While racing on the east coast, I was looking forward to this weekend. Before last years event I had never participated in an Enduro style event and I had some great success and couldn't wait to do it again. The weekend started off with a bang on Thursday in the Air DH where I took the top spot alongside teammate Jess who was right behind me in 2nd. I felt good as I was using this race as a warm up for the weekend, I was worried that I would still be fatigued from traveling and from the altitude, but I felt as fresh a daisy going into Friday.
The first race was chainless and very downhill oriented so I was extremely confident going into it especially since I smashed it last year. It was not going to be a repeat as I left too much on the course riding conservatively. I wanted to get off to a good start, but a few momentum killing mistakes and too much brakes left me playing catchup in 19th place after stage one.
The second stage was also very downhill oriented and once I put my chain back on I was determined to leave it all out on the track. I rode so much more aggressive and it paid off with a great 2nd place result. This moved me up from 19th place to 7th overall after the first day of racing.
Day two would be tough as the stages were getting longer with a lot more peddling. Stage three was an extremely fun track involving the air downhill course that I won on earlier in the week and finished on a freeride trail littered with jumps and drops. I once again put down a good run and was half a second off the top spot finishing 2nd again. This moved me up into 3rd place overall leading into stage four and the last of the mini stages.
Stage four had a good mixture of flow built into it but there wasn't anytime to relax. If I wasn't turning, I was churning and burning. There were two flat peddling sections including one that was named 300 yard walk, which was a road with a slight crown to crest over before bombing back down to the finish. This stage I gritted me teeth and put my head down for a well deserved 3rd place on the stage. This would move me into 2nd place overall going into the fifth and final stage.
The last stage would be a canon start, meaning that riders would start in the order of the overall and how many seconds behind each other they are. It was also going to be around a 25 minute race to the bottom with multiple climbs and slower trail conditions. The morning started with a 20 minute slog up the road from the top of the base lift, all racers had to get themselves to the top unassisted. This proved to be a nice little warm up to get the legs going before really putting them to the test. Going into the last stage I knew I had my work cut out for me in order to improve or to even stay in the top ten. I had done everything in my power to work out the fatigue 3 straight days of racing had put on my lower limbs and was going to leave it all out on the trail. Once the gun sounded I sprinted out of the gate with 3rd place behind me on my wheel. I rode hard for about 5 minutes but the momentum robbing roots and spongy conditions started to take their toll. I dropped back into 3rd place trying to pace the man in front of me but to my despair I had already hit my threshold and needed a recovery. Two more riders sprinted by me like I was standing still. In 5th place I tried desperately to find my rhythm again but it was too little too late. I had blown my legs and hit the wall and there were riders teaming up working together to get around me. My legs felt like cinder blocks as I made my way up the last climb in 8th which I would hold until a minute long road sprint towards the bottom. I gave it one final go but my 34 tooth combined with my lack of power output wasn't enough as I moved back into 10th place before the final plunge to the finish. Unlike the previous year, the last stage was extremely XC oriented suffer fest and did not bode well for me. I've been training and riding 3-5 minute World Cup downhills and I was not properly prepared to confidently ride to the best of my ability flat out for 25 minutes straight after multiple days of racing. I was still extremely pleased and proud to have put myself on the podium multiple times, scored a top 10 overall and in podium position amongst the whole North American Enduro contingency.
The 3rd stop on the 2012 Mountain States Cup came to my home valley to Snowmass Mountain. Since I can remember there has been a race every year at Snowmass dating back to 2004 when I started racing. I've been living in this valley on and off throughout the summers the past 5 years, but it would be the first time I slept in my own bed on a race weekend, which was awesome!
Snowmass is well known for their flat out fast downhill course, and this year it was no different. There has also been some recent trail development at Snowmass with the addition of a new A Line inspired jump trail that is a blast to ride. While at registration I was talked into racing the Super D race dubbed the Uber D, that went from the top of the mountain and would include the new trail called Valhalla. At 5.5 miles long, and close to 3,000 vertical drop you sure get your moneys worth. Before the start of the Uber D, some of the pro riders wanted to race chainless. We all took a vote, nobody voted against it, so we broke out the chain breaker and pocketed them. Momentum and exit speed would be my biggest concern as there are hundreds of turns on the track. It was a long run of pumping even the smallest bump in order to keep speed, but I must have done something right because after 17 minutes of riding as efficiently as possible I came away with a 42 second victory.
There was another Super D race the following morning that Pro rider Teddy Benge competed in. He avenged a tough Uber D run the day before, put his chain back on and pedaled his way onto the podium for a tough 3rd place podium finish.
The Downhill course had burned in throughout the weekend and was starting to get rough as moto bumps, ruts and giant bomb holes developed in many of the dry and dusty berm turns. The top of the track had been straightened out compared to recent years so speeds were high almost touching the 50mph mark. Seeding runs Sunday morning saw some guys go for it and blow up due to the rough track conditions. Teddy, Michael and I took it easy with Michael and Teddy slotting into mid pack and myself finishing 2nd while holding back a little and making sure I had my lines down.
The Juniors started out the day of racing by upping their game and riding hard for some impressive finishes. Tanner Spence battled through the pain of a swollen and bruised hand on his way to an 8th place finish. Younger brother Tyler had his best ride and result to date by finishing 4th, just two-seconds off of the podium. Roy Benge has been putting in the work, fresh off of racing at National Championships in North Carolina and the experience helped him finish on the podium for the 2nd straight race in 3rd less than a second from the top step.
