Mudder race celebrates a decade in the dirt

In the first run of the day, dozens of lady mountain bike riders take off in two-minute intervals for the 10th annual Mudder mountain bike race on Sunday in the woods near Langley. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
In the first run of the day, dozens of lady mountain bike riders take off in two-minute intervals for the 10th annual Mudder mountain bike race on Sunday in the woods near Langley.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

Brothers Ed and Eric Evanson from Bellevue couldn’t stop talking about their just-completed mountain bike experience, only their second-ever.

“I thought I was flying a few times,” Ed Evanson recalled. “What’s up with the giant anthills?”

For beginners like the Evansons or long-time pros, the 10th annual Mudder bike race was a thrill.

“It was a great course,” chimed in Bellingham’s Mike McQuaide, checking out his speedometer. “I clocked 29 mph at one point.”

A record 286 racers — the biggest turn-out in the event’s history — took advantage of mild weather to run the private 5.6-mile course in the woods off Coles Road in Langley.

Winners in the men’s open pro category were Russell Stevenson, Toby Swanson and Spencer Paxsen. For the women, Katerina Nash was first, followed by Melanie Lewis and Beth Hausam.

Not much has changed since last year’s race. Before the start, racers looked forward to a little more singletrack, while being wary of the fast descents and tough climbs.

The challenge appeals to Ron Sanger from Yelm, who came in seventh in the sport division last year on his full-suspension Trek mountain bike.

“There’s a lot of quick turns and the tight trail makes it hard sometimes to safely pass someone,” Sanger said. “But this is one of the most beautiful courses on the circuit.”

Sanger mentioned he spent the night at a local bed-and-breakfast and powered up for the big race. “I found a pizza place perched on a cliff in Langley last night,” he said. “Very good pizza.”

The Mudder is part of an eight-event series that began in April in south Seattle and finishes in August at the White River Revival in Greenwater.

The course’s single lap is 5.6 miles, which can equal from 15 to 18 miles depending on the category. There are races for beginners, experts and small fry. Organizer Robert Frey strives to create a family atmosphere.

“We have a good bike community on South Whidbey, very supportive,” he said. “And we cheated the weather once again; this will be our best race ever.”

Frey started the event 10 years ago to help people take advantage of the unique South Whidbey landscape.

“I saw there was a need,” Frey recalled. “The first year we had 130 riders and it grew from there, with the help of local sponsors and volunteers.”

Frey said the course combines up and downhill, technical single track and wide spots for passing (or being passed).

Surfaces range from fast hard-packed earth to large rocks, slippery gravel and unexpected roots. To preserve the illusion of a rainy day, water hazards were spotted along the course, just to keep everyone honest.

David Gardiner from Half Link Bicycles in Bayview was on site to provide a little TLC — technical loving care — to racers suffering flats, broken sprockets or squishy brakes.

“We just want to have everything go smooth,” Gardiner said. “So far, it has.”

Waiting for her son Pat to round a curve so she could capture the perfect Kodak moment, Josephine Fitzpatrick from Long Beach, Calif. noted the ferry from Mukilteo and how the race seems to attract many racers from afar.

“Just about everyone seemed to have a bike lashed to their car,” she said.

“This is a beautiful place and should I win the lottery someday...”

By noon, the normally wide, empty space at the end of the dirt road was jammed with minivans and SUVs, not a few of which were rigged as campers.

And everywhere there were colorfully-garbed bike fanatics warming up for their race start or cooling down after whooshing through the woods, talking with friends and strangers about what’s coming or what had been.

For complete race results, visit

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