Irmiger Makes it Two in a Row - Schusler Edges Out Schnell for Win
(July 6-7, 2013) KEYSTONE, Colo—The third stop of the Big Mountain Enduro rolled into Keystone to join forces with the North American Enduro Tour for a stop that most considered to be brutally tough, hard on gear and very physically demanding. If anything, calling the racing and riding at Keystone anything less, would be a very big understatement. Race winner, Joey Schusler (Yeti) said, “This was the hardest weekend of racing in my life”.
Joey Schusler putting in a ride of his life on stage 4 to move into the overall lead.
As practice was wrapping up on Friday, numerous racers were scrambling to find new wheels and other parts that are frequently broken when all-mountain bikes are pushed to their limits. It was really no surprise to hear of the gear carnage in the pits. After all, the Keystone bike park is known as a downhillers destination, and the selection of trails utilized for the six stages raced over the weekend were anything but easy.
Technical rock gardens, steep skinny lines through tight trees, big jumps, numerous drops, and warp speed straight-aways ensured the almost 300 deep field would be racing on their toes to finish the weekend accident and mechanical free. To make the ‘downhill-light’ racing even harder, several stages featured pedaling-heavy flat sections and/or short uphill climbs to send everyone into an anaerobic high-altitude meltdown. With five of the six stages starting from atop Keystone Mountain at 11,640 feet, oxygen was about as scarce as a lycra skinsuit.
No skinsuits here. This is enduro, and hanging out on top of a mountain with your best biking buds is just part of the experience.
Fortunately, the big mountain weather Gods were smiling kindly upon the venue, with nightly rains to prep the stages for ideal dirt and riding conditions. Daytime weather was also in agreement for all racers to host a level playing field in regards to course conditions.
Brian Buell takes the rowdy freeride-ish line in stage 5
As it would be, ‘Rad’ Ross Schnell (Trek) finished up Saturday’s racing at the top of the leader board with Schusler and Nate Hills (Yeti/Mavic) just seconds away within striking distance of his time. In the women’s race, Heather Irmiger (Trek) stepped it up again to climb to the top with Krista Park and several other fast ex-downhill racing ladies nipping at her heals should a mechanical hold her up. On Sunday, Schusler rode smooth and fast to overcome Schnell for the big win, and Irmiger just barely held her lead over Park after a jammed chain forced her into a chainless dh mode on the very last stage.
An unfortunate side note, our condolences and positive thoughts go to Jeremy and Heather who lost their much loved Australian Sheppard, Brava, to illness on Friday night.
More Images from Nick Ontivaros: