GAME ON!! The start of what I have been waiting for all season...the Big Mountain Enduro Series! The race kicked off in Angle Fire New Mexico, about a 4 hour drive from Durango. The Iron Horse Classic was my last race(road race one day, followed by and XC race the next day)prior to this enduro race. I had a good 3 weeks of training, and felt primed for Angel Fire!
Having heard that the big name pros had already arrived in Angel Fire that Monday to practice the 5 courses, I had to scramble to get work off as soon as possible. The earliest I could get off work was Thursday...at 10 am(I work at a local coffee shop). So right after work on Thursday I got out, packed, and rallied to Angel Fire. On the way to the resort just passed Taos was the finish to stage one. So after an hour of looking for the trail head finish, I finally found it. I got on my bike and pedaled UP the course. Doing my best to study every rocky section and looking for fast and smooth lines. I climbed and climbed to what I thought was the start...but apparently I was a good 4 miles away from the start. Either way I got to pre-ride some of the trail, and didn’t come into stage one completely blind. After one run on stage one it was time to finish my journey and head to Angel Fire; where the other 4 stages were held, and set up camp for the night. It was a hasty 30 minute drive to the resort, as I had to beat the weather that was rolling in and the sun that was about to set. Camping is free at the resort parking lot, and I dashed to set up camp in the dark as it began to blow and sprinkle drops of water. Not even 30 seconds after setting up my tent it just dumped water and started thundering with huge flashes of lightning. It was the first time I had used my new tent in the rain...and was afraid of my rain-fly leaking. Luckily it held up, and with a little help from some ear plugs I was able to go to sleep with the rain beating down on my tent.
The next morning it was blue skies, and because it had been so dry in that area it looked as if the rain did nothing to the soil. After an early start to the day, and dialing in my bike, I waited for the lifts to open at 10. I had 4 stages to try memorize...all extremely technical and demanding for both the rider AND the equipment. It was a matter of trying to get the courses dialed without doing too much harm to my bike. Unlike the fully sponsored Pros who get free equipment and basically anything they want, I still have to work and pay for my bike equipment. Which ads to the already challenging element of a Pro racer. With limited equipment and limited time, I had to do my best to practice the trails that the fully sponsored pros had already been practicing since Monday... I ended up getting lost on stage 2 several times, and eventually rode that course 3 times. Stages 3 and 4 I rode twice, and stage 5 I rode only once before the lift closed. That was my day...training hard and dialing the trails in just before race day started the next day. I laid in my tent, tired and blown from riding...mean while, the fully sponsored Pros were resting their energy all day for the start of the races the next day. Like I said...its hard to compete with that.
Saturday...race day on stage one, the longest stage of the weekend. I woke up feeling fine, and at nearly 10,000 feet elevation I felt like I recovered well after a hard day of riding the day before. Waking up to my coffee, and shortly after my Garden of Life protein shake and some food. I was ready for a day of riding. The field was staked, and we loaded up some 70 bikes on this small trailer. We then were shuttled to the start of the transfer stage, where we then had to ride about 5 miles into the remote forest to the start of stage one. During the transfer stage is where I noticed a lack of power, short of breath, and basically tired from the prior day of riding. This was not good. Stage one was the longest stage, and required the most fitness...it was not looking good for me. I was about the 20th person to go, and 5 minutes into pedaling I was already tired...riding flat and with no punch or power. I just held on and pedaled as hard as I could and breathed as hard as I could. At this time I recalled thinking that I rode most of the course...to eventually find out that I missed a good 4 miles and was riding blind those first couple of miles. I stayed on my bike, but I did have a couple close calls. I soon arrived to the portion of the course that I did pre-ride, and eventually opened it up for the descents. I knew that flatting would cost me the race, so playing it safe in the right places was key. Towards the bottom I passed a couple riders who had the misfortune of getting a flat. Enduro is all about consistency...pinning it in just the right places. It would be sweet to ride 100% the whole race...but you often can't in order to win. Its a fine balance. I crossed the line 20 minutes and 51 seconds later...and gassed. I ended up finishing 6th overall in that stage, putting me in good contention for podium.
Sunday morning, day 2 of racing, I was awake and refreshed. I felt good...really good. I had 4 more stages to race, but none as long as stage one. Even though the trails were suited for down hill riders with little climbing, I still felt confident I could do well, and proved it with clean runs with very little mistakes and no mechanical. That simple task can often be very hard to do on this physical and equipment demanding mountain. After a couple tire changes to mach the course, and a quick swap of lenses of my AWESOME Smith Optics V2 Max PivLock sunglasses, I was ready to race. My one regret was that I should have practiced course 5 once more at least. During my practice runs on Friday I just rode it once before the lift closed, and Saturday I had no time to get back up the mountain. Other then that I was happy with my result...I ended up 7th overall after 5 stages and against 50+ hungry Pro racers. Not to bad I guess:) Next race is in Crested Butte for round 2 of the Big Mountain Enduro.