Ah Aspen, my home away from home, how I love thee. The first stop of the Big Mountain Enduro Tour and the second stop the NAET took place this weekend (June 21-22) at Snowmass Village, Colorado, and hot dang, it was awesome. Over 300 racers came out, with 60+ pro men and 16 pro women. Old and new, the fast people were there and ready to shred. Sweetly enough, some of those old and new people were some of my best friends.
The two day race covered seven stages and all seven stages were fast and physically exhausting. Stages 1, 2, 3, and 5 consisted of tight corners and trees and loose dirt, testing not only my cornering abilities but also my ability to spring and accelerate out of those corners. As for the others, stage 4 and part of 6 took place on a jump trail, Valhalla, which was three miles of nothing but berms, wall-rides, table-tops, booters, and doubles. The top half of stage 6 was Vapor, a wicked fast, chunky descent off the very top of Snowmass--it was one of my favorites. Stage 7, Bonzai DH, was the NORBA/World Cup DH trail and was another favorite of mine. I'm happy to say that by the end of the weekend I had established a steady and healthy relationship with berms, have a close friendship with drops, and learned to play nice with jumps.
I got into Snowmass Thursday morning and got to pre-ride that afternoon and Friday. Pre-riding was a little difficult at this race--the opening day for the Snowmass Bike Park was Saturday, the 21st, which also happened to be the first day of the race. The crew at Snowmass was kind enough to open the gondola on Friday for racers, but a couple of trails still couldn't be ridden. Vapor was off the top chairlift, which was closed until Saturday, the bottom half of stage 5 was a nature trail that was only open to bikes after 5pm, stages 2 and 3 had pretty long and grueling climbs and transitions to get to them, and stage 6 spit you out about two miles below the village leaving us with a lovely climb back. Obviously this is the nature of enduro racing, it can't all be downhill, but dang, trying to pre-ride everything in a day and a half makes you tired! I rode stages 2, 3, and 7 on Thursday, and stages 1, 4, and 7 (again and again and again) on Friday. We were planning on trying to pre-ride everything we could on Friday, but Scott ended up blowing his fork up going through a super fast and chunky part of stage 7. The remainder of the day was spent searching and begging for a 27.5 fork. Thankfully we got one.
Saturday was a beautiful day in Snowmass; a little cloud cover and not too hot. Stages 1-4 went really well for me, no crashes (SAY WHAT?!) and no mechanicals. At the end of the day I was sitting in 3rd behind Brittany Clawson and Margaret Gregory. Sunday rolled around and I just wanted to keep myself together and ride clean. Stage 5 was similar to stage 1 in the fact that it was pedally and had a lot of tight turns, but I didn't get to pre-ride it. There was a two minute road sprint in the middle that pretty much wiped the look of death all over my face followed by really tight, rooty, and turny single-track to the finish. I managed to make it down in 5th, no crashes and no mechanicals. I got to pre-ride probably 5 of the 7 miles that made up stage 6, leaving only the bottom 2 miles a mystery. The bottom single track was like the rest--pedally, fast, and really turny. I crashed once trying to go way too fast around a corner, but didn't lose much time still managing to come in 3rd on that stage. Last was Bonzai, my favorite stage (even though it scared me). The top was wide open through a grass field that quickly converged into a technical section through tight trees, roots, and loose dirt. It opened back up to traverse across an open ski run, diving back into single track through the aspens. A rock garden was followed by a big road drop with a pretty steep landing and immediate 90 degree right-hand turn. The trail only calmed down for a moment until it turned quickly down and t the left, through "Hell's Kitchen" over another drop and into another 90 degree right-hander. After exiting the last single track it was fast and wide open through the grass, onto a service road, off a booter, and into the finish. I made it down clean, no issues.
Oddly enough, my best finishes were on the longer, more pedally stages. I was expecting my best finishes to be on the shorter and gnarlier ones. In fact, stage 7, which was the least pedally and most gnarly, was my worst finish, and stages 1, 3, and 6, which were the longer, less steep, and most pedally were my best finishes. Expect the unexpected I guess! Perhaps this means that those intervals and all my work on cornering is starting to pay off? I hope so because it is off to Durango this weekend (June 28-29) for two days of seriously physical riding.
