So this year I have changed my focus a bit, from XC to enduro racing. With limited time to train for longer endurance events and stage races, enduro racing fit perfectly with my schedule. The transition hasn’t been a easy one however, I’ve had to work on my jumping skills and reading the trail at much higher speeds, but mainly I’ve had to work on my mental game the most. If you want to do well at an enduro race you have to be mostly mistake-free, but there is a fine line between going too easy and pushing too hard and crashing. This is a balance I’ve struggled to find until this past weekend in Brevard, North Carolina.
The Brevard Enduro put on by 3rd Coast Enduro Series was a race I was really looking forward to. I was familiar with the terrain, but due to the high amount of traffic the trails are getting these days, lines are constantly changing. I had pre-ridden the Thursday before and was feeling good about my riding and line choices. Pre-riding also gave me the chance to dial in my Kona Process 153 DL. Due to the rough tracks and high speeds I had to increase the air pressure in my fork and slow down the high speed rebound on my CaneCreek DoubleBarrel Air shock to control the high speed hits. I also switched out my tires to a Maxxis High Roller II with DH casing in the rear and a Minion DHF WT with DoubleDown casing in the front. I took no chances, as the tracks were 95% downhill and very rocky.
Stage 1 was Black Mtn Trail to the bottom of Avery Creek Trail. Everyone was thinking it was going to be a wild day as it had rained all night and things were a little greasy on the climb up. However to my surprise, once I started the stage the trail was in great shape! The tires were digging in great and really boosted my confidence. With the downhill casing tire on the rear I was able to forgo the traditional line that snaked through the rock gardens and was able to just point and shoot right on through. This made for some wild times, but I was able to hang on all the way to the bottom.
After a long transfer and a bit of hike-a-bike with some incredible views, I arrived at stage 2 known as “Upper Black”. This would be the shortest stage at just over four minutes, but was easily the hardest one. It starts off with some fun singletrack with high-speed corners, and then quickly gets you pointed down with some rough rock chutes. As you descend, you gain a lot of speed as you approach the most challenging part of the track. You enter a series of three to four foot drops with landings which can best be described as rocky ditches. Not much of a line as you send off the drops, I just held on and cashed in my luck that I had been accumulating all my life. After some pucker moments I was spit out to scan my chip and finish the stage.
After telling war stories and describing our near misses with the ground, we all made the short transfer to the third and final stage also known as Middle and Lower Black Mtn Trail. This would be the longest stage of the day at just over seven minutes. At the start everyone was still trying to recover from the arm pump of the previous stage. This would play a factor with my run, as I was barely able to hold the bar at some points. While the upper section was mainly blowout rocky trail as it is tight and steep, the bottom section was more groomed and had more pedal sections. The bottom section also had some smaller jumps that became much more difficult because at that point I was just a blown up blob on a bike trying to make it to the end. Barely able to hang on I had made it to the final scanner and rolled back to the start/finish area.
I had to leave for a collegiate race nearby before awards started and this meant I left before I knew how I had finished. I found out from a friend the next day that I had won the race overall! I was blown away and extremely stoked for my first ever enduro win. The tracks were some of the best all year and the talent ran deep in the pro field, so getting a win here was awesome and a big confidence booster! With two races left in the series, I’m sitting 3rd overall, so now with a win under my belt I will be looking to finish the year out strong!