Everything I’d heard about Tahoe riding was dust, rocks, and more dust. The high-altitude trails are buried in snow all winter and then emerge into moondust throughout the summer. We flew from Bellingham a few days before training started to acclimate and familiarize ourselves with the terrain.
I went out for an evening ride with some friends who are local, and quickly realized how difficult it is to climb and ride at altitude. Any hard effort had my heart rate spiking and legs burning. The trails we descended had some technical rock rolls and gardens, some loose dust, and some high-speed sections with jumps. I felt a bit out of my element, but was also excited to learn and ride new terrain.
I rode these trails a few more times throughout the week until we finally got to ride the Northstar resort trails for practice. The resort trails were also full of technical rock sections, loose dusty corners, and terrain that was very foreign to me. During practice, I stopped more times than I ever have in a race to reride sections of trail and pick lines. Line choice was important for this race to stay smooth through all the rock sections.
Day one included two stages; River Styx and Karpiel. Stage one on River Styx was flat and rocky at the top and then dropped into steep rutted sections filled with dust. It had one steep technical rock roll that had racers trying different lines and then finished out on a flat but high-speed trail. I was super nervous starting this stage and rode pretty stiff at the top which resulted in a small tumble that lost me some time. Once I loosened up my riding, I rode a lot better. You have to ride pretty loose here and let the bike move to be successful in the tractionless dust.
Stage two on Karpiel had a ton of dusty berms and then ended in a big rock garden at the bottom. I struggled on the berm section to find speed, feeling uncomfortable in the loose corners.
Day Two included the remaining four stages. Stage 3 was the Queen stage and was a long pull from the top (past the chairlift) down to the bottom of the resort. It started with a fast road bomb to a steep dusty chute and then flow trail most of the way down. I felt fatigued from the altitude, and noticed more arm pump than usual. It was also hard to put power on the pedals.
Stage 4 was my favorite. It started with a super steep & loose rocky chute, then opened into a high-speed jump section with gaps. It followed a road down at mach 10 and then (literally) shot you back up onto a trail that quickly got steep again. It was then dusty & loose mayhem until the end. I had my best result on this stage with a 6th place.
Stage 5 was short but gnarly with several challenging rock sections and a massive rock garden at the end with huge boulders.
The last stage on Boondocks was less gnarly, but a fun technical trail with some loose berms and jumps back to the finish.
I was happy to ride pretty clean despite feeling foreign on this terrain and to have my best result on the gnarliest stage. I feel like I gained a lot of valuable experience in this race and came away with new skills in riding dust and rocks. I also had a blast hanging with the Kona team, and getting to ride with them all week.
Overall I’m happy with how my EWS experience has been this year, and I’m stoked to keep the momentum going. A bit last minute, but I’ll be at the final round in Finale Ligure, Italy, so stay tuned for a bit more racing this season!
Thanks to everyone for your support, the mtb community is something special.
(Photos: Sven Martin @SvenMartinPhoto)