The race began in Wanoga Sno-Park 11 miles west of Bend and featured 70 percent singletrack, 10 percent ATV trail and 20 percent doubletrack across high-desert terrain. My lungs held up through the first 45-mile loop around Mt Bachelor, where racers climbed up well over 7,000 feet and dropped down through threatening lava rock fields. Next came two 20+ mile loops around Old Swampy (the dry, dusty singletrack proved the name a misnomer). The last 11-mile loop brought riders back to town for some fun technical descents down such popular trails as “Tiddlywinks” and “Funner,” followed by a seven-mile ascent to the finish line. Throughout the day, the soft sand sucked our wheels, making us work absurdly hard to power through even the smallest patch of momentum-stealing soil. It also made for some quite scary, nearly-out-of-control descents at speed. But that’s not the half of it.
We began early—at 6:15am—and we began cold, amid near-freezing temperatures. But once we started spinning our wheels on the slight-incline up the dusty doubletrack toward Mt. Bachelor, we forgot the chill and concentrated on the long, long day ahead. Chris Sheppard was an early leader, attacking from the start and taking only a few pro men along with him. Sheppard would go on to win the event handily, with Sloane Anderson taking second. I settled into a manageable pace, concentrating on having an efficient race, fueling well and keeping myself out of trouble. Of course, the harsh desert conditions (wheel-sucking sand, choking clouds of dust, tube-puncturing lava rock, etc.) took out nearly a third of the entire field. We racers were warned about the “über-technical” Kwol Butte section ahead of time, but to be honest, I felt far more at ease riding the rocky sections to bombing down the miles of sandy trail that never failed to surprise with sporadic, traction-less slides atop soft sand. But at least it’s soft sand, right? It could be worse. . .
Mid-way into the race—at 45 miles—my free hub began to act up. And by “act up,” I mean, every time I began to descend, my bike would make the sound of a swarm of angry bees—or of a prop plane coming in for a crash landing. My bike would shake like it was falling to pieces, and the rear hub would begin to seize up until I slowed down. And I still had 55 miles left to go.
I may have lost tons of time on the descents (descending is my riding strength), but I still managed to cross the line in first place out of the women’s field at 11 hours, 55 minutes. I finished thirtieth overall. I was also thrilled to win a pair of DT Swiss wheels at the post-race raffle. Extra wheels—exactly what I could have used during the race!
Mike Ripley and Mudslinger Events put on a great show, as always, and they raised $3,500 from the inaugural race to help support COTA (Central Oregon Trail Alliance) in future trail construction efforts. Thanks to all for putting on a well-organized event on a challenging course—and thanks to all the other racers who suffered along with me. It was great to play in Oregon’s biggest sandbox with you.
Angela + Sobo = :)