Race Report from BuDu #2 @ Soaring Eagle

For Sunday’s race I thought I’d try to line up closer to the front. I’m really not sure why I didn’t do this at the last race because the opportunity for a clean pass a rare thing in the BuDu series. We started off sprinting up an uphill muddy slog about 4 across until we hit the singletrack descent. I got on Brazel’s wheel as we chased Leuschke and Connolly through the muck. Once we hit the descent I quickly realized I had the Gravedigger on my ass and that was a bit intimidating. I was pretty happy with myself for still hanging with those guys as the trail turned back up hill but it wasn’t long before I heard a crunching in my drivetrain. I looked down and saw a stick rattling around near my cog but just kept riding hoping it would clear. A couple of seconds later the noise sounded like someone was trying to pry my chain off. I looked down again and saw the stick had somehow wrapped itself around my cog and was tangled up in the chain. Thats when I heard Graver say “It’s a stick dude.” I pulled over, swore a little bit and unraveled the hot mess. I think about 4 or 5 people passed me in the short time it took me to clear out the mess. I got on the wheel of the only SS racer NOT on a 29er and followed him for a while. He was going a good pace but I could have gone faster. Eventually he just pulled over. I think it was either my heinously loud mouth breathing or annoying loud Hope hub that got on his nerves. He stayed on my wheel for a while but I eventually pulled away.

That’s about when the real trouble started. I brought my lungs and legs to the race but I had apparently left my bike handling skills at home. I have probably ridden the trails at Soaring Eagle more than anything else in the Seattle area–it’s basically my home turf, but you wouldn’t know it based on how I was riding. I know all the tricks and fast lines through every corner, around every tree and over every root bundle. But for some reason yesterday I flubbed just about every single one of them. I smacked my hands and shoulders into countless trees and hit the deck at least twice. My attitude was quickly souring and I started to become afraid of every technical corner. Even when I tried to reset and take it easy I found a way to end up on the ground.

Due to the fumbles I was back and forth with a couple of the other SSers. The leaders of the expert class had blown most of us away shortly after the first lap so it became difficult to tell if the rabbit ahead of you on the trail was SSor not. Same for the riders coming up from behind. On the last lap just when I thought I had separated myself from everyone another SSer came up on my wheel. In a stupor I thought he was geared so I let him around. Turns out that was a mistake. When I realized what had happened I got on his wheel and stuck to it best I could. He started to pull away as I bobbled on a few more roots (for good measure) but on the final descent to the finishing straight I ignored my brakes and was able to keep upright enough to close the gap. That descent ends with a flat hard right turn on loose pea gravel between some giant boulders. We both had a clean run through the corner and rocks. Once through I stood up and hammered as hard as I could. I blew right by him in a way that makes me wonder if he sat up for some reason but choose to think I was that much faster. I still had plenty of leg power so I was able keep that pace up the muddy hill and through the finish line. I ended up 7th.

The next race is in a couple weeks at Ft. Steilacoom. I’ll see if I can remember to bring some handling skills to that race, because if my legs feel good I should have a good race.


Zack Philips