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.
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!