With three of the Big Mountain Enduros behind us, I guess an update is in order. Angle Fire, New Mexico – Crested Butte, Colorado – Keystone, Colorado; amazing mountain bike destinations that I could easily spend weeks exploring. Instead, it was one weekend at each venue and primarily confined to the bike parks within the ski resort boundaries. This whole enduro scene is pretty interesting and I want to elaborate on some of my experiences and expectations.
Angle Fire is a resort nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico. I’ve done several xc races here in the past, including collegiate mtb nationals, and mountain states cups. I was familiar with how steep and rugged the terrain is and I have always heard amazing things about the South Boundary Trail that drops into Santa Fe. The format for the weekend looked like this; drive 5 hours Thursday night, pre-ride as many trails as possible on Friday, race a section of the SBT on Saturday, and then finish it off with some downhill runs in the bike park on Sunday before driving home. It was definitely an action packed weekend and my total racing time was just over an hour. The first stage was going to be my opportunity to see where I stacked up with all the top XC, DH and Enduro pros. It was expected to take about 20 minutes and there was a significant amount of climbing. I flatted my front tire about 10 minutes in and had to hike the rest of the way out. Needless to say, my race was over. The worst part was that the overall is a cumulative time of all the stages. I rode hard on Sunday but my results were sub par considering we were racing on World Cup Downhill courses and I had 100mm of suspension.
Crested Butte is one of my favorite towns and has some of the best riding in the world in my humble opinion. Lauren, Moki, my buddy Stevie and I camped out at the infamous Oh Be Joyful just outside of town along the Slate River. The wild flowers were poppin’ like Orville and the river was raging with painfully cold snow melt. The format at the Crested Butte Enduro consisted of riding chairlifts to the top and then racing down. No pedaling transitions and pure bike park trails with man-made jumps and ladders. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and I enjoy sending it off huge jumps and getting sideways on blown out berms, but I also like to pedal. The longest stage took roughly 13 minutes and I finished 6th which put me in 10th overall for Saturday. I was happy with this, but not so happy that I spent the majority of the day sitting in the grass outside a hotel. It was way too much waiting around and not enough riding. I did however meet, Mason Bond (Yeti Cycles) from Grass Valley, CA, Chris Johnston, and Dyllan Wolsky (Santa Cruz/Enve) from British Columbia. Top notch dudes for sure, and shredders on the downhill! Total time racing was 25 minutes or so. I couldn’t help but be slightly frustrated with the format… I did not sign up for downhill stage racing, but that’s how it was shaping up. So, I decided to throw in the towel and take my bike to the SR Suntour Demo Truck for some much needed service. Andrew Fiore took great care of me, installing a new damper, fresh seals and oil, and increasing the travel from 100 to 120mm!
Here’s a sweet gallery: Mountain Flyer! You should check out.
At Keystone, I went into it expecting a downhill stage race and that’s exactly what it was. I had more fun this weekend embracing the scene since I left all expectations of actually pedaling at home. Stevie invited myself, Dyllan and Chris to stay at his Uncle’s condo right in the village, just a stones throw from the chair lift. The bike park at Keystone is world class and provides anything you could possibly want. From corkscrew ladders, to humongous gap jumps, to gnarly rock gardens that will swallow you alive… Keystone has it all. Now that my bike has a full 120mm of travel up front, I was ready for anything. Keep in mind most guys are running 140-160mm. I manged to survive the weekend of DH stage racing with only one major crash and a few minor mechanicals, pulling out a top 20 for the weekend.
I’m not writing this blog to complain about the Big Mountain Enduro series, I think they are pulling off a great race series for their first full season and I am confident that it will only get better with time. However, I always think there is room for improvement. First of all, I have learned that my skills need major improving – when a downhiller can put 2 minutes into me on a 6 minute run, that’s legit. I have earned a totally new level of respect for downhill racers. The other side of the coin is for the race to cater towards both fitness and skill, not just who can blast off a jump and let loose on a 45mph+ wide open ski run descent. Ross Schnell, one of the fastest riders in the biz, says it best when asked how to define Enduro: “They’re basically pedally downhill races where fitness is just as important as technical skill,” Schnell says.
I’m hopeful that the final two BME’s will offer more time on the bike and longer stages in the back country since that’s really what I signed up for to begin with…
As always, I have to hand it to my sponsors for making this possible. The Orbea Tuff Shed mountain bike team, Enve wheels, White Industry hubs, Ergon grips saddle and pack, Thomson components, SR Suntour suspension, Rotor Cranks, Honey Stinger, and Feedback Sports.
Thanks for reading – pedal on!