Specialized Enduro Recap

 I raced the Specialized/EWS Enduro race in Winter Park this past weekend. I felt 7 weeks off between rounds 3 and 4 of the Big Mountain Enduro series was too much and I was lucky enough to procure a spot in this race. Gotta keep the razor's edge honed. As this was to be the only US round of the Enduro World Series, it also meant the best enduro riders on the planet would be showing up to race. And they are insanely fast. Wow.

This race was to consist of 5 stages over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Weekend highlights include:
  • Getting caught in a massive hail/rain storm during Thursday practice

  • Finding out I left my rain jacket in the car during said storm
  • Becoming mildly hypothermic complete with blue lips, uncontrollable shivering, and maybe a bit of looniness
  • Having my encounter with "the rotor rock" in practice and not in the race
  • Chocolate coconut water
  • Passing the #1 enduro racer in the world, Jerome Clementz, on the climb to stage 3/4. He was smiling and chatting. I was sweating.

  • Wet weather redemption

  • It was a pretty dang good time, too.

Stages 1 and 2 were on Friday and proved to be the most difficult of the weekend for me. After a hard crash in practice and struggling to find my rhythm on the bike, I wasn't in the best of places mentally going into the day's stages.

5ft drop out of the gate to start the day
Stage 1 had us on the downhill race track. Rough way to start the morning and it had me wishing for another cup of coffee or a jolt of lightning. Things were actually going okay until I caught my 30sec rider in the steepest and roughest part of the course, lost the race line, and went over the bars. It may not have been too bad except for the fact that I couldn't get back on the bike due to the nature of the section so I had to run down 20 yards of track to get back on. In the mean time, the other rider had continued on. What happened next you ask? I caught him. Again. In the second most technical and steep section of the course. And crashed. Again. By this time, my friend,  who is my biggest competitor and 30sec guy, came blowing on through in route to the stage win. Nothing left to do other than ride down and minimize time loss, successfully passing my 30sec and 1min riders for 14th.

Stage 2 was far less technical and much more about the pedals. Unfortunately, I just didn't have the legs that day. I still managed to finish the stage inside the top 10 and was 11th overall, but my goal of making the podium had slipped away.

Day 2 would be stages 3 and 4. Three would be the most physically and mechanically taxing of the weekend. Starting at 11,200ft is tough regardless of the terrain. Add in a couple miles of fairly flat twisting singletrack with enough roots and rocks to prevent carrying much momentum and you've got a great way to totally gas racers before dropping them down the most technically demanding terrain of the weekend.

Stage 3 also had a surprise for knackered racers. The "rotor rock" as it became known, was a rock within the nastiest rock garden that was a perfect height and shape to eat disc brake rotors. It wouldn't cause a crash, but it would bend the rotor beyond the point of repair, simultaneously causing massive amounts of brake drag and totally disabling the rear brake. I was lucky enough to hit the rock in practice and get one of the last replacement rotors in town. By the end of race day over 50 riders had destroyed rotors or broken wheels, including some of the biggest names out there. Thanks to some conservative riding in my race run, I finished 4th and avoided rotor rock.

Stage 4 was the shortest stage of the weekend and was by far the most bike parky. With almost no rocks in sight, berms on every turn, large jumps and drops, it would be a good time. The video posted is from this stage. Feeling good and having fun, I managed to finish 3rd in the stage and had moved up to 7th overall. Now just one more to go.

The morning of stage five looked like this

It would slightly clear for the pros to make their race runs, but the fog and rain began 5mins before I was to go off for the final stage of the weekend. At the top, I was having memories of the last race I'd done in the cold rain. During downhill nationals in 1999 at Mt. Snow, VT I spent the day on a backboard and getting head CTs after a crash in the wet knocked me out. This morning was rather similar in appearance, except I was looking forwards to riding and sliding. And slide I did. On my ass for about 10ft. Oh well. I still moved up a spot in the overall, finishing 6th for the weekend. Knowing I could have been well within the top 3 without the passing related crashes on stage 1 was a bit frustrating, but that's racing for you. Fuel for the fire


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