Finally, the first stop of the Big Mountain Enduro series has arrived. Its been a month since our last event and due to an injury that has plagued me for the last month I was unable to make my race start up in Oregon for the first round of the NAET National series. During the 6 hour drive from Carbondale to the small resort town of Angel Fire located 30 minutes outside of Taos, I had ice on my paw the whole ride in anticipation of a tough weekend ahead. A little rain greeted us as we rolled into camp late thursday evening which was a much welcomed due to insanely dry conditions. This event consists of 5 stage races, 1 backcountry stage Saturday and 4 bike park stages Sunday. Friday morning a group of us shuttled to the bottom of the South Boundary trail and decided to ride up to the start 6.5 miles straight up in order to get a better look at lines. From the top down the trail starts in a lush aspen grove meadow with a flat 5 minute sprint on a moderate grade. After 10 lung busting minutes the trail get loose with tight switchbacks and gnarly rock sections that are always on the hunt for a rear mech to munch on. As always line choice and holding speed out of the corners is key but in the long run how hard you can giver er up top and maintain all the way down is ultimately going to determine the fastest rider. Overall, we were looking at around 20 minutes from start to finish come race day. My hand managed to make it through the ride, but I gave it a rest the remainder of the day in anticipation of the long weekend of racing ahead.
Saturday Stage 1
Saturday came about with a 6am wake up call and a 7am shuttle load which meant proper preparation had to happen Friday evening and coffee had to be on the fire immediately after stepping out of our Kelty tents. Like a bunch of kids headed to summer camp, there was huge anticipation to board the shuttle and when the trailer pulled up there was a mad rush to get about 70 bikes on and riders into the buses. The trailer only made it a mile up the road to Garcia Park when a wood railing snapped in half sending Michael's Rune to the bottom of the pile. Slightly discouraged Michael and I decided to ride out the remanding 6 miles of road before the 4 mile transfer stage that starts at Garcia Park, and we were awarded with a great warmup and as we rounded the last bend before the start line expecting to be first off the line, but to my surprise about 30 riders utilized a shortcut they were asked to not use. This was a disappointment as I had to spend more than 30 minutes waiting for my start and by that point my legs had stiffened. The initial sprint was extremely tiring right out of the gate and it took me longer than expected to gain my 2nd wind, but once we hit the steeps I was letting it hang out, but after all of the technical sections of the track I could just about smell the finish when "the rock" punctured my tire sending me walking down and out on the day and in dead last after a very promising run. Michael had a very similar day and sustained a mechanical on his run and had to make a trail side adjustment all the while loosing valuable time in the process. He has reason to believe that the trailer incident had a little bit to do with it. Jess had a clean run and slotted into the top 20 aboard his Spitfire setting himself up for a good weekend. Heartbroken that a lot of effort was all for not I moved on and hit the trails of Angel Fire to learn stages 2-5 and getting a jump on the day ahead. Trying to navigate the tracks was a chore due to poor marking, and after 2 runs of absolutely the roughest terrain I've ever encountered on my Rune, my injured hand had enough and needed to call it a day. Jess and Michael would later tip me off about what to expect on race day, I wasn't too confident I would make it more than a run or two but would give it my all regardless while trying to salvage the weekend. Bike work and ice rounded out the evening as an enchanting sunset lit up the sky while we wound down before hitting the sack with anticipation of a BIG day ahead.
Sunday Stages 2-5
At least we were able to sleep in a bit before heading up to the lifts for a 10 O clock stage start. The BME crew had their hands full with a 1000 starts throughout the day and we as racers had over 30 minutes of racing on some of the roughest terrain on the planet ahead, so there was a lot of uncertainty in the air as both race promoters and racers all might have had their doubts while trying t foreshadow the days events. Michael and Jess both kept their runs consistent on stage 2, Jess did have a bobble on the bottom of the longest and arguably most physical stage of the day that cost him some time and stage ranking positions. I tried to assist my hand with some ace bandage, but after passing my 30 second man and setting a decent pace I was loosing strength. I went to adjust my hand on a road and a rock literally ripped the bike out of my weakened grasp sending me hurdling the bars and running it out on my feet but greatly disrupting my focus. I would fallow my 30 second man most of the rest of the way down and finish with a throbbing paw and confidence shaken. Time to regroup, rehydrate, ice and a little vitamin I before heading back out there for stage 3. Sans ace bandage my hand felt stronger without the slight constriction and I ended up running a clean yet conservative run which was good enough for a top 20 time and hope that I would actually be able to finish out the day. Michael and Jess again had clean runs on a track that wasn't as physical but was still very rough, tight and technical while ending on the bottom of the dual slalom. With minimal time to rest before stage 4 it was right back to the top as we looked forward to dropping straight onto the world cup downhill course. Higher speeds allowed us to skip over the rocks which smoothed things out a bit, but it was very tough to hold on over those big hits that are usually reserved for downhill bikes. Michael and Jess again would ride a good race as they kept it consistent during the day up to this point as other riders were dropping like fly's with mechanicals, flats and a few injuries. I was on a good run when trail tape had been broken sending me down the wrong run, I would later request a re-run due to the confusion and was granted but not thrilled as I was not really looking forward to riding that DH section again. I was sandwiched into the amateur starting list and was allotted a 2 minute gap and ended up having a great run even though I binned it within sight of the finish line, but it would still be good enough for a 9th place and only seconds off 5th. The 5th and final stage was held on a brand new flow trail and was extremely loose. I had yet to ride this track so I was extremely conservative and on the brakes a lot trying to minimize mistakes before connecting to a tight single track through the trees with some pitchy ups. The bottom was very physical and ended in tight fashion through the trees. I was extremely pleased to make it through the day and to have a clean run while Michael and Jess put down performances good enough for 25th and 20th overall out of 46 riders. I scored some valuable overall series points, but due to my flat on stage 1 I was well behind for the weekend in 45th.
We were stoked on the event and look forward to the second stop of the BME in Crested Butte next weekend, but in the meantime we will attend the first stop of the Trestle Mountain Bike DH Series this weekend. Thank you all so much to our awesome sponsors for your continued support of Team Geronimo, we look forward to a summer of racing and riding at some amazing locations throughout the Western United States.