With the torrential rains of Yacolt
out of the way, round four of the Shimano Cascadia Dirt Cup presented by Cannondale
headed to Washington State's Capitol backyard as part of the 9th annual Capitol Forest Classic
. Hosted by the Friends of Capitol Forest, the festival is a grassroots event with a staunch following and a reputation for a lively party that keeps going deep into the night. In previous years an XC race on Saturday was followed by a Super-D on Sunday. But with forces combing this year, Sunday's Super-D was replaced with round four of the CDC. The most ambitious racers could compete both days and automatically enter into the All Mountain category for a shot at becoming King or Queen of the Mountain.
In an ominous repeat of round three, weeks of dry trails were forecasted to receive an onrush of rain just in time for the races to begin. While Friday afternoon was quite pleasant for any who came to pre-ride, the clouds rolled in over night and set the stage for the weekend. A break in the weather for Saturday's rider meeting had the most optimistic wondering if the rain might just hold off... it didn't. As soon as racer's started around their short seeding lap the rain came flooding back.
The cross-country courses were split up into three distances with all categories sharing the seeding lap, initial climb, and final descent down the Green Line trail. Beginners would pedal for 10 miles, and Sport would add on an additional eight miles. Usually the Expert/Pro course would combine both of these routes, but this year a segment was added along the Porter Trail as a send-off for the trail which will be heavily logged next year. In total the Expert/Pro category would complete over 35 miles and 5,000' of climbing.
Spirits started high, but riders quickly became more resigned as the miles stretched on and the pedaling continued. To further complicate things, high winds buffeted the forest all day, causing four blow downs across the course. By the time all 86 riders made it back to the staging area, they'd worked up an immense appetite for food and dry clothes — not always in that order. Luckily the food at the festival is consistently a success, and riders began to perk back up in time to cheer the kid's race through their laps of torrential rainfall. As darkness settled, most of the group dissipated to recoup from the day, leaving the usually energetic night life rather subdued.
"All summer long we prayed and prayed that we wouldn't have to cancel the festival because of forest fires," explained Lee Peterson during Sunday's rider meeting, "And our prayers have been answered." While some of the 250 registered enduro racers were turned away by the weather, a lot showed, and they were in for an exciting day. Six stages in some of Washington's most beautiful forests, somewhere between 22-25 miles (reports varied), and 3,500' of climbing. Initially racers were going to climb to the summit for stage one, but a benevolent decision was made to allow a self shuttle to the start.
The trails at Capitol Forest aren't particuarly technical due to strict guidelines from the local DNR, but the trails are smooth, fun, flowy, and a great view is always on the next corner. Less difficult trails and rough conditions Saturday lead a good share of riders to tackle the race blind. Pre-ridden or not, mud was the big deciding factor of the day. As a bit of a change all categories completed the stages in consecutive order with the expected line and vehicle caravan to the top.
Stage one was about as technical as the riding gets at Capitol Forest. A loose-rock start descended onto a smooth moto track with deep banked turns at the exit. Stage two was a flowy trail that started in a regrowing clear cut before heading back into the woods for more mud. Stage three was the carnage zone as the muddy coaster-ride invited racers to over commit in their turns. Stage four lead through a valley with short sections of rolling elevation before bringing riders back to the staging area for a break. Stage five raced down Little Larch, the area's newest trail. The fastest times required decisive navigation of the available routes, particularly the optional log ride. Stage six was the big finale down Green Line. The longest of the stages opened with a lush forest and the occasional root section, and ended with channels of peanut butter.
Luke Strobel once again dominated the day with his third consecutive win of the season. Andi Zolton (Pro Women) and Jason Eiswald (Junior Men) had their first CDC wins. Logan Wetzel and Emilie Thy had the fastest cumulative times for both days and were crowned King and Queen of the Mountain — a not unusual occurrence for Wetzel. Check out XC results here
, Enduro results here
, and All Mountain results here
Throughout the day the sun and rain played a revolving game of tag, making it difficult for riders to choose which layers to wear on each stage. Countless puddles, miles of wet trails, and the occasional fall all left their mark splattered on frames, clothes, and faces. Many made use of a nearby stream as part of their post ride cleanup. The rest of us headed home after the podiums to destroy our washing machines. The Cascadia Dirt Cup finals will be at Tiger Mountain September 19. Trending evidence suggest it will be raining — and guaranteed fun as always.