Lone Peak's Revenge isn't just a name. It's also a description. Lone Peak, home of Big Sky Resort, claims for itself derailleurs, tires, wheels, frames, skin, bones, spirit and pride. It ruthlessly saps energy with racing grueling, steep terrain at 9,000' above sea level. It throws unpredictable, changing weather and trail conditions at everyone. Revenge is what the mountain seeks. And it's what the mountain gets.
The rain started 10 minutes after the racers set off from the start of the 2019 Lone Peak’s Revenge presented by DialedMTB. The racers watched a gentle mist develop into a deluge, covering the landscape and surrounding mountains with sheets of driving rain. Big Sky Resort, the host and venue for this stop of the 2019 SoFi Montana Enduro Series, is known for its incredible variety of trails from low angle flow to the steepest of rock waterfalls and root filled chutes. Naturally, the race took place on the latter, with the route designed by now-infamous course designers John and Lisa Curry.
Racers started the day’s 6 stages: 6000 feet of climbing and 7,700 feet descending, with a service road grind up Lone Peak’s only-slightly less imposing sister mountain, Andesite. Once arriving at the top, they were granted a bit of a downhill transfer to the start of stage one. A coalescence of old-school downhill trails, updated with berms and a hip jump near the beginning, stage one asked riders to trust their tires in the wet slate and grease before a hard-right turn that led into a very steep climb. Thankfully, the climb was under substantial tree cover, so it maintained excellent traction under foot as most racers ran up it beside their bicycles. Once clear of the uphill, it was back on the bike for a slippery, root-filled decent to Stage 1’s conclusion. Riders converged at the finish of the stage to lend tools and advice to the many who suffered mechanicals on course.
Now thoroughly soaked but still in good spirits, participants made their way up the longest transfer of the day. Back to the summit of Andesite Mountain, this time via a pleasant, if long, XC trail before a hike straight up a ski run through soaking knee-high grass. Fortunately, mountain weather stayed true to form and whisked away the cloud cover to reveal blue skies and warmer temperatures. Standing at the top of stage two, riders contemplated whether the rain had rendered the course’s most notorious trail, Revenge, a slippery mess or a tacky dream come true. Built by madmen in the early 2000’s, Revenge is a conundrum. With the potential to flow well, it leads riders on a roller coaster down the mountain, half technical downhill and half technical trail ride - all with serious consequences for pushing limits too far. Roots made slippery by rain hid in the shadows near the bottom, waiting for poor body position or over-commitment. Emerging from tree cover in a sprint, racers crossed the stage’s finish line and filled up water bottles as the sun baked the wet earth and clothes began to dry.
Now joined by Juniors (who started on Stage 3), the day’s third transfer ushered riders up Lone Mountain proper. Service roads were used and riders with time to spare took the opportunity to walk bikes and attempt to dry helmet-pads and goggles. The top of Stage 3 gave racers the opportunity again to ponder, this time about the entrance to Lobo, another of Big Sky Resort’s original trails. A savagely steep affair, Lobo was rife with A and B line options, although B lines offered little respite from the trail’s white-knuckled A options. Fortunately, the rain then sun combination improved traction in many of these sections, allowing racers to really push down the race course. The stage ended and immediately the transfer began on a set of wood skinnies out to destroy derailleurs. For those that survived, the categories split ways, with Pro and Expert racers heading back up the service road again towards stage 4, and Masters, Sport and junior riders heading back to the base area for a lift ride to stage 5.
Stage 4’s start was a rather unassuming spot on the fire road, punctuated only by a Montana Enduro Series start sign and group of nervous riders checking, and double checking the condition of brake pads and rotors. On paper, the stage was made up of three trails: Brown Rice, Hollywood, and Buffalo Jump. No one had ever heard of the first, but the other two were known entities. In reality, Brown Rice is, to-date, the steepest and most sustained pitch the Enduro Series has ever included a race. Racers knew from practice that the speed one carried at the top had better be glacial, as the section was roughly 200 feet straight down, punctuated by clusters of roots and one or two trees, before a mandatory left turn spit participants out onto tight single track. Also present was a steep climb two thirds of the way through, and an all-out sprint to the stage’s conclusion on Buffalo Jump that could more than make up for some trepidation down the initial steepness of Brown Rice. A short ride to the base area before the days only lift assist gave riders a chance to refuel and rehydrate.
Stage 5 consisted entirely of the popular ‘Nameless’ trail. Tight, heavily wooded, and composed of loose fast corners and steep rock and root filled A, B line options (the theme was really sinking in at this point.) Nameless is quintessential Big Sky enduro. The trail rewards excellent cornering skills, bike setup, and the ability to maintain focus after previously riding/surviving the gnarliest trails on the mountain through the first four stages.
Having traversed a large portion of the resort that proudly touts the ‘Biggest Skiing in America,’ racers now found themselves linking various service roads and now familiar sections of hike-a-bike, all marked by cheery yellow tape tied to trees or rocks, as well as the occasional signs indicating the end was near, and beer was only a stage finish away. The queue for stage six provided quite the vista, with snow filled couloirs giving way to tree line and eventually the resort’s ski lifts and condos. Racers embarked on the day’s longest stage, starting on Elkhorn trail and showcasing a lesser known side of Big Sky Resort. A descent from near-alpine altitudes, meandering down the mountain in and out of trees, Elkhorn Trail was physically demanding, as riders had to put in pedal strokes after every corner before braking heavily into the next. Giving way gradually to Otter Slide, racers were met with well-built doubles and even triples in and out of bermed corners before sliding across the finish of the rowdiest race of the season.
Results:2019 Lone Peak's Revenge presented by DialedMTB Official Results
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