It was the middle of April at 7:55pm and I was preparing myself to pull the trigger on the most anticipated event of the year, I was one of the lucky 150 competitors that made the cut as the event sold out in less than 10 minutes. I knew this event was going to be something big as the race was still more than 4 months away! The reasoning for this anticipation is due to the classic venue and the trail system that the race course will be on. “The Whole Enchilada” is a combination of trails that start in the high alpine of the La Sal Mountain range and descend over 20 miles and 6,000 feet to the finish line near the bottom of the Porcupine Rim. Many will argue that this ride is one of the best EPIC rides in the country and the trails are all classic rides in the area making this event one for the ages.
The Whole Enchilada...So Good - Brian Buell
After a pleasant 4 hour drive from El Jebel to Moab, Utah I was quickly whisked away by The Whole Enchilada Shuttle Company up Geyser Pass Road to the drop off at the base of the Burro pass climb. This 1,000 foot climb up the pass is short and sweet and elevates you to 11,300 feet before dropping in to a true high alpine downhill with extremely steep switchbacks and when wet like it was on this day, there are many tricky diagonal roots that are just waiting to trip you up. The descent mellows out and fallows a creek all the way down to the first climb through the brilliant gold and orange colors of the aspens just above Warner Lake. A sustained climb through some of the most picturesque and pristine aspen groves and valleys brings you too the start of Hazard County where the trail continues to climb until it levels out overlooking Castle Valley and Porcupine Rim. Many claim Hazard to be the highlight of the ride as it descends and flows through blue groove berms in an open scrub brush valley. Finally its time to rest, if you call flying down a portion of the well known Kokopelli double track trail at speeds hovering around 40mph scanning your peripheral for potential rogue cattle providing as extra trail features. The climate transforms multiple times en route to the desert and the start of Upper Porcupine Rim. The trail is full of short punchy sections and overlooks the valley below as it wanders through the technical mess of slick rock slabs, sand and juniper trees. Once past the Porcupine trail overlook the last leg is a brutal onslaught of high speed double track 90 degree rock slabs and short, technical sandy climbs. By this point the bike usually feels like a bag of bolts and hands about to fall off, luckily the finish line is right around the corner at the beginning of the Porcupine single track.
After eating a whole fish and lubing the chain I hit the hay Saturday evening with a 5:30am wake up call the fallowing morning. Every shuttle vehicle in Moab lined up and as soon as everyone’s bike was loaded it was up, up and away. The Harvest moon shone brightly as we ascended up the pass and towards the starting line. A quick pit stop later I was on the starting line for an 8am start. There was the 1,000 foot neutral climb to the top of Burro where the timed race started and many had different strategies on how they were approaching this climb. I decided to be as energy efficient as possible, so I allowed everyone to contend with each other to the top as I sat back, took in the morning light upon the glowing aspens and took it one pedal stroke at a time. Once I reached the top I clipped in and timed it so I didn’t have to wait in line to start, 30 seconds later I was descending through the shadows of Burro down, and within 5 minutes the race had taken its toll on multiple races as I cruised passed the riders scrambling to put their rides back together again. I had a good clean ride down and once I reached the first climb I had made up my mind to take it easy as it was very early in the race. My race strategy was to break the course up into 1000 mini sections and to take it one step at a time. The thought of racing this course was extremely daunting and without breaking it up and keeping my mind off the end result, I’m not sure I would have made it! Throughout the race my stoke meter would spike as I would pass another competitor and in technical sections the diehard spectators would amp you up with words and signs of encouragement. The race ultimately flew by and I had a smile upon my face the whole entire time, I really didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I had zero issues, unlike the dozen or so that I passed, tools laying about on the ground and sour faces Once I reached the finish line I was ready to go back up and do it all over again.
I might have given up a little bit of time by high fiving fellow competitors and hamming it up for the camera lens, but this is what this whole weekend was about, having fun with fellow friends and riding competitors in one of the most well known riding areas in the country. This Big Mountain Enduro Series has been extremely successful and the Enduro racing format is gaining big time popularity all over the mountain bike world. I’m extremely excited to dive head first into this world of Enduro racing and cannot wait for all of next years events. These events provide you so much bang for your buck and at the end of the weekend and the satisfaction of just finishing and not the result is what is going to keep bringing me back. What a fantastic way to wrap up the 2012 season, with a 13th place to my name and a clean bill of health, I look forward to the winter months as I will be traveling down to New Zealand at the beginning of January for 2 months to ride in preparation for 2013.