Salem's Evan Plews continued to display his early season form, pulling off a weekend double by taking the Inaugural Red To Red MTB cross country race Sunday in Echo one day after he bested the Pro/1/2 field at the Sublime Sublimity Circuit Race.
Sunday's win completes a February hat trick for the 32-year-old Capitol Subaru Cycling rider, who earlier this month lapped Tinker Juarez on his way to winning the KONA 24 Hours In the Old Pueblo near Tucson.
Oregon Mountain Bike Series Director Mike Ripley said 175 people showed up for the first cross country race of the OBRA season in Echo, a small Northeast Oregon community tucked in the rolling hills between Hermiston and Pendleton.
"The rain hit early and then stopped for the neutral mass start as riders positioned themselves on this bump fest up and down the treeless landscape," Ripley said via e-mail.
The difficult, long course tested riders with 3,500 ft. of climbing. Flirting with freezing temps early, conditions improved as the precipitation stopped and the temperatures moderated slightly. The late-winter chill only added to the already challenging course.
"The course was very difficult," Plews said. "Never up or down for long and especially never straight or smooth. It was so demanding that many of us were struggling just to stay on the singletrack and keep the locals in sight."
While Plews may have struggled early, Matt Russell (Capitol Subaru Cycling), Cody Peterson (Dedicated Athlete) and James Williams (Cannondale) built a sizable gap at the front of the race. But Plews eventually caught the three leaders just as they exited the last loop of singletrack onto the short gravel/paved road back to the finish line in town.
"We each took a pull," Plews said, "but I was able to drop Cody and James with about 1k to go and managed a close but decisive victory."
MTB series director Ripley said Capitol Subaru Cycling from Salem and Pistis from Southern Oregon appeared to take the early series lead in the team chase, and Sunnyside Sports will be up there as well.
Capitol Subaru Cycling placed four riders in the top 10 in the pro category. David Hill placed second in the 45+ Cat 1 and Kurt Haas held on for 3rd place in the singlespeed race to round up three podiums for the team, which finished second in last year's series.
Official series points and results will be posted at www.oregonxcseries.org sometime later this week or early next week, according to Ripley. The next race of the Oregon MTB Cross Country Series will be the Hornings Hustle April 5 outside of North Plains.
1. Evan Plews (Capitol Subaru Cycling)
2. Cody Peterson (Dedicated Athlete)
3. James Williams (Cannondale)
4. Matt Russell (Capitol Subaru Cycling)
1. Zephanie Blasi (Kenda/Tomac/Hayes)
2. Jacqueline Cohen (Sagebrush Cycles)
3. Kari Studley (Velo Bella)
4. Erin Ford (Disco Velo)
Complete OBRA results HERE.