Enduro racing is fun. Really fun. And by Enduro, I'm not talking about endurance (like cross country), I'm talking about Enduro downhill. Multi-stage races where each stage starts higher than it finishes (read: lift-accessed terrain) and requires good handling skills. The stages are long (between 6 and 30 minutes) and include some pedaling sections so they also require good fitness.
My first Enduro race was the Trestle All-Mountain Enduro in 2011. The brain child of Ross Schnell, it saw a great turnout and stiff competition in its first year. This year, it was renamed the Specialized Enduro and was included as part of the Colorado Freeride Festival. In its second year though, the number of participants significantly increased, as did the level of competition.
The first two stages (on Friday) were downhill focused. The first was a chainless race (yes, they actually take off your chain) and the second had almost no pedaling. Not surprisingly, with my narrow bars (640mm) and long-but-not-downhill-length (170mm) front fork I didn't do especially well in either of these stages. I finished 43rd in stage 1 and 23rd in stage 2 and was about 83 seconds behind first place in the overall.
Luckily, stages 3 and 4 (on Saturday) had quite a bit more pedaling so I was hoping for some better results and to move up in the overall. Stage 3 was going well and I was having a blast, but less than a minute before the finish I compressed hard into a berm and felt my rear tire roll and lose some air. This isn't usually a big deal except I could feel that it was no longer supporting my weight properly. So I had to slow down to keep it from rolling completely off the rim and lost quite a bit of time at the end of the run to finish 25th. Stage 4 went better (and was one of my favorite stages since it made heavy use the Rainmaker trail) and I finished 5th in the stage and moved from 28th to 19th in the overall.
That night I drove to Denver to pick up Syd at the airport. She had been studying abroad in Argentina for five months so I was really excited to see her and have her join me for the next 5 weeks of road tripping.
The final stage was the one I was most looking forward to. Last year I won the last stage and moved from 17th to 10th in the overall, so I had high hopes of success. The other thing I liked about the stage was that each racer started however many seconds behind the racer in front of them they were in the overall. In other words, first place started, then second place however many seconds behind first they were in the overall, then third however many seconds behind second, etc. I really like this format because it means you have people to chase down and whatever place you cross the finish line at the end of the stage is how you finish in the overall.
As I mentioned, at the start of stage 5 I was 19th in the overall. I started a few seconds behind Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and the two of us were quickly joined by Dylan Stucki to create a XC-racer train of destruction. We steadily picked people off until the brand-new section of singletrack that was so closely lined by trees that you couldn't pass at which point we got stuck behind a racer for a couple of minutes until he crashed on a root and we were able to get around him. By then we were close to the finish and I put the hammer down to make sure I was the first of the group to cross the finish line. I was successful in this and crossed the line 11th, just one spot out of the money. As I watched the rest of the racers finish I also learned that I had had the 7th fastest time for that stage.
I was planning to spend the rest of the day riding since my lift pass was good through Sunday but then it started pouring rain and the lifts shut down. It rained so hard that the parking lot where we were camping started to flood and Syd and I had to dig trenches around the tent. It eventually stopped but the lifts stayed closed so we went out for Chinese food and crawled into out tent nice and early.
Overall an awesome weekend filled with great trails, good racing, fun people and lots of hanging out. Can't wait for next year!