All Photos: Sven Martin
Becky Gardner and Scott Countryman gathered with the top enduro athletes in the world at the World Enduro Series, Aspen recently. Racing enduro takes skill and strength but racing an EWS is a whole different animal. Racing the best in the world takes a lot of training both physically and mentally. With over 100 pro men and 40 pro women, a rider needs to work hard to get a top spot. Here is a perspective of racing from both the men’s and women’s field.
I can not remember the last time I was as scared on my bike as I was at the Aspen Snowmass EWS. I don’t get scared or intimidated by steep, rough, or technical trails but the sheer speed a rider is capable of achieving on the tracks that we raced turned what would normally be a blue trail into a high adrenaline test of balls, for lack of a better term. Average speed for all six stages was 20.6 mph over nearly 50 minutes of racing which racked up over 15,000 ft of descending! Don’t forget this all took place over 8000 ft elevation. Can you feel the burn yet?
The race hosted some of the best trails I’ll race all year. Aspen and Snowmass really welcome the event and allowed new trails to be built just for the weekend of racing. By the end of the four days of riding and racing, the new tracks had developed serious ruts and bomb holes. In the end, riders were tested on nearly every aspect of racing; steeps, high speeds, switchbacks, berms, off-cambers, jumps, single track, double track, fresh loose dirt, blue groove, sprinting, flowing, etc. I was hoping for dry and blown out conditions but a rainstorm the night before the first race day, unfortunately, left us with serious hero dirt and a few wet roots. Oh well!
I’ve never had a huge desire to compete in the Enduro World Series. Don’t get me wrong, it is something I will take advantage of if the opportunity arises but I feel I have more to gain racing national events. After racing the Aspen Snowmass EWS this past weekend, that all changed. I’m not sure if it was just a matter of time or if the surroundings of incredible riders flipped a switch in my brain but I suddenly saw that there is potential for me at this level. I can see the path to being competitive at the world level, have changed course, and am starting down that road. Can’t wait to start training for next year!
This was my second year racing the Aspen EWS. Last year went…. not quite to planned with a lot of crashes and mistakes by the end of the race. However, last year’s race was a turning point for me. After switching from DH to enduro, and only racing a few enduro’s previously before the EWS I knew I had to start training differently if I wanted to compete at this level of racing. So I switched up my training and worked on my endurance all year. This included long training rides in the high country, more races, and hitting the gym all winter.
Going into this years EWS I felt ready, and it really showed. I felt good in practice and was excited to see the courses had been ridden in more since the previous year. They also added a new stage 5 that was steep, rocky, and loose. This course I knew would be my favorite coming from an East Coast riding background. Both practice days were sunny and dry, until the night before racing commenced, it started dumping rain! As racers awoke and chaos started to set in about what tires everyone was running I couldn’t help but crack a big smile. I simply love riding in the rain and wet conditions. Although the rain did stop before racing we all knew to expect some slippery courses. Excited to get the day started we headed to stage one where we discovered some prime riding conditions. The rain made these dry courses exceptional all day. After three clean runs, I was sitting mid pack and ready to kick up the pace for our last day of racing.
Sunday brought the sunshine and the trail’s carried over moisture from the following day. The days’ courses involved one super pedal course and two downhill style courses. I knew if I pedaled hard and used my DH skills I could take make up some time. I ended the day with another three smooth and clean runs and found myself sitting in 21st just a few seconds outside the top 20. I was stoked to have felt strong all weekend with clean runs after last years sub-par performance. Aspen left me eager to push my riding even harder and keep racing strong.