Okay… Let’s face it: the Enduro race format has exploded in North America like an over-insured building liberally splashed with jet fuel and struck by lightning. There’s the Oregon Enduro Series (OES), Cascadia Dirt Cup (CDC), BC Enduro, Montana Enduro Series, Idaho Enduro Series, Big Mountain Enduro (BME), WVMBA Enduro Series, Eastern States Cup Enduro Series (ESC)… You get the idea. So the announcement of the formation of the North American Enduro Coalition (NAEC) and their North American Enduro Cup (also the NAEC) kind of flew under the radar.
Mining history runs deep here in Kellogg, ID, the host town for the NAEC. Legend has it that in 1885, a prospector named Noah Kellogg stumbled upon a lode of galena while searching for his lost mule. Galena is an ore composed mainly of lead, but also silver. Shortly after Kellogg's discovery, the area was dubbed "Silver Valley". Before silver mining went bust in Silver Valley in the early 1980s, over 360 million troy ounces were extracted; that's 11,000,000 kg of silver or 24.25 million pounds. Mining continues today, but primarily for lead and zinc.
There's still a fair bit of mining history on display in Kellogg, ID. All you need to do is poke around town a bit.
So what are the two NAECs? In short, the Coalition NAEC was the brainchild of the Idaho Enduro series director, James Lang. The Coalition was initially established as a collaborative race effort between the Cascadia Dirt Cup Enduro Series, the Idaho Enduro Series, and the Montana Enduro Series. The idea was to establish a flexible set of rules that could be adapted to each of the participating series, so that racers would have a standardized set of rules to work with across the various race series, but flexible so that the various race organizations involved could adapt the rules to individual races within their respective series. But somewhere along the way, the Coalition birthed the Cup—the other NAEC.
The Cup is a one-off race that embraces all the regional race series: the CDC, the Idaho Enduro Series, the Montana Enduro series, BC Enduro, and MTB Enduro (a Mexican Enduro race organization). Initially, the Cup was planned to be a race series, but with the announcement of the North American Enduro Tour (NAET) becoming an EWS qualifier, the Coalition adopted more of an Enduro of Nations format: a one event race with teams as well as individual racers competing against each other. How’s that work? Simple: you can compete within your category as an individual, but you can also be part of a team and have that team compete within various team categories, like pro women, pro men, mixed sport, etc. Anyway, as long as the NAET remains a series/EWS qualifier, the NAEC will remain as a one-off race with the team component for the foreseeable future.
The inaugural “Cup” NAEC was hosted this past weekend by Silver Mountain Bike Park in the old mining community of Kellogg, ID—a small town located some 40 minutes east of the Coeur d’Alene, ID in the middle of the “panhandle” of the state. Silver Mountain offers a 3.1-mile long gondola ride that climbs 3400 vertical feet to the summit of Kellogg Peak directly from town. Over the weekend, racers ascended some 10k feet via pedals, the gondola, and a single chairlift ride, and then raced all that vertical back down over six stages that took the pro men’s winner, Transition’s Logan Wetzel, nearly 38 minutes to complete. Now that’s some legit racing! So strap in and enjoy the ride….
The pre-race meeting held at the foot of the 3,400-foot gondola ride. Each of the primary race organizations representatives-Trey Wilson of the CDC, James Lang of the Idaho Enduro Series, and Tony Zammit of the Montana Enduro Series took a few minutes to go over course details and race rules.
The Shimano "neutral-ish" ("We can't really work on SRAM stuff"; go figure) support was on hand to support racers free of charge. Pivot's Carolyn Romaine chats it up with Nick and Kim Hardin on the eve of racing.
Glitter for the winners, with the "team" trophies front and center.
Matt Blake getting "active" with his timing chip while Logan Wetzel waits his turn.
Local boy, Tommy McGrath coyly giving fellow racers quality advice, like "go as hard as you can on the climb" before the start of the first day's racing. Yeah, right...
Team Idiot's Joey Wyckoff stepping up and making shapes on stage one of day one.
Fanatik Bike's Nick Tuttle adrift in the lush ferns at the bottom of stage one. Intermittently heavy rains the night before and during the first day of racing had the vegetation exploding with life. That also gave the trails early in the day a decidedly greasy feel, and in some cases, traction was at a premium.
Kim Hardin on stage one of the NAEC. Hardin fought tooth and nail all weekend against area local DH racer Jaime Rees, ending day one 2 seconds adrift from the top step, but came out on top by some 28 seconds at the end of it all - nearly 45 minutes of racing!
One time Pro DH racer (that was nearly 2 decades ago, dammit!) Tracy West sending stage one in the Expert Veteran Male (40+) category.
Day one saw racers climb some 1100 vertical feet for the first stage of the NAEC race, and then shuttle up to the top of Kellogg Mountain via the Silver Mountain Gondola only to ball up into a massive line up for the start of stage 2, a pedally 3km or so track with a 600 vertical foot climb back to the gondola station for the start of stage 3.
Racers at the start of stage 3 were treated to the sight of incoming wet weather (thankfully no lightning, though--nothing like having to hide out on a mountain top during a lightening storm!). About half the field of 243 racers got alternatively rained on and hailed on as they waited to drop in off the summit. A plus note on the precipitation, though, was velcro dirt conditions for day two.
Andrew Flaschenriem casually floating into stage 3. The big Canfield rider was able to take seventh on the stage, edging out eventual second place winner Mathew Chynoweth by just less than a second.
