Karsten is a native of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, WA), and a Bend local since 2009. He’s the regional sales manager for Giant Bicycles USA. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hanging onto his wheel, you know that he’s also one hell of a giant on a bicycle. Karsten is a regular donor and a big fan of the Tour des Chutes, even though his busy work schedule usually prohibits his direct participation in the event. We caught up with Karsten between bike rides and bike sales for a unique local perspective on just what makes this event so special for him, both as an avid cyclist and as a prostate cancer survivor.
Dillon Caldwell: How did you get involved with the Tour des Chutes?
Karsten Hagen: I’d known about it for years, just through my involvement in the community, but I didn’t ride it until the summer after my prostatectomy. I don’t remember who convinced me to do it but I got to ride with a “survivor’s number”, which was really cool. That year, 2012, was my only opportunity to ride the event. I did the hundred miler that year. I’m used to being around bikers. I was with all these guys who don’t race, but were obviously strong as hell. There’s this whole contingent of cyclists in this area with no real desire to race but who are incredible recreational cyclists. It’s really neat to see.
DC: Being a really strong rider and racer prior to your cancer experience, do you remember feeling particularly conscious of that survivor’s number?
KH: So the thing I always battle with is, “Do I really want to wave the survivor flag?” Sometimes the answer is yes, absolutely, because I want guys my age to know they need to get tested and they need to be aware of it. But at the same time, my struggle is, “God, you know, here I am wearing my survivor number. That doesn’t make me special.” Sometimes I feel like maybe I’m calling attention to myself that I don’t need to. That day [on the Tour des Chutes], was I conscious of that special number? Definitely. I feel like people’s perception of a cancer survivor is that they need to be bald and really sick looking. And I’ve never been in that position.
DC: What is your favorite thing about this event?
KH: Number one, it’s a non-racing event that brings people together from all over the country to ride bikes together for a good cause. For both personal and professional reasons, I love seeing people riding bikes! The story of the founder is pretty interesting. Gary’s own story is enough motivation to want to do it… for me. Even though I haven’t been able to ride it for the past couple of years due to work, I want to see it succeed.
DC: Does anything about the TdC stand out to you as being unique from other cancer fundraising events you’re aware of?
KH: I really like that the event is locally organized and locally funded, that it’s not affiliated with larger bodies. I appreciate that it’s a Central Oregon initiative. The fundraising seems very transparent, which is cool. The local flair, the local food vendors… I think that’s a very unique flavor.
DC: Will you be riding the TdC this year? And do you have any tips for first-time riders or course highlights to mention?
KH: I will not be able to ride this year, again, because it’s during our national sales meeting in Colorado. But what I can tell people is that it’s Central Oregon in July. You never know what the weather is going to be like, so usually its best to bring everything you own. When I rode it, we started the ride in the morning, in the low 40s. By the end of the day, I remember walking around in a T-shirt, flip flops, and shorts at the venue. And the food along the route… it’s unreal!