Michael was the first to leave the start just ahead of Teddy, but just as he was getting up to speed his day ended quickly as his rear tire sustained an inch-long puncture, so he was forced to ease it down slowly to the finish. Teddy would improve upon his qualifying time and rode smoothly to an 18th place finish. I decided to gamble and run lower pressure in my tires so I could stick to the ground as much as possible on the high speed sections. This tactic paid off as I had a great top section and hit all my lines while navigating through the rough, rowdy and relentless course. Not even a mechanical near the finish could slow me down enough as I finished in 1st place 2 seconds up.
It was an incredibly enjoyable race weekend as the tracks were fun, the weather beautiful and being home for the first time in 2 months made for a very relaxed weekend. Thank you to all that made this weekend great. The team will once again prepare, pack and head 4 hours southwest to Telluride, Colorado for the last round of the Mountain States Cup and Colorado State Championships.
I packed up my bags, hitched the trailer up and got the wheels turning towards Telluride Mountain Resort for the 2012 Colorado State Championships. This small mountain town situated in the southwest corner of Colorado has played host to a World Cup and has been a mainstay on the Mountain States Cup circuit the past decade. The surrounding mountains tower above the historical mining town of Telluride, this place really is special and sometimes the views can even be distracting while trying to navigate down the course. The mountain has created a good system of trails in its developing bike park and the 2002 World Cup track still remains, but has seen quite a few facelifts throughout the years.
Two years have passed since I was last here and the track has since received some changes. The rocks in the landing of the road gap were to my delight removed and smooth rocks put in there place to provide an easy landing platform. Momentum Trail Concepts last year developed the bottom of the track with big berms, added track sections and time with steep chutes and tight turns. The weekend started out with some soaking rain that tacked up the riding surface creating hero dirt to end the day Friday. The rest of the weekend called for afternoon showers which could really shake things up if we were to race in the peanut butter.
There was once again a time trial Super D race that I chose to enter in for a bit of fun and practice towards the Big Mountain Enduro series later this year. There were a ton of dusty bermed turns and short sprints between to set the riders apart. It was a fun track to ride and I was excited to see if I could repeat my 1st place performance from last week. I had a great top section going and was riding well until I traversed across the open ski slope. I was looking ahead towards the entrance of the trees and then the off camber trail fell away beneath my wheels sending me sliding head first over the flesh searing rocks. After dusting myself off I hopped back on my bike with bars twisted 10 degrees to the left and rode hard the rest of the way to a 6th place finish only 4 seconds off the box and 10 from the win. As disappointing and painful as the race was I was stoked to see Teddy come across the line and finish 4th place overall less than a second off of 3rd.
Sunday morning rolled around and the aches from the previous evenings activities fallowed me up for my qualifying run. The rain had held off and the track was rough, fast and dry. I put together a clean qualifying run and ended up seeding in 2nd place .2 out of 1st. I knew I had to open it up throughout the turns and minimize mistakes for my final as I was tired from pedaling too hard out of every turn. Telluride local boy Jess rode very well in his first timed run since Angel Fire to seed 5th and Teddy who had been right on my tail seeded into 7th. With some good rides, we were looking at the possibility of 3 riders in the top 5, but first the Cat 1 15-18 junior riders were about to drop in. Both Roy and Tyler had crashed in their seeding runs and Roy was the first to cross the line and into the hot seat. He held the top position until Tyler crossed the line .05 ahead. Overall, Tyler would finish in 5th and Roy in 6th place. Congratulations to Roy who finished 2nd overall in the MSC Cat 1 15-18.
It was time to head back up the hill for my final run. In 2010 I had qualified 1st and was primed for a great finish and I ended up blowing my bead off the rim and awarded myself with an overnight stay in the Hospital. This thought had crossed my mind once or twice but I knew all I can do is ride and the rest will sort itself out. After congratulating the young junior rider who seeded 1st behind me, I set out of the gate far more focused and was riding exceptionally faster in the top section. I was riding loose, drifting past some of the spectators as I entered into the trees that took me down two years ago. I let out a little celebratory cheer as I smoothly rode past my old crash zone and blitzed into the rocks. I rode a slightly higher line than in practice and avoided many of the bigger rocks, but just as I thought I was in the clear, the all too familiar sound of the bead blowing off the tire rang true through the trees like a shotgun blast. At least this time I was still upright, body intact and ready to ride another day even though my day was done due to my rim losing the battle with a very sharp rock. Teddy had a safe run but left a little too much in the tank and finished 13th overall. Jess who had been gaining speed all weekend was looking for the podium but just fell short in 4th place overall, .8 off of the box.
It was another great weekend of riding and racing on some great tracks in arguably one of the most beautiful places in the country. There were some close calls and disappointment on my part with my DNF and fall in the Super D. The junior riders continued to impress and show their willingness to push themselves faster each weekend. Michael took this weekend off the rehab from a few bicycle get offs and to train for the upcoming Big Mountain Enduro Series races. Lear has been ripping it up in British Columbia, visiting Banshee headquarters and shredding hard in front of the camera. Thanks to all of our great sponsors for allowing us to perform at our highest potential and helping us reach our goals.