Thursday, July 11, 2013

Big Mountain Enduro #3 - Team Geronimo Kicking Butt in Keystone

Big Mountain Enduro #3 - Keystone
Brian letting it roll down a step chute on stage 5.  Photo: Eddie Clark//eddieclarkmedia.com
This past weekends 3rd stop of the Big Mountain Enduro at Keystone Resort was also the 2nd round of the NAET(North American Enduro Tour) and with it came a riders list full of heavy hitters from all over North America, and some International riders as well. Instead of arriving early, I utilized my 4th of July holiday to tie up some loose ends before loading up Thursday afternoon and hitting the road. Keystone is a bit of a local mountain for me and I've had some of my best race results to date on the rough and ragged bike park. After speaking with some riders whom pre-rode on Thursday, I was happy with my decision to sit the day out as other riders were beat and bikes already broken. Instead I spent the afternoon prepping for a very long weekend and enjoyed some amazing fireworks over Lake Dillon. 
Keystone is fast, plaid speed fast.  Photo: Holly Turner//http://hollyturne6.wix.com/hmtfoto#!portfolio/c1han
Training Day
The anticipation to get on the hill was almost too much as I was bouncing off the walls like a little kid in anticipation for this long weekend of racing, and unnaturally I was ready and on the lift at 10 on the dot. Like Crested Butte the week before, Keystone wold feature 6 stages and 1 on the mountain transfer stage. That's where the similarities end as Keystone is a whole different beast in comparison to CB in that the bike park for one boasts a thousand more vert and is considerably rougher. We set out doing all of the runs in race order and it took most the day to fully complete all stages. It was going to be very tough to remember all of the courses to a T, but past experience has taught me to take extra mental notes at all intersections as its nearly impossible to deceiver signs while riding at 100%. Speaking of riding at 100%, that is what you have to do in order to be competitive at these events, the level of riding is insanely high due to the grand diversity of the overall competition. Even though the lifts were open until 7, I called it quits early, dropped my bike off to my boy in Blue, Tyler West at Shimano for some pampering and hit up the 6pm riders meeting. The BME race promoters have done an exceptional job learning on the fly and had a giant task ahead of them this weekend and they enlisted all riders to help keep it fair and to ride the trail. Team Geronimo is committed to keeping to the trail, never negating a turn and has the best interest of continuing this awesome format while keeping the National Forest Service happy as these events are all permitted. With the bikes dialed in, it was time to grub out and find my Kelty tent for the night as an early morning and an intense day of racing was on deck.  
Team Mechanic John Hartmann dialing in Michael's ride. Photo: Holly Turner//http://hollyturne6.wix.com/hmtfoto#!portfolio/c1han
Stage 1 - Girl Scout
While I was dreaming of enduro glory the skies opened up and left the mountain soaking wet. A 9am start didn't leave much time for the tracks to dry and as I hit the first turn of Girl Scout I nearly lost it but regained control and carried on. This slick top layer didn't do much for my confidence as I navigated the wide open peddle driven top part of the track cautiously. Once I hit Eye Of The Tiger I finally found a rhythm, but the damage had been done up top and I lost a lot of time thinking about the moisture laden trail and had to put in a large effort to retain a 10th place on the stage. It was the longest stage of the weekend at 14 plus minutes long and proved to be very physical as it combined all types of terrain for one fun top to bottom run. Jess rode looking for a solid start to the weekend and finished in 23rd. Michael navigated through some traffic and managed an impressive top 20 slotting into 18th. With stage 1 in the books, we were all looking forward to stage 2 as it should highlight our DH background.
Brian eyeing the finish line on Stage 1. Photo: John Hartmann//Hartworks

Stage 1 Results: 
Stage 2 - Cowboy Up
I've been racing out of this start house since 2004 and the first section of this stage Cowboy Up is classic Keystone with its tight bermed turns through the forest and then it opens up to a mean rock garden in the middle of the ski run. I've always navigated this section with ease and during practice blitzed it without issues so when it came time to race I was fired up to give it another go. I felt great through the tree's leading into the rocks, I got a little too excited to put on a show for the photogs and spectators jumping into the rocks and as I exited I heard the noise no racer ever wants to, hisssssssss. I quickly jumped off as my wheel sealed with single digit PSI, put a CO2 to it, but it did not hold and I was forced into taking tools and tubes out just to get down the hill. Weekend overall hopes smashed, not pleased with myself, I tried to keep up a positive attitude and focused on individual stage finishes instead. This stage utilized some of the fastest portions of trail down Loggers Way and was also super technical with some tight squeezes in Punk Rocks. Overall the stage was 11 plus minutes and one of the gnarliest courses out there. Michael slipped back in a tightly contested field finishing 23rd and Jess opened it back up utilizing his DH ninja skills for a solid 17th. 
Jess getting gnarly in the Cowboy Up rockgarden. Photo: Daniel Dunn//danieldunnphoto.com
Stage 2 Results: http://www.bigmountainenduro.com/assets/files/BME_KeystoneResults_Stage2.pdf

