Wednesday evening August 15 was the finale of the 2019 Northwest Mountain Bike Series. Also known as the “Wednesday Night World Championships,” this was the series’ sixth season.
The “world championships” reference pokes fun at the fact that although riders at local races and group rides are just out for bragging rights, everyone acts as though World Championship stripes are on the line. Seattle also has a Tuesday Night and Thursday Night World Championships–road circuit racing at Pacific Raceways and Seward Park.
Over the past six years event director Russell Stevenson and a crew of volunteers have put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears(?) to develop the race venue at North SeaTac Park. Their efforts are similar to what Dave Douglas has done with the Thursday Seward Park Road Cycling Series. In both cases they have literally cleaned up the park and created public spaces that are viable for “legit” purposes.
To keep things interesting, the NWMTB crew change the course every week. Routes are a mix of fast, twisty single track, paved roads, and grass.
I first attended the series when it was in its second season and Russell expressed concern about its long-term viability. But, despite a sometimes difficult commute from Seattle, participation has grown every year. Some of this year’s events had over 200 racers. Russell claims the series is the best attended MTB series in Washington. Their secret sauce: a focus on fun and families. The kids proudly finish with dirty faces and legs, and with sweat-matted hair. The event is hard enough that they get a healthy dose of athletic exertion, and a positive feeling of accomplishment.
I think events like this are part of the reason folks are abandoning road cycling: why take the risk of riding near autos when you can ride hard for an hour or so then hang out in a festive atmosphere with buddies?
Although the racing is serious, the series has a fun vibe that overflows from the race course to the start/finish area where friends hang out and commiserate over beverages and food by Tacos El Guero. Westside Bicycle provides mechanical support.
The junior race is the most delightful to watch. Some of the more competitive kids fiercely test their mettle against one another, while others who are new to cycling or competition circle the course with a parent in tow.
The 2019 NW MTB Series is over, but you can join Russell and local coaches for skills clinics and mock cyclocross races Wednesday Night Cyclocross Practice and Mock-Racing starting August 28.