The Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder is a point-to-point five-day stage race which takes racers through the Oregon Cascades on old wagon roads that date back to the mid-1800s. Though it starts and ends in Sisters, Oregon, racers will ride to McKenzie, Oakridge, and La Pine – each stop includes catered meals, camping, and good vibes. Each stage of the race is unique and notoriously challenging.
For Serena Bishop Gordon of the Liv Racing Collective, the Oregon Trail was her first priority race since 2019. After a season without much racing, she didn’t know where she would stack up but entered the competitive women’s elite field with a mix of nerves and confidence.
“It is difficult to put yourself out there and say, ‘Yes, this race is really important to me,’” said Gordon. “Stepping into vulnerability is uncomfortable, and yet empowering.”
The race kicked off Wednesday, June 23 with 73.5 miles and 6,400 feet of climbing. The difficulty rating? “Hard.” Gordon stepped up to the plate, conquering both the climbs and descents with equal ferocity aboard her Devote Advanced. Pushing at the front of the race, she had put two minutes into the rest of the women’s field at mile 30. By the end of the day, she had a 10-minute lead and the Oregon Trail leader’s jersey.
On day two, Gordon navigated the 59 miles from Blue River to Oakridge well and finished fourth to retain the leader’s jersey for another day. Stage three began and ended in Oakridge, with a route that traversed the spine of the Cascade Mountain Range. Gordon rode strong at the front of the race, crossing the finish line second. The 56-second gap to first meant she would have to relinquish the leader’s jersey, moving into second in the general classification by just 10 seconds.
Saturday’s queen stage included nearly a third of the total elevation gain of the entire race (10,000 ft) in just over 90 miles between Oakridge and La Pine. After surviving the 20+ mile climb out of Oakridge, Gordon hung on to finish third on the day. The last stage on Sunday didn’t offer racers any respite; they faced 83 miles and 6,491 feet of climbing. Gordon now sat just over five minutes behind in the fight for the GC overall, but didn’t let that curb her hunger for the win. She scored the victory on the last stage to secure her second-place position in the overall standings.
“The field was stacked and I know it would be a grueling week,” said Gordon. “Every stage was different and posed new challenges that suited different riders’ strengths. The Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder is the hardest and most amazing event I have ever been a part of; huge kudos to Chad Sperry and his team at Breakaway Promotions.”