I’ve done a few mountain bike stage races. Usually they seem to build over the course of the event. The ‘queen stage’ falls somewhere towards the 2/3 mark of the week, like the Tussey Ridge stage of the TSEpic. The Crested Butte Ultra Enduro did not follow this course. Well, maybe it would have seemed a little different had day 3 taken riders on the full the planned route, but it didn’t.
At the CB Ultra Enduro, the amateurs had the early shuttle each day. This meant this was the first race I was really glad to be on the ‘pro’ shuttle, which usually is sent first to prevent overlap of categories. Brandon Ontiveros and the BME crew did it opposite way here and it made for a smaller time chasm between the first and last riders to arrive back at camp. It was just above freezing at 6:30am when the AMs loaded the first shuttles at the sponsor village.
The first day of racing had us on the bike for about 6 hours and with over 5,400 feet of climbing over just under 30 miles. With the fully enduro-specific shred sled i detailed in my pre-race post (see here), that felt like a big day.
Stage 1 was 17 minutes of rallying. 2,000 ft + of descending. Mostly singletrack with a little bit of babyhead-littered(how ’bout that compound word?) doubletrack down near the bottom. The loamy, wooded, whooped-out section towards the middle put a huge smile on my face. Had a hard time pealing that off for some time. Well, until about half way up the next monster climb.
I captured the experience of ripping Doctor Park at full tilt with my GoPro chest cam footage. It was enough to make one hoot and holler oozing with stoke by the finish. Crazy fast mid-way through and then into some loose traverses down an eroded rock face at the end. Exhilarating. Check it out here!
As it would turn out, the Big Mountain Enduro crew decided to cut out the first stage of the day. This greatly shortened the route and removed a huge portion of the climbing(and descending) for the day. The waterfall trail, which was set to be stage 5 (and the first of the day), was rumored to be pretty rowdy and most were bummed to circumvent that trail loop. Had the day dished out the ‘full monty’, there would have been some ragged riders by the end of the day, and furthermore, the week.
We parked it in the above field for maybe an hour. The amateurs had been held from starting for over an hour and a half to “let the trail dry”. I’m not sure who made this call, but I don’t think it was the best one. Midway down the stage is was very clear that the moisture levels in the trail were not going to change for some time… like days of time. Dense tree cover and a thorough soaking of the trails made things very interesting to attack at full speed, especially when running the trail blind. But it felt like the slippery, rooty awesomeness of the east and I finished the stage extremely pumped. Ben Cruz and others seemed to agree. Despite a slight tip-over I managed the 7th fastest time on the stage.
The Caves Trail hosted the 6th stage. I was moderately afraid for most of this run. A ribbon of singletrack with encroaching tall grasses and jagged boulders struck the fear of god in me of a pedal strike. I know I was not alone in this because many talked of the same concerns later that day. A really difficult trail to race blind. Multiple tight, blind switchbacks down a very steep, exposed hillside around some bear caves. I was happy to leave unscathed. My handy SportIdent timing slip later told the story and I finished the day 8th fastest. Ben Cruz and I were both pleased with our best result of the week thus far.
After the shortened Day 3 some riders chose to get a pre-ride in on the next day’s stage. Just one stage on Day 4. We found out that afternoon that the ascent to the start of stage 7 was basically a big hike-a-bike. My ankles and heels complained as crested the top. I knew just what to do for the next day when we’d have to do it all over again…
The 7th stage of the week began at treeline and descended fast for the first half. After a moment of gravel road some xc-like singetrack comprised the latter third of the stage. I was so deep in the pain cave that I completely rode off the trail on one of the 1,000 sharp bends at the bottom. A extra-small 26er with 700mm bars would’ve been the weapon of choice for that piece of singletrack. The Riggerus Maximus didn’t like these bits so much, which put me under the impression that this section of trail was not very much fun to race. IMHO…
Two solid runs(10th and 11th) on the first two stages of the day had myself and Alex Petitdemange separated by a mere 8 seconds, and in the 9th and 10th positions, respectively. I was confident I could build on this small advantage on the extra-rowdy Captain Jack stage.
My GoPro chest cam again captured the experience of the Timeline Mega-train. Such a cool thing to be part of. I did my best to toss some whips and stoke the onlookers. After hearing some comments, it seemed to have worked. 🙂 Check out my highlight video here!
Thanks to Brandon, Mike, Sarah and others with the Big Mountain Enduro for putting on a great event. Thanks to Colorado Cycling Connection/C3 Bike Shop, BMC, Stans NoTubes, Trans-Sylvania Epic, Syntace USA, Easton, and Wenjie and friends for the support! What a season it was.
And thanks to Devon Balet for the supplementary photos. Devon is a wizard behind the lense; devonbaletmedia.com
Check out the full aggregate results!