The Big Lonely takes place in October in Central Oregon, and anyone who registers knows to expect the weather to be a character in the story of their adventure. In 2020, riders were drenched in rain that turned the clay road leaving the ghost town of Ashwood into unrideable and often barely walkable mud. Five of the 14 riders who started the 2020 edition finished. Yet 38 riders showed up at the start line in 2021, drawn to the challenge of 350 miles of gravel, singletrack, and beautiful scenic bikeways in unpredictable weather.
On October 9th, at 6 a.m., 38 riders departed Bend, Oregon, in 26°F temperatures and began climbing 3,000 feet into the dark, cold Deschutes National Forest. Descending into Sisters, Oregon, riders realized just how challenging this would be; the rocky descent damaged bikes and the cold left many to question their gear and clothing choices.
Riders faced long climbs and even longer stretches between resupply, with the route eventually reaching its high point at 8,000 feet at mile 300. Bitter cold nights would eventually turn to snow on the third night of the event, encouraging riders to make good choices and not take unnecessary risks. Riders who reached Paulina Peak after day three would spend hours descending on snowy singletrack before climbing to the finish at the summit of Pilot Butte in Bend.
There were 38 total racers on course this year. 17 solo men, 8 solo women, 2 solo non-binary riders, one pair of women, and 9 men riding in teams of 2 or 3. Of the 38 riders who started, 12 Riders finished for a 31% finish rate. Of those 12 finishers, 8 were women. That’s 25% of the total starters and 88% of total finishers. 90% of the women who started the Big Lonely 2021 finished. 23% of the men who started the Big Lonely 2021 finished. The only rider who has completed the route on a singlespeed bike is a woman. The most common reason for scratching was overuse injury, followed by cold weather. Three riders had catastrophic mechanical failures that ended their race, and one rider had an injury from a crash.
Solo Female Geared
- Lauren Brownlee: 51 hours, 27 minutes
- Jaimie Lusk: 58 hours, 36 minutes
- Hannah Somhegyi: 58 hours, 43 minutes
- Hannah Dhonau: 61 hours, 27 minutes
- Eleanor Moseman: 76 hours, 17 minutes
- Alissa Bell: 81 hours, 55 minutes
Solo Female Singlespeed
- Melissa Byrd: 63 hours, 41 minutes
Solo Male Geared
- Ben Handrich: 35 hours, 54 minutes
- Seth Dubois: 45 hours, 38 minutes
- Jamey Byrant: 58 hours, 32 minutes
- Chris Phillips: 91 hours, 41 minutes
- Pia Alliende & Mati McCann: 109 hours, 26 minutes
Congrats to everyone who participated at The Big Lonely, showing up is half the challenge. You can find the complete results, including those who had to cut their rides short, on the Northwest Competitive Adventure Instagram page. With thanks to the media team of @erich_w_, @seandronia, @tamarack_larch, and @sox.katie for sharing their work. Stay tuned for more detailed coverage and great photos from this year’s event.
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