Colorado Freeride Festival
Some people claimed the demise of cross country racing happened because of the dilution of the sport. Instead of one choice of a 2 hour xc race , now you had 24 hour racing, marathons, 100 milers, short tracks, olympics, eliminators, downhill, super D, stage races, four cross and now Enduros. I think it has only made our sport more diverse because it appeals to more people and there are options. We are Americans and we like choices! It has made the industry stronger because there are so many different kinds of bikes to buy and events to do. And most importantly, it has made mountain bike racing more fun and that is what its all about. So, having never done an enduro, it was my turn to try!
What is an Enduro?
The broad definition of an enduro is timing the racers on the mostly downhill or freeride segments of the course. Often times the race will have liason or untimed uphill sections to get to the top of the downhills. There are often multiple stages, sometimes over many days with different features, technical sections and varying lengths. The person with the lowest accumulated time wins. There are enduros all over the world now and chances are, there is one right in your backyard. I encourage you to try one, because they are so fun and will help you learn some skills that xc racing doesn’t usually require.
Winter Park’s Format
The Winter Park Enduro consisted of 5 stages, all with lift access. The first stage was a chainless downhill on their downhill race course. Stage two was another shorter, technical downhill. Stage three had about 50 tabletop jumps and a bit of flat pedaling. Stage four had lots more pedaling and some bigger man made features. Stage five was a super D that lasted about 30 minutes. One really cool aspect of the format was on the last day it was a pursuit. You started out in your finishing order from the previous days. So , the leader would go and then the next person would go however many seconds they were behind. For the men, it was insanity because they were all so close together. It was less of a time trial and more of a head to head. Whoever finished first would be the winner!
I really liked being able to hang out with the other racers and chat. This is one aspect that xc racers might have to get used to: Downtime . But it is a very relaxed atmosphere when you are not hurling yourself down the mountain. People were friendly and genuine. It was a bit more of a fashion show than I was expecting, but I might of been a little self conscious in my lycra. We should get a baggy pink outfit for next year! Winter Park did a great job with the race in general, but it could of been better marked and been marked more definitively before the race. There was great prize money as well.
There were about a dozen girls and I ended up mid pack in sixth place. My 2nd best stage was stage 3 with all the tabletops. I’m not a great jumper, but was realizing how slow my runs were because I was breaking so much before the jumps and scrubbing all my speed. Plus, I wasn’t comfortable in the air. My friend, Heather, gave me some great advice,” go at the jumps with confident speed, and drop your heels” This worked great for me because I was either too far back in the air, or two far forward and by concentrating on dropping my heels it made my hips fall into the spot they should be in the air. My best stage was the Super D. I ended up second for the day and only 10 seconds off the podium.
There was definitely a learning curve with this type of racing. The girls who finished in front of me were either world class downhillers or extremely fit enduro specialists. Things like memorizing your lines, braking less, sprinting whenever you can and basically being aggressive to always maximize time were key. The XC mentality of recovering on the downhills and playing conservative are worthless. Jumping is required, but there were go arounds or you could roll stuff, it was just slow! And you need to be fit and strong. Even though you are riding the lift up at this one, between the practice runs and the multiple stages, it can really tire you out. But in the end over 5 days, we raced for only about an hour.
I rode the Cannondale Jekyll II. It has two travel modes 4 inch(Elevate) or 6 inch(Flow) due to the adaptable FOX DYAD shock. The fork is FOX Talus that adjusts from 120mm to 150mm. It has SRAM X9, Crank Brothers Kronolog seatpost and mallet pedals. It has Stan’s ZTR Arch Ex mounted up with Kenda Nevegal Tires. It has a Fizik pink and white Alliante saddle and of course, a Titanium King Cage. I wore a Lazer full face Helmet and Kali kneepads. My Jekyll weighed 28 lbs, was super capable and a blast to ride.
I plan on doing one more enduro this year, The Michaux Madcap Enduro in Pennsylvania. Hopefully, I can get a pre ride in, but if not at least I’ll know to pedal like hell!