On the ultimate cease of this distinctive mountain bike race collection’ inaugural season, riders and organizers mirrored on what makes the Sturdy Soiled so particular.
I’m hanging out on the high of a gnarly climb, watching dirt-crusted mountain bikes crank up the ultimate hump. As quickly because the riders dismount, they stumble like sunbaked zombies towards an assist station staffed by a merry band of plaid-attired girls representing helmet purveyor Bell. There, the riders down pancakes, mimosas and bloody marys—and indulge in a short respite. One fairly wilted rider hangs again, nonetheless. “I really feel like shit,” she mumbles to her laughing good friend, who palms over a tomato-and-vodka cure-all. The rider groans, then downs it in a single spectacular slug. There’s extra racing to do.
Welcome to the ultimate leg of the Sturdy Dirty Enduro Series, the world’s first women-only mountain bike race collection of its form. For the uninitiated, enduro is a kind of race that challenges riders with large mileage and tons of vert alongside a multi-stage (typically multi-day), technically demanding course. Not like XC racing, the place racers are timed constantly and battle face to face, enduro racers are solely timed whereas bombing downhill on designated levels. In between, they’re grinding alongside untimed transitions, chatting with different riders, and sure, generally slamming grownup drinks. “What I like to speak about is the way it combines critical competitors with critical enjoyable,” explains Angela Sucich of occasion organizer Sturdy Bitch Racing. “The overall tone isn’t as intense as you would possibly see at different enduro occasions, although the racing is.”
“It doesn’t matter if you happen to’re a professional rider gunning for the highest of the rostrum or in case you are simply there to get your self down the mountain—the precedence is to have enjoyable.”
The Sturdy B’s, as they’re identified, are a Seattle-based mountain bike race group comprised of Sucich, Ady Bee Lane, Julie Crittenden and Katie Jackson. They observed the general lack of girls taking part of their sport and determined to unfold some stoke by launching a one-off enduro race, the Sturdy Soiled, in Washington’s Capitol Forest in 2014, with assist from native organizations together with Buddies of Capitol Forest and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, and skilled race organizers Trey and Camille Wilson of Purple Tent Timing and Cascadia Grime Cup.
The main focus was on creating an entryway for brand spanking new racers—and a spot the place skilled ones may nonetheless have a blast. “I feel for lots of girls, stepping into mountain biking alone is fairly intimidating,” explains Crittenden. “For us, it was making an attempt to create this surroundings the place it’s enjoyable first, however you possibly can nonetheless race as severely as you wish to.”
That first occasion, together with subsequent ones, was a rousing success—measured not simply in participation, but additionally in outcomes. “We’ve seen correlative knowledge to recommend that not solely are girls taking part extra in our race, nevertheless it appears to be like like they’re taking part extra in different races which might be coed,” explains Sucich. “It’s thrilling to suppose that our race could have unlocked one thing for these girls.”
It felt pure to unfold their attain past Washington, so this yr the Sturdy B’s joined forces with Ash Bocast of Roam Events to broaden the occasion right into a collection together with three stops: Seattle, Washington; Oakridge, Oregon; and Huge Bear, California. Bocast herself raced the Sturdy Soiled when she was working for biking model Liv, the collection’ title accomplice, and she or he jumped on the likelihood to return on board. “You know the way individuals say at their weddings that their faces harm from smiling all day? The Sturdy Soiled was sort of like my wedding ceremony,” she laughs. “What actually impressed me about that race specifically … is that it didn’t matter if you happen to had been a professional rider gunning for the highest of the rostrum or if you happen to had been simply there to experience within the race and get your self down the mountain—the principle precedence was to have enjoyable.”
Liv’s U.S. Advertising Supervisor, Jen Audia, agrees with the evaluation. “I feel from the second individuals get right here to the time that they go away, they really feel this tremendous constructive vitality,” she says. “You see smiling faces, individuals laughing and dancing, driving bikes, and there’s no intimidation. Girls are identical to, ‘Hey, I might be whoever I wish to be,’ and that’s the problem of stepping into the game—or any sport for that matter: Girls really feel like they don’t belong. I feel the Sturdy Soiled has actually helped girls see that they do belong.”
