It was a strange day in the woods. As racers came rocketing out of the woods, they were instantly greeted by a cow and fairy, with the cow scanning the wrist timing chip and the fairy making a manual notation of time and rider number. A leprechaun ushered racers to an aid station to re-hydrate and grab a Clif bar. A few yards away, re-charged racers were queuing up to start stage 3. So ended the second stage of the Sturdy Dirty Enduro Race held last weekend at Tiger Mountain, just outside of Issaquah, WA, a few miles east of Seattle. It was a surreal moment that kind of encapsulated the whole event.
Sure, I know, you're thinking "Not another enduro race!"
But what made this race different wasn't the fact that a cow and a fairy were doing the timing on the second stage, but the fact that it was a women's only enduro. Ok.... what's so special about that? For starters, the most recent Oregon Enduro Series race drew 27 women out of a field of some 228 participants. And the most recent Cascadia Dirt Cup race held on the infamous N Shore of Vancouver still had only 27 women entrants despite having a field of 286 entrants. The Sturdy Dirty Enduro drew a field of 229 entrants, with 16 of them racing in the pro category. All of them women. Nor did it offer prize money (although it had a hell of a raffle
). WTF? Where did all those female racers come from? And why aren't there those kinds of numbers of female racers present at other popular races? I have no idea how to answer either of those questions, but I think it's pretty damn cool to see that many women out there given 'er, particularly when you see how many of them shred. And costumed timers and course marshals aside, this was a pretty serious event even if it had a healthy dash of party added in.
The Sturdy Dirty is the brain child of the Seattle's Sturdy Bitch Racing team, an all women's mountain bike race team. The team was founded six years ago to create a more supportive riding and racing environment for its members. As part of their ethos, the team has been putting on women's only events every year. During that time, they've seen a steady growth of women taking up mountain biking. For many of the women entering the sport, though, the desire to race was there, but deciding to race can be intimidating. Since the team was formed to support women's riding and racing, they decided to put on an enduro race in 2014 in an effort to give all levels of female mountain bikers a supportive racing environment as well. That first event, held in Washington's Capitol Forest, was a raging success and the word spread. This year's Sturdy Dirty moved to Tiger Mountain at the invitation of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, a mountain bike trail advocacy group that's been instrumental in the creation of miles of new trail at Tiger Mountain, and the field size doubled from the previous year's offering.
There's definitely an element of fun at the Sturdy Dirty; the Sturdy Bitches make an effort to keep the racing somewhat light hearted--hence the costumed course marshals and volunteers, the limbo station, the bacon hand ups and snowcones at the top of the first climb, the jello shot station rumored to be somewhere on the third transfer, etc. But at its heart, this is a serious race and the tracks, while not all f them are overly technical, are by no means easy, either. There are plenty of roots, rocks, drops, jumps, and tight trees to thread between; beginner and sport racers scaled 2700 vertical feet and raced over 4.5 miles of trail during 3 stages; while the pro and expert divisions climbed an additional 1300 feet in their quest for the podium, as well as hit up the new "Eastbound and Down
", a descending trail not officially opened to the public yet, that drops 1200 vertical feet in a mile and a half before spitting racers down a steep rock lined ramp to the end of the stage.
Overall, the 2015 Sturdy Dirty was also a great success. 229 stoked racers is proof positive of that. Keep an eye out for next year's offering at sturdydirty.com.