Friday, September 6, 2013

Team Geronimo - Dreaming of Durango

Brian racing out of the gate and into thin air at close to 12,000 on Kennebec Pass. Photo  Nick Ontiveros//
Stage 1 - Kennebec Pass
Still in a slight Whistler Enduro World Series hangover, I made my way down to Durango for the fourth round of the Big Mountain Enduro. After two days of pre-riding the 4 different race stages Michael, Jess and I were aboard the Fun Bus early Saturday morning on route to the base of Kennebec Pass situated in the La Plata mountain range. After a brutal 6 mile uphill grind we were rewarded with amazing views and a long sketchy descent down some of the most high speed, high alpine single track along the famed Colorado Trail. With my POC Trebec buckled tightly I prepared for one tough effort ahead. Shortly after I departed the start line situated at 11,700 feet, I nailed a rock and quickly started hearing things. I couldn't stand not knowing anymore whether or not I had a slow leak so I pulled off the trail for a hot second just to clear my conscience, 35 PSI still remained which allowed me to hold the throttle wide open the rest of the way without worry. After successfully dodging and weaving backpackers I checked my heart rate and noticed I was near the red at 180BPM, so I backed it off a few BPM's and continued to ride as reckless into blind corners as I could. The trail morphs from the high Alpine, to thick pine forest where it runs parallel to the topographical lines, bench cut into the side of the hill. There is no room for error on this particular stage, with steep drops around every corner I was encouraged to ride conservatively until finally being spit out into the drainage thousands of feet below point A. Multiple river crossings greeted me, each with a different approach to cleanly crossover and just when I thought I was on the home stretch I overcooked the very last crossing, ran it wide and OTB'd into the cold river stones below. Once I finished minutes after getting wet and after a short recovery, it was time to start the hour long ascent out of the gully to the beginning of Stage 2. 
Brian having a laugh with friends before the start of stage 1. Photo Daniel Dunn// 
Two small mistakes and never finding overdrive left me sitting in 15th after Stage 1. 
Racers look on as Brian drops the clutch and presses the gas pedal to the floor. Photo Daniel Dunn//
Jess lives a short distance away and has utilized his close proximity to the venue to practice multiple times and was rewarded with a strong 13th place finish, even after a major crash early in the stage. 
Michael rode a strong race and rounded out the team with a nice 20th place finish out of 50 racers total.

Stage 2 - Dry Fork
After a long slog up to the start of Stage 2 keeping the heart rate at no higher than 140BPM, we all enjoyed the view for a few minutes and then prepared once again to attack the long sustained, flat and peddle driven sections leading down to the Dry Fork split. The pace picks up and rocks strew the double track creating a tricky track. Chain suck and a few blown corners were the only misfortunes I suffered, but the toughest test of the stage was outlasting the countless twists and turns through the shrub brush before finally being spit out at the finish line 20 plus minutes after departing. 
Jess pushing his 27.5 wheels hard on the Dry Fork Trail.  Photo Nick Ontiveros//
I dug deep and tried to conserve energy throughout to finish strong in 11th place. 
Brian eyeing the finish line on stage 2. Photo Holly Turner
Jess got over-amped once again and high sided his way to another competitive 13th place. 
Michael eying the photographer near the finish, focus Michael, focus!  Photo Holly Turner
Michael used too much energy too early suffering the consequences and fell back to 37th on the stage
Michael and Brian soaking in the Animas, can you guess who recently spent a week on a lake? Photo Holly Turner
Stage 3 - Raider Ridge
The Animas River was our salvation as we took advantage of the cool and calming waters to help our muscles recover. The fallowing days stages were going to take place in Horse Gulch just outside of town and with Stage 3 starting up on the Extended Raider Ridge Trail overlooking Fort Lewis College. After our pre-ride on the trail, we all had our doubts about racing it due to its extremely technical nature. After riding it just once, I knew I was in for a bit of a cycle cross experience as many of the uphills had to be ridden just right, otherwise I was running up the many red stone slab staircase climbs. The fallowing morning we were at the start just after 9am on a beautiful blue sky day. The chatter between racers at the start was about race strategy and how we were all going to approach this run. Me, I was going to look ahead with a goal to keep forward momentum on this glorified trials course. After the familiar beeps I was off and found a rhythm riding well but once I approached the first uphill I knew I wasn't going to clean the climb, so I ended up dismounting and running. This trend continued for another 10 minutes and then the trail finally dropped off the ridge and made way downhill. My mouth was agape and I was most definitely slobbering on myself as I approached the final stretch full of rough, rocky descents and a full on double track chalked with bowling ball sized rocks that brought us to the finish line. Compared to what I thought before, the race went a little better than I had imagined, however local knowledge and racers that could afford to focus days on this track leading up to the race won out as times were drastically different. Once we had our wits about us again, it was southbound up the Telegraph Trail to the fourth and final stage starting miles away on the other side of Horse Gulch. 

Brian tightrope riding the Ridge while trying his hardest.  Photo Daniel Walker// 
It was a journey, however it was not a clean run as I made two passes, missed a turn and ended up dismounting and falling backwards into another 15th place finish.
Jess utilizing his newfound wheel size for all its worth.  Photo Daniel Dunn// 
Jess utilized some of his local knowledge to navigate to a solid 12th place finish upon the Ridge that overlooks his alma mature.
Michael sprinting hard up the final climb before descending down to the finish.  Photo Holly Turner
Michael rocks and rolls his way across the line and into a 30th place finish.
Brian doing his best to give the encouraging spectators a good show on a climb.  Photo Holly Turner
Riding into the gut of Horse Gulch on the Telegraph Trail transfer between stages.  Photo Holly Turner
Stage 4 - Carbon Junction
The 4th and final stage of the day couldn't me more different than the previous stage as Crites Trail to Carbon Junction is a steady downhill grade of marbly, slick singletrack to the HWY 550/3 junction. The long weekend was starting to take its toll as I approached the starting line and the sun beat down. This being the last stage of the weekend I planned on giving it my all and crossing the line leaving nothing out on the trail. Once I was on course I started to find a state of flow, but as soon as I got comfortable I managed to go off track and do some serious bushwhacking through the forest, once I found my way back to the trail I had a sense of urgency, but my rhythm was interrupted and I struggled to push the rest of the way home. In the end I felt beat and needed to seek shelter from the sun and cool off while watching racers cross the finish. 
The Kelty cooler keeping food cold and spirits high after a grueling weekend.  Photo Holly Turner
Long stretches of flat out sprinting pushed me to the limit towards the end and I was unable to finish as strong as I would like and into 16th place. 
Brian running on fumes but pushing hard all the way to the line.  Photo Holly Turner
Jess rounded out a consistent weekend with a few mistakes that proved to put him off the back and into 27th place in a tightly contested stage.
Michael kept the wheels turning into 37th, not what had in mind, but with his wedding weekend upon him he had other things on his mind. 
Michael putting the hammer down and putting the nail in the coffin on another burly weekend of enduro racin.  Photo Holy Turner 
Stage 4 Results:

Jess had his best result of the season with an 11th place overall finishing a total of 15 seconds in front of me in 12th after well over an hour of total race time. I had a mixed weekend but kept it consistent and rubber side down for the most part. Michael fresh off of his victory in Winter Park put in a top 25 effort finishing 23rd.
Over Race Results:
The 5th and final round of the BME will take place in Moab at the end of the month. Jess and I will be there to represent as we tackle the EPIC 25 mile Whole Enchilada Trail that encapsulates some of the best and well known trails in the area. Thank you so much for your continued support of the Team Geronimo, I look forward to seeing you all at Interbike.

Ride On! 

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