This year’s edition of the Mudslinger marked the 25th running of the event. Mother nature showed up to make sure there was plenty of mud to go around and all 300+ racers enjoyed this classic event. My first Mudslinger was back before Y2K. I was still a newbie, but I had been “training” a lot and thought I was bound for victory. The truth is I finished DFL in the Expert class that year, got passed by the young buck that won the Juniors, and, get this…a guy riding a full rigid single speed, in sweat pants AND platform pedals! That race shoved so much humble pie down my throat I was sick for a week.
But I have also had success at the Mudslinger. I won the Test Of Endurance (the 50 mile version of the same race), the N.W. Single Speed Championships (same course, different name), came a very close second when it was the State Championship race a couple years ago, a win two years ago, and second again last year. Not bad all in all, win some, lose some.
This years race was run a little differently. We had the option of competing in the first ever Mudslinger omnium. There was a hill climb and super D on Saturday, then the XC on Sunday. Riders competing in the omnium were timed for each event. At the end of the three events your total time placed you overall in your given category. Pretty cool. The first event, the hill climb, was a tough two mile slog with a little over 1000 ft. of elevation gained. I have never been particularly fond or successful at hill climbs, and ended up 3rd in the single speed class and 8th overall. The super D was a different story. I have been told by a lot of my peers that this is the style of racing I should be doing. Downhill handling skills mixed with punchy bursts of anaerobic fitness. That sounds good. I have my Kona Raijin set up with a dropper post and a great selection of Sram/Rock Shox parts including the new XO Trail four piston brakes. If you are having issues stopping, grab a set of these brakes, they could stop a semi truck! With the dropper post, the Raijin tipped the scales at a scant 22 lbs!. The predictable and somewhat relaxed geometry allowed me to descend with confidence and that supple ti frame smoothed out he high speed gravel road sections. This is my first Ti bike and I have to say I am loving it. I have heard a lot of people say that Ti can be flexy, but not the Raijin. As I said before…it doesn’t really matter what material a frame is made out of, as long as it is designed properly. Kona dialed this frame in better than AT&T! A little side note..I decided to have a little fun at this event and broke out my Captain Awesome costume! This earned me a lot of smiles and I was stoked to add some fun to the competitive atmosphere. Back to the super D. I blasted down the super D course with a big toothy grin, my Captain Awesome wings flapping in the wind. I nailed all my lines and was one of three guys to break eleven minutes. I won the single speed class and placed third overall! Win some, lose some.
Sunday’s XC was next. Anyone who races a lot it pretty in tune with their body and sometimes you just know you don’t have your “A” game. This was one of those days. I went through my regular routine, got a good warm up on the rollers, and started hard to stay with the leaders. I fell off the pace fairly early and spent the majority of the race fighting for the bottom rung of the podium. At the end of the day I ended up fourth. This was a bit of a bummer as it marked the end of my consecutive single speed podiums in XC. I did a bit of research and it looks like the string ended at 19 races. Win some, loose some.
Although I didn’t really have my climbing legs that day, I definitely had my descending legs! I nailed the decents and kept it upright through some really greasy single track sections. The Raijin is very predictable and playful on single track and I almost forgot I wasn’t going to finish on the podium. All in all I had a great weekend. I came away with a new found interest in the enduro series and I am looking forward to this season’s racing more and more. See you at the races!