Port director rides for a good cause

David Ripp has been cycling competitively for 20 years; now he’s using his skills to benefit the Historical Museum

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David Ripp competes in the Vancouver Courthouse Criterium bicycle race in 2009. Ripp, the Port of Camas-Washougal's executive officer, has been a competitive cyclist for more than 20 years. (Contributed photo courtesy David Ripp)

Port of Camas-Washougal Executive Director David Ripp usually hops on a bicycle to exercise, de-stress and connect with the natural environment. Later this summer, he’ll add “riding for a good cause” to that list.

In July, Ripp donated his bicycling talents to the Clark County Historical Museum’s “Friday Night Flicks” online auction. Now, Ripp plans to take the auction winner — Vancouver resident Jim West — for a bicycle ride through parts of East Clark County on a yet-to-be-determined date.

Ripp said he thought it was “a great opportunity” when the historical museum’s director, Bradley Richardson, reached out and pitched a bike tour with the Port director as one of the auction prizes.

“At first, I thought, ‘No one’s going to buy this.’ Then I found out that several people bid on it,” Ripp said. “I actually know the guy who won. He’s a recreational cyclist, so I’ll take him on one of my favorite rides, then have a good, guilt-free lunch at The Puffin afterwards. It will be fun.”

Few people are more qualified to lead an East Clark County bicycle tour than Ripp, who has been a competitive cyclist for more than 20 years.

“I’ve always been active,” he said. “I had thought about doing a triathlon, but I met (my wife) Sue in 1998, and she was with a workout group and starting to train, and I thought, ‘Here’s my opportunity.’ I did a sprint triathlon and a half-Ironman, which looking back on it was the stupidest thing I could’ve done. But it really opened up (my mind).”

“In 2000, I was riding with some guys who were starting to get into bicycle racing, and I realized I was a pretty strong cyclist (because I was) keeping up with them. I thought, ‘I don’t have to run or swim? I just have to ride my bike? OK.’ For me, bicycling really took off in 2001 when I did my first road race.”

Over the next 15 years, Ripp competed in hundreds of local and regional cycling competitions, including the Monday Night Bike Race Series at Portland International Raceway, as a member of the Portland-based West End Bikes team. He also competed in several triathlons.

“I won some criteriums and I placed high in some road races,” he said. “And I’ve won nine or 10 triathlon events in my age group.”

Ripp is preparing to compete in future triathlons, but admits he has lost some of his “killer instinct” for bicycle races. Although Ripp is not riding quite as much as he used to, he said he still tries to log about 90 hours per week on some of his favorite routes, including the hilly area by Mount Norway that he refers to as “the Washougal Alps,” with Sue by his side.

“She does very well,” Ripp said of his wife. “She’s a very strong cyclist. She raced for years, too — she did cycle-cross and road-racing and criteriums. I’m fortunate that she has the same passion. It’s nice that we can do it together.”

The Ripps have taken cycling-oriented vacations through several European countries, including England, France and Italy.

“One of the top (memories was) the mountaintop climbs in Tuscany. It’s a beautiful area with friendly people,” Ripp said. “It was cool to ride in France, too. In 2018, we went to Spain and worked our way up the coast to France. There’s a famous Tour de France climb called Alpe d’Huez. Since we were so close to the town, called Le Bourg-d’Oisans, we rented bikes and climbed Alpe d’Huez. Famous cyclists — Lance Armstrong, Greg Lemond, all those guys — have raced up that hill. It was a bucket-list item.”

A former high-school athlete, Ripp has always viewed himself as an active individual who likes to stay fit. But bicycling attracted him for a variety of reasons, some of which go beyond his desire to remain in good health.

“It’s my stress relief,” he said, of the sport. “It’s not like driving a car. You get to experience the wind, the warmth. It allows you to have more time to watch where you’re (going). … And I just enjoy the exercise. People talk about a ‘runner’s high’ or ‘biker’s high.’ There are some days when I don’t want to do it, but when I’m done, it’s like, ‘OK, I feel better.'”