Stage 3 - Mosquito Coast 

By this time in the day the temps had risen and the tracks were well beyond dry again, which I think we all enjoy growing up racing in these conditions. I was fuming still after stage 2 and finally saw my time from stage 1 and wasn't that impressed, so I was out for a result on stage 3. After collecting myself and getting nourished I was back atop the start of Milky Way near the end of the pack. I honestly do not mind starting near the rear as the vibe is generally very laid back, and once out on the trail I start hunting for my 30 second man. As soon as I see dust still sitting in the air or a jersey in the distance I find an 11th gear and go. I passed 2 riders on my way to a 5th place and was pleased with my effort after crossing the finish line. This stage was in some ways similar to stage 1 as it was very physical, it spent more time on the open ski slopes with too many traverses to count, but it was a blast to ride as it ended with the infamous tight and twisty Wild Thing section. Jess was feeling the last too stages and was slightly on the other side of the bubble of riders but still cracked the top 30 in 28th. Michael put in another strong top 20 effort and rode hard for another 18th place spot, making two on the day. It was a tough day, enduro racing is full of ups and downs, a bit of a mental roller coaster. I wanted to carry a strong end of the day into Sunday in hopes that I could capitalize on my momentum as I was learning to loosen up and let go. 
Michael navigating some of the loose keystone dirt. Photo: N Ontiveros//bigmountainenduro.com
Stage 3 Results: http://www.bigmountainenduro.com/assets/files/BME_KeystoneResults_Stage3.pdf

Day 1 Video Recap: http://vimeo.com/69819021
Stage 4 - Paid-In-Full
I utilized the extra hour of practice time Sunday to get a warm up run in on Stage 5, its a full on DH affair and a better way to wake up than coffee(I know some will differ, but Cafe does not do it for me it turns out). Back up to the top and again slotted in towards the back of the pack I found myself behind Oregon ripper Matt Slaven. The track utilized the same top section of Cowboy Up and to prevent future mishaps like I had the previous day I put some big Maxxis 3C DH casing tires on and gave it another go. I didn't feel as on fire as the previous day, but I managed to make it through unscathed and carried on to some of the fastest sections of the mountain. Paid-In-Full is full on wide open ski run point and shoot fun, and a little unnerving but I was having the time of my life on it and started hunting down the purple polyester of Slaven ahead. Matt and I managed a few passes as I rode his tail towards the end and once safe he opened it up for me to carry on and into the finish below for another satisfying 5th place finish. I want to extend some well wishes to Matt as he recovers from a gun shot wound after being mugged in Santa Cruz, makes you grateful for everyday, especially ones spent on the bike. Michael didn't start the stage too well with a crash on the Cowboy Up rocks smashing his wrist/hand, but managed to hold on for an impressive 26th. Jess found his mojo and rode well as he was finally getting up to speed on his freshly built Banshee Rune and sprinted across the line into 10th.
Brian taking the smooth line and keeping air in the tires. Photo: Daniel Dunn//danieldunnphoto.com

Cowboy Up Video:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151752580616410&set=vb.264434926409&type=2&theater
Stage 4 Results: http://www.bigmountainenduro.com/assets/files/BME_KeystoneResults_Stage4.pdf
Stage 5 - Milky Way
After I got my breath back I knew that if I could squeeze another run in on stage 5 it would prove greatly beneficial. I set up my Fox Suspension slightly stiffer for it sit higher in the travel for some of the gnarly steep, tight and twisty bits that encapsulated this short three and a half minute track. It was much shorter than all other stages and I was trying to treat it more like a DH race as I set my sights on a stage victory. Michael and I went off back to back and we were greeted my dad cheering us both on up top which added more fuel to the fire. Its always rad to have my family at the races, their support of me and my brothers racing has been huge as we definitely wouldn't be in the same position we are now. I was drifting corners and feeling pinned while navigating some awesome sections chalked full of jumps, drops and gnarly steeps. I crossed the line and let out a holler as I was stoked on my run. I learned that I managed to crack the top 3 finishing in 2nd place and peddled the transfer stage motivated to end the weekend on a high note. Michael finished in 21st but the times were so tight and a second either which way meant lots of places gained or lost. Jess was a stones throw away from a top ten and finished in 16th with another good result. My good buddy whom I've been racing against in juniors since the beginning, Joey Schusler finished 1st once again and was on fire holding onto the top spot going into the last stage. 
Brian committed dropping in on the steeps on stage 5. Photo: N Ontiveros//bigmountainenduro.com
Stage 5 Results: http://www.bigmountainenduro.com/assets/files/BME_KeystoneResults_Stage5.pdf
Stage 6 - Eye of the Tiger
The "spirit of enduro" is a phrase that has been widely utilized and has many different meaning depending on who you talk to. To me the "spirit" means, if someone needs help or assistance and you have the resources to help then going out of your way to do so is in the "spirit" of enduro. I was one of the last to the top of the transfer after helping one of my fellow riders fix his flat tire he sustained in stage 5 and once again lined up behind my brother looking to smash the final race of the weekend. It started at the start of the trail, Eye of the Tiger which was a rider favorite because of the tight and flowing natural terrain which wound through the dense pines. I utilized the knowledge gained in stage 1 which shared this trail and had an exceptional run hucking to flat all the way to the finish and a 4th overall for the stage. Michael put together a personal best 13th place ending his weekend on a high note. Jess was pushing hard, but unfortunately punctured, but he still gave it a good effort until the bitter end. 
Jess focused and looking forward to crossing the finish line. Photo: Eddie Clark//eddieclarkmedia.com
Stage 6 Results: http://www.bigmountainenduro.com/assets/files/BME_KeystoneResults_Stage6.pdf