I ended the weekend standing on the podium un 3rd place--my first pro podium! SUPER STOKED. Not only did I learn a lot, but it was a huge confidence-building weekend for me. Thank you BME for the huge check and thank you ladies for pushing me all weekend.
June 7th and 8th was the opening round of the Oregon Enduro Series and the first race of the North American Enduro Tour. The race took place at Post Canyon in Hood River, Oregon.
Hood River holds a special place in my heart. For years and years I went to summer ski camp at Mt. Hood and spent a good amount of time hanging out, wind surfing, paddle boarding, hiking, biking and eating ice cream at Mike's in Hood River. Last summer was the first summer in eight years that I didn't get to go up to Oregon, so when I saw the OES in Hood River I made up my mind that I had to go. Despite it being almost 1,300 miles from Flagstaff to Hood River and the hassle of flying with a bike, I am lucky enough to have family in Portland and friends In White Salmon, WA, directly across the gorge from Hood.
I got into Oregon the Wednesday before the race and got to pre-ride Thursday and Friday--which was nice since there were eight stages to ride. I went solo on this adventure but met up with a bunch of other friends when I got there and met and made plenty more as the weekend went on. I ended up getting a spot on the Dirty Fingers shuttle Thursday afternoon and got the chance to shred with a couple of locals and Giant Factory Off-Road Team Rider, Adam Craig--a seriously cool dude. Friday morning Margaret and Mal (Smith Rep) got into town and we continued our mission to find the fast lines.
To say that Hood River was a stacked race is an understatement but not surprising since it was the NAET opener. There were 16 pro women including Heather Irmiger, Kathy Pruitt, Abbi Hippely, Katrina Strand, etc. The pro men's field included Ross Schnell, Curtis Keene, Josh Carlson, Adam Craig, Nate Hills, JHK, Brian Lopes, Kirt Voreis, etc, etc.
Post Canyon is not for the light-hearted. The trails are steep, rocky, rooty, and loose, in combination with bike park style jumps and berms. I was expecting to go up to Oregon and have it be wet and slippery, but it was incredibly dry and dusty--a lot like the trails in Flagstaff and much more suited to my riding style than Moab was. The weeks leading up to the race were interesting; my riding had been suffering and I was just not riding fast so my goal going into the first day was to just keep the rubber side down. Mission almost accomplished. I crashed pretty hard trying to go through a berm corner as fast as I could. I somehow managed to get my saddle completely perpendicular to my top tube. After landing hard on my hip I decided to take the last stage of the day easy. Upper GP and Bad Motor Scooter are two super fun jump trails, so I got to make peace with the berms.
The second day of racing I was a little peeved about how Saturday finished and went in with the mindset of just going fast. It worked. Kind of. I definitely rode more like myself; faster, a little looser, and a little more risky. The stages I managed to get down without mishaps I was pleased with, and even the two stages I had trouble with I was still happy about because I knew I had tried. I had another saddle issue on stage 6 that caused some problems and slammed my front wheel into a tree when the end of a berm crumbled on stage 7. Overall, day two was my favorite. the trails were loose and technical with lots of rock gardens and drops, and the fans were out in full force to cheer the riders on. At the bottom of stage 7 was Heckler's Corner, where fans were dressed in all kinds of ridiculous costumes and equipped with air horns and cowbells--enough happiness to make any bad day better.
I ended up 9th overall for the weekend. Despite being frustrated about some things I think I rode really well, maybe not the fastest I could have, but oh well. I met so many cool people, got to ride tons of awesome new trails, and hang out with friends and family in one of my favorite places. I learned a lot, like what is fast and what isn't, and how to find the balance between staying on the ground and going all out. I sent myself off of a big (to me) diving board drop totally blind and survived, so that's cool. I also learned how to break down and rebuild my bike and pack it in to a bike box. Whooop! To me, Oregon was a win. the opening round of the Big Mountain Enduro Series and stop two of the NAET is this weekend, June 21 and 22, in Snowmass, CO.
Writing is something I have always been passionate about. I love sharing my stories, my thoughts, my advice, but mostly, I write to record memories and express myself. So here are a few of my fondest memories, best and worst moments, my most profound and boisterous thoughts, and riskiest advice. Enjoy!