Kona Supergrass Racer Ryan Gardner Races the Crested Butte Ultra Enduro.

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Photo by Jeremiah Newman

This past weekend saw American Enduro Racing take a huge leap forward in catching up to our European counterparts. The Crested Butte Ultra Enduro was the first five day enduro on American soil and what a race it was! Five days of predominantly backcountry riding covered nearly 100 miles of pristine Colorado trail while climbing and often times pushing up over 6,000 ft of climbing per day. Mind you this was no sea-level 5000 ft, most days started at around 8,000 ft and topped out at a lung busting 12,400 ft! For us sea-level dwellers, 12,400 feels like you’re breathing through a straw! The views, however, more than made up for any dizziness.

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Photo by Jeremiah Newman

One of the coolest aspects of the Ultra Enduro was the sheer scale of the race. Sure, other North American Enduros have come close to the Ultra in total race time, but no race has come close to matching the grandiose scale that the Ultra provided. Transfer stages were epics on their own, some maxing out at 17 miles between stages! With stats like these each racers routine quickly became ride, eat, sleep, repeat. Even the zoo that was “Whatever USA” was not enough to coax many racers away from their beds for long.

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The incredible diversity of terrain found in Crested Butte was a marvel in itself. Stages that started in alpine meadows could quickly descended into sinuous fresh cut weaving through green and gold aspens before dropping you out into rocky chunder before the finish. Throw in riding each trail blind at race pace and you can imagine the number of surprises each run provided. There were not many racers who crossed the finish line who weren’t beaming ear to ear from a mixture of incredible trails, incredible views, and oxygen deprivation.

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Photo by Jeremiah Newman

Coming in to the Ultra I was a little worried about how I would cope with the physical nature or the race and the incredibly stacked Pro field which saw some of the best Enduro racers in the world. However, after the first two days I was sitting 11th with no practice. My Process 111 keeps proving just how much you can do with just a few inches of travel! On day three the rains rolled in overnight and resulted in the cancellation of one out of three stages, and very slick aspen roots in the stages that remained. With a top ten on my mind I entered a wooded section of trail at a pace that in retrospect may have been a bit excessive for a trail I had never seen. After a few near misses I smashed a rock and flatted my rear tire forcing me to ride the rim for a few miles and costing me a devastating amount of time. With five days of racing, consistency was key, I was 12th place overall nearly every day, but one mistake dropped me to 19th overall. I managed to make up a few seconds on day four, climbing back to 17th but the bike park stages on day 5 proved to be too short for me to gain any significant time and my overall remained unchanged. It’s always a bummer to drop so much time due to a mechanical, but I cannot be happier to see improvement in both my fitness and riding after my early season injuries.

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Photo by Jeremiah Newman

Results aside, this race felt more like a radical group ride from day one. The camaraderie that grew between even the most competitive racers highlights the thing I love most about the whole enduro format. You just can’t help but have a great time! After five days of racing with an amazing crew of talented riders, coming back to great food and beer, and taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, it’s tough getting back to the office for the more standard 5 day event. Luckily there are a few races left before the time changes!