Overall Results: http://www.bigmountainenduro.com/assets/files/BME_KeystoneResults_Final.pdf

Day 2 Video Recap: http://vimeo.com/70005476
Brian's Take
These Big Mountain Enduro races are possibly the most physically demanding, bike beating and mentally straining races out there and I've definitely learned a lot every weekend. There is so much that has to go into successful overall outcome. Bike setup, mental/physical prep and course inspection are key, if you aren't confident with all of these its tough keeping it all together for a full weekend and a combined full seasons worth of DH. I'm still trying to find what works for me, for example if possible its important for me to take a practice run, just to get warmed up and confident in going 100 percent once the countdown hits zero. Also, I believe a certain degree of luck has to be on your side. If I negated stage 2 from all competitors and added up total times I would have been top 5, so I'm happy with how I'm riding and my fitness is coming along. Looking forward to Master The Mass this weekend in Snowmass, nice to have a race in my backyard! 
Brian on a burner and a 2nd place on stage 5. Photo: N Ontiveros//bigmountainenduro.com
Michael's Take
After leaving Crested Butte the week before feeling like I had left a lot on the table when the weekend was over. I was extra focused and excited to step up my game and give it everything I had in Keystone!
Training for me this Season has been going very well! I’m healthy, injury free, and I’ve been putting in between 60-100 technical miles a week while coaching with the SMBA youth development team in Boulder Colorado. I’m feeling stronger and more confident then ever, with both my fitness and technical skills continuing to improve to new heights as the season progresses forward. At Crested Butte 2 weeks ago I was feeling a little bit overtrained from the intensity of my training. So after the super physical and intense weekend of racing down there, I decided to take advantage of the holiday break from coaching/training and focus on recovery leading into Keystone. This plan payed off well, and I felt super strong throughout the 2 days of racing in Keystone and was able put together some very clean and fast runs. I was pretty happy with 5 out of 6 of my stages, despite a couple of minor bobbles, and my Shimano/FOX equipped Banshee Rune ran flawlessly over the combined 1hr of racing!  I was able to finish the weekend with a personal best 13th on stage 6 and a 14th place overall on the weekend. I’m pretty pumped to have cracked into the top 15 among the very talented, group of competitors that made up the pro field of stop #2 NEAT (National Enduro Tour) / Big Mountain Enduro #3 race field!
Michael put in consistant runs and finished a strong 14th overall. Photo: Holly Turner//http://hollyturne6.wix.com/hmtfoto#!portfolio/c1han
I know I still have a lot of room for further personal development and improvement this season and going into future seasons in this relatively new format of racing, I look forward to continue working my way up the ranks even more as my training and fitness continues to progress. I’m having a blast at these races and look forward to continue with the solid momentum gained from this past weekend!
Buell brothers post race catching their breath. Photo: Holly Turner//http://hollyturne6.wix.com/hmtfoto#!portfolio/c1han
Jess's Take
Keystone was rad!!!
Jess had a solid weekend but a puncture ended his hopes of a top 15 overall. Photo: Holly Turner// http://hollyturne6.wix.com/hmtfoto#!portfolio/c1han
Conclusion
With a week long hiatus in-between the NAET race, Team Geronimo will take their talents to Snowmass and compete to be the Master of the Mass in a one off event that includes chinless downhill, downhill, enduro, XC races to crown its overall champion. Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for your continued support of Team Geronimo, we are extremely grateful for you are the foundation to our success!
Ride On! Photo: Holly Turner//http://hollyturne6.wix.com/hmtfoto#!portfolio/c1han
Additional Media: 

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