SEATTLE –Soldiers from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade cycling team put their endurance to the test in the 2-day, Seattle to Portland Classic, a 200-mile recreational bicycle ride through the valleys, forests, and farmlands of western Washington and Oregon, July 14-15.
The 33rd annual ride sold-out on Feb. 21 with 10,000 registered riders and is one of the 10 largest recreational bike rides in the country, drawing in riders from all over the United States, Canada, Malaysia and Japan. The event also marked the first time the 16th CAB cycling crew participated in a bike ride as a team, contributing to the 18 percent of first time riders.
“We came together as a team so much by the end of that first day. Starting out, I don’t think any of us knew what to expect,” said Maj. Victoria Campbell, 16th CAB intelligence officer.
“I think the team did exceptionally well. There was a lot of train-up and preparation that went into it. We spent a lot of weekends and a lot of lunch times out riding preparing for the 200-mile ride,” said Sgt. Maj. Joshua Newman, 16th CAB operations sergeant major.
After months of preparation, the cycling team packed their tents and sleeping bags and headed off to the University of Washington in Seattle to begin their journey. The group then navigated their first 100 miles to the midway point in Centralia, where they were received by supporters and volunteers. Community members distributed more than 26,000 sandwiches, 16,000 servings of bananas and 43,000 snack bars and treats to participants.
“It felt like one of those inspiring Tour De France moments when I saw all those bicyclers in front of and following behind me,” Campbell said.
Participants set up tent cities at the halfway point, due to the massive influx of riders that were unable to be accommodated by hotels and guesthouses. Cyclists were offered sports massages from physical therapists to help recuperate from the expedition.
“The end of the day was a huge confidence-builder and for the four of us that were riding together, we realized what we had to do to stay together and keep from getting split up,” Campbell said.
The team embarked on the next leg of their trek, encountering sporadic rain showers across the hills of Washington and on to the Lewis and Clark Bridge on the Oregon border.
“The weather was actually perfect for cycling because it was overcast and cool in the mornings, which prevented us from overheating,” Newman said. “We were able to conserve energy, so the weather actually worked to our favor.”
Supporters and enthusiasts welcomed the 16th CAB cycling team and other participants at Holladay Park in northeast Portland as the cyclists rode in on the last 10-mile stretch, bringing the 200-mile trek to a close.
“I don’t know about you all, but I feel great,” joked Command Sgt. Maj. Niko Vandevoorde, 16th CAB command sergeant major. “I feel as if I could go a hundred more.”