For all you former mountain bike racers out there disillusioned by fire-road racing that passes for “mountain biking” these days, or the easy, buffed-out singletrack that makes even an 80-mil-travel fork overkill, prepare to have your faith restored.
At the White River Revival in Greenwater, WA on Saturday, August 8, the course took mountain bikers down trail they’d actually choose to ride for—get this—fun. Now I know there’s burley XC racing in our sister cities to the north in B.C.—I love ‘em, too—but last Saturday’s race in the shadow of Mt. Rainier is as close as one gets to technical XC racing in Washington State, and I was happy to be there to enjoy it. I think I even heard myself giggle on some of the downhills.
The Place: The White River Revival, 10 miles east of Greenwater (an hour and a half drive southeast of Seattle). The race began and finished on the Ranger Creek airstrip just up the dirt road from the Buck Creek Recreation Area off HWY 410.
The Course: 30+ miles in two laps (Trail 1194 to Road 7160 to Fawn Ridge section of Suntop Trail 1183).
The Race: The open/pro race got underway around 2:30 when the afternoon was cool with a slight breeze—perfect conditions for climbing up the fire road (yes, I guess there was a fire road, after all) and dropping into the lower (and bermier) portion of the popular Suntop Trail. The climb was long but not too steep, and I settled into a constant quad-and-hamstring burn for countless turns, until the singletrack trailhead thankfully appeared before me. I was in second place, and as I dropped into Fawn Ridge, I was determined not only to use my descending skills to catch up to the woman ahead of me and put more distance between me and the riders behind me, but also to revel in the unadulterated fun that was the lower Suntop Trail.
Fawn Ridge was aflame in pinkish-purple fireweed and alive with racers snaking down the exposed, dusty slope, switchback-style. As the course descended deeper into the forest toward the Buck Creek and White River areas, the mist rising from the valley hung over the trail like a ghost. The course dropped all the way down to hug the river bank, and it was this final section of trail that me feel as if I were channeling a deer in flight—bounding over every rock, root and stream in my path. Then I turned my bike uphill and rode the second lap, urged on by the dangling-carrot promise of a second, thrilling descent.
As I whipped my bike around the last couple of miles of what can only be described as a hacked-out trail, it finally registered that much of the lower trail meandering along the river was cleared or at least widened for us racers’ benefit. In fact, as I heaved my bike over stumps, roots and rocks that plugged up the path, it pleased me to think that this trail—our red carpet—was rolled out just for me and the other happy racers who came out for the White River Revival. When I crossed the finish line in second again (ah, always the bridesmaid!! but a much closer second to Kari Studley than last race, and far ahead of Melanie Lewis in third), I felt more revived than tired. Faced with proof that the kind of XC racing that tested bike handling skills as well as fitness did exist in Washington, I felt born again.
On the men’s side, Benaroya Research Institute rider Russell Stevenson claimed first, and teammate Toby Swanson came in second.
For visitors and locals alike, I highly recommend Suntop. Whether you shuttle or climb it, you will enjoy this ride. Believe it.
Until next time, enjoy the ride!