Introducing our 2023 STP Ambassadors: ‘Bicycling Saved My Life’
Cascade is teaming up with several dozen STP riders and bike influencers to share their love of bicycling–and spread some stoke for the Kaiser Permanente Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic Presented by Alaska Airlines.
Our Ambassadors include a car-free Portland TikToker, the founder of Best Side Cycling, a Jiu Jitsu black belt, and a Tlingit Cherokee Filipino American riding for his late father.
Please meet Cascade Bicycle Club’s STP Ambassadors, class of 2023.
We selected our Ambassadors to represent the diversity of our bicycling community–and to share the message that everyone is welcomed and celebrated on the Kaiser Permanente Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic Presented by Alaska Airlines.
Below we highlight the stories of Jenna Phillips, Michael Baltierra, Hanoch Yeung, and Gene Tagaban. We will spotlight more STP Ambassadors in future posts.
In the meantime, you can see the stories, videos, and photos our STP Ambassadors are creating by following @CascadeBicycle, #STP2023, and #SeattleToPortland on your favorite social media platforms.
Jenna Phillips: Car-Free in Portland
“There’s a stigma that you have to be a certain body type to ride a bike. I’m a very healthy person. I’m still a plus-sized woman. And I’m a bike rider,” Phillips says in the video “Carfree Portlanders.”
Phillips has amassed a large social media audience including 21,000 TikTok followers by sharing videos with an upbeat message that bicycling is for everyone. She started organizing beginner bike rides when viewers of her TikTok videos began asking for information about where and with whom to ride.
Phillips bike commutes to work several days per week, and those journeys as well as her group rides often end up on her TikTok feed. Getting more people to ride bikes makes her happy.
“Quite often I’ll get people responding that say: ‘I bought a bike because of you,’ or ‘I started riding my bike because of you.’ That’s why I began sharing my story,” she says. “And it’s an incredible feeling.”
This year, she has decided to add longer-distance recreational riding to her bike life. The goal is to complete her first STP. “As a beginner to longer-distance road riding, I’ll be bringing everyone along with me to watch and learn as I embark on this exciting new journey.”
Follow Jenna's STP adventures on TikTok and Instagram.
Michael Baltierra: Bicycling Saved My Life
Baltierra was in a physical and emotional rut before he discovered bicycling. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, he had always prized physical fitness. But a series of emotionally challenging events caused him to stop exercising regularly, and Baltierra’s health declined.
In 2018, Michael's oldest son Zachary discovered that his cancer had returned after going into remission.
“He spent the next couple of years going through chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, and immunotherapy,” Baltierra says.
Then the pandemic hit. The Jiu Jitsu gym where he trained closed. Baltierra’s weight increased to 370 pounds. During a checkup, his doctor diagnosed him with type 2 diabetes. Then he lost his job.
Baltierra knew he had to regain his mojo. In May of 2020 he bought a mountain bike. He struggled through his first rides but stuck with it, built up his mileage, began riding with friends, and eventually bought a road bike.
“In less than a year I lost over 100 pounds and was no longer considered a type 2 diabetic.” Bicycling regularly helped Baltierra regain his health, and the freedom to explore inspired him to pedal further.
In 2022, he achieved his goal of riding 5,000 miles in a year. He participated in multiple Cascade events including Chilly Hilly, the Ride for Major Taylor, R2B2, Kitsap Color Classic, and STP.
“STP was a great way to test my physical and mental fortitude. Up to that point I had not ridden 100 miles in a day.” He surpassed that milestone on the first day of STP 2022, riding 140 miles to his overnight location and finishing the next day with a 66-mile cruise into Portland.
“STP is a great way to meet people, to have a great time riding with friends, and to create lasting memories while achieving something that you can truly be proud of,” Baltierra says. “Bicycling saved my life. I want to share that love and inspire others to achieve their goals.”
More importantly, Zachary’s cancer has gone into remission.
Watch his YouTube video “How Bike Riding Saved My Life.” And follow Michael's STP adventures on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.
Hanoch Yeung: Best Side Cycling
“STP plays a special role in my cycling journey. It is one of the reasons why I'm so passionate about two wheels today,” says Hanoch, a road rider, bike commuter, Brompton folding bike owner, and content creator known as Best Side Cycling.
Hanoch rediscovered bicycling after graduating from college and moving to Seattle in 2017, when he bought a hybrid bike and began exploring his new surroundings. “I realized how fun and freeing bicycling can be,” he says.
In 2018, Hanoch completed his first STP. “I’m not a natural athlete by any means but with some training, the support of friends, and the awesome event planning of Cascade, I finished the ride.”
Since then, “the pandemic supercharged my cycling hobby into a lifestyle.”
On his YouTube channel, Hanoch posts videos about local bike routes and new bike infrastructure, offers tips on gear and training, and chronicles his bicycling adventures. You can watch his STP recap from 2022, when he completed STP in one day.
His goal is simple: to get more people on bikes. “I hope to see you out there on the road to Portland. Feel free to come say hi to me anytime!”
Follow Hanoch’s STP adventures on YouTube.
Gene Tagaban: Riding to Honor His Father, and Celebrate Indigenous Roots
Tagaban learned to ride a bike from his father while growing up in Juneau, Alaska.
He and his childhood friends pedaled everywhere. “The bike was our means of recreation, travel, and adventure. I loved how we could knock on a friend’s door and simply ask, ‘Do you want to go ride bikes?’ In my generation, the bike rack in front of the school was always full beyond capacity.”
Tagaban and his friends explored the wild rainforest outside Juneau. “We would push our bikes up the trails overlooking the Mendenhall Glacier and scream down, then do it all over again.”
Tagaban now lives in Ruston, Wash., “on the traditional lands of the Puyallup people on the traditional territory of the Coast Salish tribes.” He discovered road riding after moving to Washington, when he began participating in group rides, triathlons, charity events and, in 2002, his first of several STPs.
But Tagaban, who identifies as Cherokee, Tlingit and Filipino, noticed a lack of Indigenous participation on many big rides. “Representation matters,” he says. Tagaban says he enjoys conversing with people during STP so that he can learn other people’s stories and share his own.
Last year, his father died two days before STP and Tagaban had to cancel his plans to ride in the event. This July, on the one-year anniversary of his father’s death, Tagaban will ride STP 2023 in honor of his father–and to represent.
“I ride with the memories of my dad giving me my first bike, the stories and joy bicycling has given me. I ride to represent Native People and give gratitude as we traverse across Indigenous lands.”
Follow Gene's STP adventures and storytelling on YouTube and Facebook.
Become an STP Ambassador!
Do you want to share your STP journey? We are still seeking a few more Ambassadors. Contact us here. Or simply join the conversation by sharing your STP training photos, videos, and stories on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok with the hashtags #STP2023 and #SeattleToPortland.
Click here to register for the Kaiser Permanente Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic Presented by Alaska Airlines, July 15-16. Stay tuned for more STP Ambassador stories in coming weeks.