Sturdy Dirty Enduro from Someone Who “Might Race” Mountain Bikes This Year

By: Heather VanValkenburg

Back in late January, I met with Paul LaCava, our local Giant Bicycles representative at Portland Bicycle Studio after a wine tasting event with a friend.

“I’m not sure what I want. Full suspension for sure, but that’s really all I know”

“Well, are you planning on racing?”

“Probably not. I mean, I guess some short track, but I just want to ride I suppose.”

Skip ahead 5 months. I’d like to think that folks at the shop magically got my bike together right about the time I was needing a motivational distraction, but I’m sure it was just a random draw that my Giant Anthem SX was ready in early March. And, like I planned, I started to ride it….

I rode.

I rode many great places, at least once every weekend, with many different folks. You might call is a “crash course” in mountain biking, but… with very minimal crashing.

And I learned a lot.  Weight back. Boobs to the tubes. Weight back. Look ahead. Don’t look at that. Pump that. Weight back. Turn your hips. Look ahead. Bend your elbows. GET YOUR ASS BACK! I’ve had some great experienced mentors so far.

And I raced. Because I am a bike racer and I still need the excitement of pinning… I mean attaching a number and lining up to a start.

This weekend I had a magic moment at the Sturdy Dirty Enduro Race. I had that day where everything just flows. just clicks- where the nervous voices quiet and you simply go. You take all the right lines, you feel why the bike was made for this. Each turn just feels right, each little bump just rolls under you. Things begin to feel natural and you smile because you’re about to giggle but, you contain it, like you have a secret. You pedal through each rock section, like it’s trying to scare you, but you’re not scared (well except for the exit of OTG, but I’m saving that for another time.) And everything just feels 30% easier than it did the last 3 times down a run. And that root drop, or rocky bit, or funky, between the trees, big drop off that freaked you out the day before backs off and welcomes you. And when you conquer stage 2, and a man dressed in a cow suit stops you to scan your timing chip. You turn to the crown of racers who have just finished, along with all the volunteers and you teammates and yell (seriously yell), THAT WAS [expletive] AMAZING!!!

So I guess a race report is supposed to have stats. OK. According to Strava I had PRs (of 2-3 previous pre-rides) on all the segments/ stages yesterday. They split the masters 40+ women out of each category. I finished 10th of 21 masters and would have been somewhere in the middle  of all beginners, which there were 63… SIXTY THREE beginner racers! I’m from out of town… and have been riding a mountain bike for approximately 3.5 months. Most of these ladies ride these trails often.

I finished 1st on the rad-o-meter.

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