One day, four stages, 30+ miles, and 7500ft of climbing. Interested? I was not excited about the climbing, but after a practice lap on each stage, I was super amped on the racing. Raw and natural summed up every stage; just like the home trails in Flagstaff, and after a spring of XC racing I thought I might have the fitness to pull me through. Game on!
I imagined the massive amount of climbing over such a short distance would have scared off a lot of competition but there turned out to be a stacked field in every class. To my dismay, a few hot shots fresh off the Enduro World Series in Ireland showed up leaving me with lower expectations for a top ten finish. But that would not keep me from trying my hardest.
The first two stages of the race were the biggest; six and a half miles and 2600ft up for 15 minutes of descending. Loose chundery scree fields, tight switchbacks, punchy climbs, blazing fast straights, moto ruts, massive rock slabs, long pedaly flats; nothing you’ll find in a bike park. After the first of these stages I felt like I had done a thousand squats, three hundred push-ups, and had a grenade thrown down my throat. And then I did it all over again.
Climbing to the top was a challenge in pacing, eating, and drinking. I had a 30 tooth chainring for the climb that I would change out for a 34 tooth ring for the descents. Bars, gels, doughnuts, peanut butter packets, bananas, and chews kept me fueled for the six hours it took to complete the first two stages. Hanging out with all the rad mountain bike shredders kept the stoke alive.
Stages three and four were quite different than the first two; much shorter, chunkier, and technical. Line choice would play a much bigger role in these. Calm and composed, I laid down a near perfect run on stage three minus a foot blowing out of a pedal through a rock garden. Nearly perfect for having already climbed 6200ft and sprinted for almost 30 min, that is.
Three down and one to go; the day was getting short and the light was getting low. Pedal to the last summit, wait for my start, and send it. This was the last chance to make up time or put time in on competitors. At that point I had no clue where I sat in the standings so in my mind there was nothing to gain or lose. “Ride it like you did in practice but sprint as a hard as you can on the flats” went through my head as the timer said go. It was smooth and clean but it didn’t feel fast. Typical.
Ten hours after first putting foot to pedal I made my way back to expo area and turned in my timing chip. The print out said I was currently in third place but there were still more timing chips to be turned in. More timing chips that could hold faster times than mine. I hung around and checked the updated results periodically. Every time I was amazed to see I was still in third. Finally all chips were accounted for and my position still hadn’t changed. I couldn’t believe it, I had the third fastest time of all three hundred riders that started that morning!
It is amazing what you can do when you stay positive and give your all!