Mudder: Into the woods, very fast

Tony Lombardo of Seattle heads into a turn at the halfway point of Sunday’s Mudder Race in Langley. - Jeff VanDerford
Tony Lombardo of Seattle heads into a turn at the halfway point of Sunday’s Mudder Race in Langley.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

You never know what kind of a day you’re going to get when you stage an outside event in the Northwest.

The 180 mountain bike aficionados that showed up Sunday for the Mudder Race were ready for anything — what they got was a fast, dry track perfect for raising dust at high speeds.

“I expected rain, but I’m happy to adjust myself to a beautiful day,” said Tony Lombardo of Seattle.

Clinton’s David Walton moved here from Santa Barbara a year ago.

“Normally I’m a road racer, but I fell in with the friendly, supportive folks at Down Sound Racing,” he said. “This is a great cycling event on the island.”

This was the Mudder’s seventh year, part of the Washington State XC Mountain Bike Race series organized by Robert Frey.

Race results were expected to be posted today at

The 5.6-mile course on private property off Coles Road offered a variety of terrain to challenge riders young and old — rocks, roots, branches, steep uphill climbs and their corresponding downhill runs.

Racers competed at different levels and distances from beginners, youth and seniors to experts and single-speeders.

Not everyone planned to race that day. Langley’s Rick Urban was just out for a ride.

“I decided on the spot to give it a shot in the beginner’s class,” he said. “I checked out the trail, caught a root and fell off so, for me, this is clearly a challenge.”

Ed Stringer was more sanguine. “I just want to finish.”

Energy levels ran high before their start as racers attached tires, tightened gears, adjusted helmets and warmed up on the numerous dirt trails.

While having her rear derailleur attended to by Langley bike mechanic David Gardiner, Tacoma’s Kate Oliver was glad she made the trip.

“This is one of my favorite bike events,” she said. “I spend a couple days on the island. Sometimes it rains, which adds to the fun. And the laundry bill.”

Ensuring the staggered race times are rigidly met, Frey got everyone to the start line for a little last-minute advice regarding the course layout and proper etiquette.

As riders chased their private demons in a cloud of dust, Frey explained the advantages of a mountain bike: “They really work best for this type of race with their special combination of gearing, knobby tires, suspension and brakes specifically designed for trails.”

At the halfway mark parents, wives, sweethearts and strangers cheered on each rider as they emerged from the sun-dappled trail beneath the trees.

“We’re having fun now,” one racer puffed as he struggled up a short climb.

Andrew Dayton from Event Medical Services was on hand to provide first aid if needed. “I travel all over the state,” he said. “Here, when someone falls, its like peat moss; maybe a little road rash or some scratches. On the east side of the Cascades, it can be like the rider got caught in a meat grinder.”

Understandably prejudiced, Frey’s son Jack, 10, had kind words for the event’s organizer.

“My dad volunteers, he loves doing this. I think this is very cool.”

Jack’s friend Nash Grimm, also 10, hits the trails every chance he gets.

“The Mudder is the best, though kind of hard in places. It’s just totally a fun thing to do.”

Sliding through the finish line ahead of the pack, Jack was one happy kid. “I can’t believe I won again. It went amazingly well.”

Jack’s dad noted the continuing success of the Mudder is a result of participation by the fans who show up to ride and local Whidbey Island sponsors: Half Link Bicycle Shop, Sebos Do-it Center, La Paz Restaurant, Heggenes Arboreal, Island Asphalt, Island Recycling, Jerry Beck and Company and Southern Cross Espresso.

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