Photos and words by Daniel Walker
The Big Mountain Enduro Series might be the most authentic form of mountain bike racing here today. Enduro racing has been called a marketing trick, a fad, a way for those who can't make it in XC or downhill to compete -- but just try to spend an hour out at one of these races and not feel stoked.
Durango is the fourth stop in the five race Big Mountain Enduro Series and is the first stop raced entirely on backcountry trails -- that means no chairlift rides for practice and limited support of the medical or mechanical nature. This is a true backcountry event... and is not for the inexperienced.
Saturday saw riders pulling up to a start line at nearly 12,000 ft and descending approximately 5700' of beautiful high country singletrack along the course of the next two stages.
Of course, all those glorious, high-speed sections didn't come cheap. That 12,000' starting line was accessible in only one way, by the way of a 2400' climb up a grueling, backcountry 4x4 fire road before joyously dropping into the pristine Durango singletrack. Then it was back up again, back up another hour-long, 1300' climb to the start of Stage 2. Only the descents are timed... but this is a race that takes at least as much physical fitness as most cross country races.
Day two brought the action closer to home, with Stages 3 & 4 exploring some of the best local trails Durango has to offer.
And to top it all off, after racing for two days in some of the best singletrack that Durango has to offer... the racers got to retreat to the Oskar Blues afterparty for some well-earned wraps and brews as they swap stories of a weekend to remember.
After a weekend like this, it's not hard to see why enduro is the fastest growing segment of mountain bike racing. It's racing for mountain bikers, pure and simple. It's for the gravity junkie, it's for the xc rider, it's for the weekend warrior. It's a style of racing that celebrates the thrill of racing downhill as fast as sanity allows, while simultaneously managing to not forget that most of us have (or choose) to earn our turns. It's a fresh look at mountain bike racing -- and it's here to stay.