To listen to about this magic firsthand, I spoke with some racers on the mid-October collection finale in Big Bear, California, about their two-wheeled passions, the character of enduro racing, the vibe at an all-women occasion and what makes the Sturdy Soiled so darn particular.
The By no means-Ever-Beginner
Sean Easterby skis, swims and hikes, however till the Sturdy Soiled, she’d by no means been on a mountain bike. She agreed to a good friend’s invite when she discovered there was a free pre-ride with world champion racer Leigh Donovan. “I mentioned, ‘Oh, I’ll simply get the lesson and I’ll know methods to experience a mountain bike.’ I imply, how laborious can or not it’s?” As she found, fairly laborious.
After a comparatively profitable first day of driving, Easterby plowed right into a tree through the ultimate stage. Shaken however unhurt, she nonetheless managed to complete half of her race levels the next day, tapping out solely after a handful of wrecks killed her nerves. She laughs, “I used to be the weakest hyperlink, I used to be the one the tiger was going to kill!” Nonetheless, the expertise was enlightening. “It was simply such a excessive yesterday after the 4 runs, although I used to be scared to loss of life,” she remembers. “I would like to begin doing these items as a result of I’m residing a really conservative life. My youngsters are grown; it’s time to place balls to the wall and do one thing.”
The First-Time Racer
What started as a method to enhance her train routine morphed right into a rekindled want for pace for former racecar driver Annie Johnson. She initially picked up mountain biking as a “technique to keep wholesome,” however becoming a member of SoCal’s Girlz Gone Riding group motivated her to go additional with the game. “There’s simply one thing about driving with a bunch of different girls that offers you this vitality,” she explains. When a gaggle member recommended she be a part of the Sturdy Soiled staff, her aggressive facet kicked in and Johnson signed up for her first bike race. “It’s just like the ‘surfers of the mountain’—everybody’s tremendous chill. You’re on a mountain bike? You’re cool. It’s a superb bonding expertise,” she says as her face spreads into a large smile. “I’m nonetheless all overvalued.”
The Comeback Child
If you already know her title, it’s in all probability since you’re a biking nerd or watched the documentary Ride the Divide and noticed Mary Metcalf develop into the primary girl to finish your complete 2,745-mile Nice Divide Mountain Bike Route again in 2007. Nevertheless, after turning into a mother, she discovered herself with far much less time to dedicate to coaching—and even driving. “You will have youngsters and also you simply get consumed by life. The stoke sort of goes away and your different priorities leap up forward,” she explains. However as time handed, the itch returned and she or he turned to native trails to re-engage with a sport she liked. “The meditative, therapeutic advantage of happening an extended bike experience and simply being on the market with the wheels turning and clearing your thoughts—you already know, some individuals do yoga for that. My bike rides do it for me,” she says.
One factor that helped additional revive her stoke was successful the Liv For A Day Contest, which provided Metcalf the chance to journey to Seattle in June to experience the primary Sturdy Soiled race of the collection at Tiger Mountain. The expertise was so highly effective that it spurred her to take part at Huge Bear. “I’ve been racing since about 2000, and I’ve by no means felt this a lot help and love,” she says. Reflecting on the Nice Divide and the reemergence of her racing life, Metcalf oozes gratitude. “It’ll be a part of my legacy. I in all probability received’t go away riches or houses behind for my youngsters, as a result of I select the life that I select. However I would like this. I have to experience my bike.”
If anybody exterior of its organizers can touch upon the Sturdy Soiled’s particular sauce, it’s Janine Robinson, who’s raced all six Sturdy Dirtys to this point—together with this one, held on her birthday. She started mountain biking in faculty, and later hoped she’d have the ability to deliver her three sons into the game as soon as they moved to bike-friendly Sammamish, Washington, the place they may experience straight from their driveway to a neighborhood bike park. Because it seems, neither her youngsters nor her husband had been as passionate as Robinson, so she rode solo. That’s till she purchased a full-suspension bike, started taking lessons and determined to race the inaugural Sturdy Soiled.
“I used to be driving on my own nearly on a regular basis. I didn’t have a neighborhood,” she remembers. “Then after that first race, I had one. All of us have this factor in widespread—that we love mountain biking—so it makes it straightforward. And in addition, while you endure with somebody, it brings you nearer.” She pauses and laughs. “And we undoubtedly endure whereas we’re on the market.”
The Collection Leaders
Mid-race, Ash Bocast leaned over to me, Bloody Mary in hand, and whispered, “In the present day will come between Sarah and Andi.” She was speaking about professional racers Sarah Viggers and Andi Zolton, each of whom boast a legacy of wins—and each of whom appeared extra intent on having enjoyable than knocking one another off the rostrum. (For the report, Zolton swept the collection of their class.) In case you recall the introduction, our Bloody chugger was Viggers, not-so-fresh off of a marriage the earlier night time. She’s a superb spirit about our earlier encounter, “I used to be operating on three hours of sleep and I could have had a little bit bit to drink the day earlier than, so I used to be not wanting to try this climb,” she says. “I used to be bonking laborious, I simply was so drained. However my associates who had been pedaling with me had been tremendous encouraging. They are surely the rationale I bought by means of the race.”
Whereas she loves the neighborhood side of racing, particularly enduro, there’s additionally a deeper connection that shaped from her very first downhill expertise at 17 years previous. “It’s a confidence builder while you ship your bike down one thing that you simply didn’t suppose was potential earlier than, nevertheless it’s on the race course, so that you sort of should do it,” she explains. “It’s a private factor of, ‘Wow, I’m able to loads if I set myself to it.’”
I met Zolton on the primary raise experience of the day, her signature lensless crimson glasses perched on her nostril. She spoke about how Enduro holds a particular place in her coronary heart. “It’s all the very best components of mountain biking put right into a race. In case you get pleasure from racing, you get to race. In case you benefit from the social side, you get hundred-million %. In case you prefer to climb, you continue to get to try this, however you don’t should kill your self doing it. You continue to get to earn your turns.”
Later, snacking on a bit of Robinson’s birthday cake, she was exhausted, no shock contemplating not simply the trials of the race, but additionally the truth that she was up till midnight making ready bacon packets for racers. However there was nowhere else she’d fairly be. “I really feel extra comfy on my bike than in loads of different locations in life,” she says. “I’ve achieved loads to get the place I’m at and it makes me really feel good. After I’m on my bike, I really feel happy with the place I’m at, however I additionally really feel like there’s nonetheless loads that I’ve to study and enhance on. I really feel like there’s a lot extra in entrance of me.”
The Subsequent Era
Whereas extra girls dip their toes into dust, it’s the youthful generations who will ultimately bust by means of the gender hole in mountain biking. Alexandria Simbulan (16), Jennifer Johnson (12) and Gia Guerrero (11) all entered the game by means of their fathers’ enthusiasm, however all of them caught with it due to their very own. For Simbulan, it’s all about pace. She began off driving cross-country, however hated being timed on the uphill grinds; enduro proved a greater match. “I just like the adrenaline going downhill,” she says.
Her father, Travis, who’s by the way dressed to the nines in an orange Pippi Longstocking wig and patterned gown, beams when listening to her wax poetic about her love of bikes. “I’m simply crammed with pleasure when she comes ripping by means of,” he says.
Multi-sport fanatic Johnson additionally used to experience cross-country however discovered a house in enduro. Like Simbulan, she’s stoked on the adrenaline issue, but additionally loves the neighborhood side of the game. Whereas she’ll take any alternative to experience, she likes being in an all-women surroundings. “Typically it’s nicer to have solely women as a result of we now have guys that sort of push you they usually’re all the time within the entrance, and it’s like [she sighs]—okay. However when you’ve women, you’re all collectively and all supporting one another.”
Whereas each Johnson and Simbulan have raced earlier than, this was Guerrero’s first—and she or he nearly didn’t enroll. She was initially solely going to take part within the pre-ride with Leigh Donovan. “I needed to deliver her up into an surroundings that she hasn’t seen earlier than—robust girls that may shred,” explains her father, Stan, who didn’t push her to race. “I used to be leaving the ball in her court docket. The whole lot labored out, and on the finish of the day she needed to race and barely bought any sleep final night time.”
Guerrero was excited however nervous. “The primary stage, I used to be terrified. I assumed I used to be going to die,” she laughs. “Then after, I used to be like, ‘Why was I even scared? That is superb!’ I used to be simply driving. That is what I love to do.”