Friday, August 16, 2013

Bottom's Up, Durango

With vacation coming to an end and Big Mountain Enduro #4 coming up in a few weeks, it's time to get back to our mountain bike programing. 

Just a little preview of what's to come
It is safe to say that Durango, CO is one of the more well-known towns in mountain bike lore. Durango is home to lots of big pro names of the past and present, killer trails in town and the surrounding high peaks, more breweries than you could stumble to in a night, and now Big Mountain Enduro #4.

With the race course for day #1 being known and rumors running rampant of day #2's fun, preparing for the race was the focus of this recent trip. My friend and pro rider/racer, Eric, was able to take a couple days away from his work and family responsibilities to join in the fun.

A small business owner's work is never done

Normally, the race stages are not published until a very short time before the event. This, in theory, limits practice time, levels the playing field for out of towners, and makes the race a bit more challenging. Durango is a little more unique because day #1's course is the same as last year, featuring a 20+ mile backcountry ride. Day #2 is all conjecture at this point, but there is pretty strong thought as to at least part of the course. Despite the unknowns of day #2, we thought a preview trip would be worth while.

TRIP DAY #1

Due to a late start from Grand Junction and a shuttle to Kennebec Pass not available, we decided to check out what is believed to be part of the course for day #2. After lunch in the trailhead parking lot, we grabbed the helmet cams and began our ride/hike up to the top. While there are easier ways to access the top of the course, walking up it gives you more time to pick lines and see the terrain. What we found was slightly shocking. This trail is tough! And that's coming from two guys accustomed to techy, rocky riding.

It's a grunt up the trail and a grunt down the trail. No question it'll challenge racers fitness, technical abilities, and equipment in a big way. Bring your elbow pads!

View from the top?
Following the big push up comes the fun part. DOWN. But not before Eric fixes his tire that blew off the rim, spraying Stan's sealant every where while we were getting our helmets on…

For once, I'm not the one with a flat!
I won't lie, I took great joy in this. Why you say? I have a long history with flats and am constantly getting ridiculed for this affliction.

Less than 10 minutes down the trail and guess who DOESN'T have a flat again. Guess who does

For the record, 29er tubes work fine in a 26er
Having a preview lap done and filmed and no more tubes we decided to take a shorter lap on a recently opened "progressive" trail in the area. Thinking it'd be fun to ride fast with a purpose and test ourselves against the highly competitive cycling population of Durango, on went Strava. (Yes we use it. No we don't cut corners or run people down or risk trail access.) Two short segments later and here's what we got



Really didn't expect that! Having brighter spirits and hungry stomachs, we set off to satisfy Eric's burrito craving.

Highly recommended!!

 DAY #2


Normally people use a shuttle van to access the ride from Kennebec Pass. After I was unable to get in contact with the shuttle company, we figured we couldn't give up and would just ride up it. Doing the entire thing as a loop isn't too uncommon for the locals, who we've since learned ride forest service roads to the top. Riding up the actual single track is a little less common. Doing it on long-travel trail bikes with single rings is probably more rare. Training right?

Looking fresh at the start
Slightly apprehensive, we loaded our packs with all the necessary gear (including a tube each) and a firm plan to pace ourselves and eat every 30 minutes, we set off. The climb up really isn't too bad. Thanks to our pacing and feeding plan, we were able to ride 90% of the trail.

I couldn't ride this part. For the record, 27.5 tubes will work in a 29er.
The other 10%
Though the climb up wasn't as bad as expected, it was quite nice to reach the top.

The end is near
The finish! or just half way
Spirit of Enduro
The view
A little snack, helmet cams mounted, one ripping descent, one almost morale breaking climb, one more ripping descent, no flats, huge smiles, and great euphoria later we were back to the day's start.

Final stats 
This trip and ride provided both Eric and I with a huge learning experience and confidence boost. We felt tired at the end for sure, but even the last few miles we could lay down the pedal power and felt strong. Everything came together for a great time.

I've long read blogs and articles about outdoor athletes with twinges of jealously and awe of how they can do big things day in and day out. I've wondered how to get there. I want to be like that. How can I do that? With these last few months of racing, I've slowly been learning what it takes. Time, hard work, lots of pain, mental focus and drive. Desire to be there, truly believing you can be there. Support of those around you. Using your head.

I want more

Where the trail ends

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