent a lot of time riding together this week as we both seemed to get popped by the lead trio of Blevins, Howard [Grotts], and Pete [Stetina] pretty much at the same time. After four days of racing, I had a mere seven seconds on him and dreaded the battle we had in store, as I knew it was going to be a painful one.

Finsterwald making his move. (Photo: Wil Matthews)

I decided to go on the attack with 30 miles to go in hopes of securing 4th and hopefully getting enough of a head start on the climb to contend for the stage win. Ultimately, 2:45 wasn’t enough of a head start to hold off the climbing phenoms.. but it was enough to lock in 4th.

OTGG, for me, was a race to reset and enjoy racing my bike in between important performance goals. The goal here was to race hard, but unwind after the stages, meet new people, connect with friends I haven’t seen in awhile… and shoot some BB Guns. All I can say is mission accomplished.

Bend local Sarah Max rode to a very impressive second overall behind Sofia Gomez Villafañe (Photo: Wil Matthews)

Sometimes I finish a challenging race and it takes awhile before I feel like doing it in. One thing is for certain, I hope to be back next year. Thanks for an incredible week to the whole OTGG crew!

Russell Finsterwald races gravel and XC MTB for Specialized Off-road. He is currently in second place overall in the Life Time Grand Prix. He has summited 52 of Colorado’s 58 ‘fourteeners,’ and he splits his time between Colorado Springs and Tucson, AZ. 

OTGG overall women’s 

(Photo: Wil Matthews)
  1. Sofia Gomez Villafañe, 17:39:29
  2. Sarah Max, +14:59
  3. Sarah Sturm,  +19:02
  4. Heather Jackson, +21:26
  5. Caroline Dezendorf, +30:36

OTGG overall men’s

(Photo: Wil Matthews)
  1. Christopher Blevins, 14:56:45
  2. Pete Stetina, +2:08
  3. Howard Grotts, +6:54
  4. Russell Finsterwald, +28:54
  5. Edward Anderson, +36:19

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