Stage 4 featured some climbing early on, made all the more awkward by battered hands from the high-speed chatter on stage 3 and some larger root lines midway through the uphill portion of the stage before the fun index got dialed back up to ten. The stage actually dropped a fair bit, but the 27 vertical feet of elevation gain were hard on the legs after the uber pedally stage 2 earlier in the day. Likely even harder when rallying the course on a hardtail, too!
Layton Meyers sneers at knee guards. The kid in the Jr Expert Boys 17 and under category was as loose as they come as he rallied the harder sections of the track but always kept it under control despite the wide open throttle. And let's face it, at 17, everyone's pretty sure they're invulnerable. And he did win his category, too.
Lisa Curry, on the other hand, opting for the full face and knee guards on her romp through the rocks on stage 5.
Fifth place finisher overall Janea Perry opted for the alternative line on the rock filled chute on stage 5 of the first day of the NAEC. Her time of 5:41.98 on the stage was good enough for fourth place and only .5 seconds behind eventual NAEC winner Kim Hardin.
Karen O'Connell was looking good on stage 5, but unfortunately, DNF'd when a training run crash requiring stitches took her out of the race.
Expert Female racer Michelle Warner on the exit line below the rock chute of stage 5. Warner was on a tear in stage 5, edging out her nearest competitor for the overall in her category by nearly 30 seconds. Yew!
The leaderboard watch. Glory, exultation, bitter disappointment, and inspiration to dig deeper all wrapped up in one place.
Chris Andreason and the Bike Hub crew out of Spokane, WA mulling over the day's war stories around a couple cozy campfires under the clearing skies at the camp area below the Silver Mountain gondola in Kellogg, ID.
Eric Geist leading out a small pack of riders for the long climb up to the top of Sunday's one and only stage: a top to bottom romp through Silver Mountain's bike park all the way back to the edge of town.
Marin/SR Suntour's Craig Harvey dropping into the start of stage 6. This was an arm pump burner of a super D style of a stage, with riders dropping 3400 vertical feet during the course of the 4.9 miles of North Idaho brown pow.!
Racers saw nearly every kind of trail condition during the "one and done" day two stage at Silver Mountain. Rains Friday night and the previous day had damped down the blown apart sun-baked sections of track, creating brown pow of the finest quality. But it wasn't all velcro dirt, there was still a mix of treacherous roots and rocks, and in some of the more churned up sections of track, the odd fang lay in wait to ambush the unwary with a punctured tire.
Logan Wetzel sending it on stage 6 of the NAEC. Wetzel's time was strong enough to hold off all comers for the weekend.
Double Duty time for Shimano's Tommy Magrath; he not only raced pro to 24th place but also put in his fair share of time spinning wrenches.
Mathew Chynoweth trying, but failing, to reel in Logan Wetzel and Branham Snyder on the top to bottom "super D" style stage 6 of the NAEC.
Eric Geist floating down the Hammer Trail on stage 6. Geist would finish 6th overall, a mere 6.5 seconds adrift of the of the podium after nearly 40 minutes of racing.
One signature of Silver Mountain was unrelenting 180-degree corners in some places. The tracks were plenty rowdy for the trail bikes riders were putting to the test, but an effort by the trail builders to maximize trail to vertical drop ratio saw lots of 180-degree course changes as the various tracks snaked down the mountain. It was all good, though, as the turns easily allowed riders to carry their speed through the corners, even as they left a bit of a "pinball" impression on the racers.
Second Place Expert Master Male (30-39) finisher Phil Grove carrying speed over a root line on the Pirate Trail segment of stage 6.
Kryptonite in the rain, the off-camber roots of Pirate Trail were considerably tamer in the dry conditions found on day two of the NAEC.
Steep? Check. Rocks? Check. Good times? Check, check, and check!
Only Moses can part rough seas better. Some unknown Senior Expert Male snuck through this rock garden by the skin of his teeth...
Not everyone escaped the rocks, though. Alex Walker tasting some bitter ashes of what might have been. The Jr Expert Boys 17 and Under race leader from day one flatted above this chaos filled steep corner stage 6, and saw his 89 seconds lead from day one evaporate into a DFL finish. He was game, though; I could hear him coming for nearly a minute before he came into view.
Another day one race leader who ran afoul of mechanical issues on day two was the pro women's leader Jaime Rees. Rees was up by two seconds over Kim Hardin coming into stage six, but Rees tossed a chain at some point and lost valuable seconds getting it back in place. Hardin, too, lost a chain, but a quick back pedal got it re-mounted with a minimal time loss. Rees wasn't so fortunate, though; and the combination of an inspired Hardin and Rees' mechanical saw her lead disappear into a 28-second deficit by the end of the final stage.
Emily Sabelhaus dropping into yet another root filled 180-degree course change midway through her 17:05.61 top to bottom stage six run.
Amy Josefczyk's run on stage 6 was good enough to sew up a fourth place finish in the Women's Expert field.
The fastest neutral tech support ever: FSA's Patrik Zuest (and his partner in crime, Derrick Henry) not only raced but did it with 30 or so pounds of essentials stuffed into that pack.
It was cool to see a return to that "Enduro of Nations" team format that used to cap off the French Enduro Race series a few years ago. All the racers raced as individuals, but had the option to form teams in various categories (for a complete breakdown of the rules for team racing go here)
. The woman's Pro "Team" Winner, the "Oregon Udders", an ad hoc team assembled the night before the start of the NAEC, was composed of race winner Kim Hardin, Nikki Hollatz (10), and Carolyn Romaine (6) - Romaine was absent for the podium on a run to the airport.
The women's pro podium: L-R Lisa Curry (4), Jaime Rees (2), Kim Hardin (1), Emily Sabelhaus (3), and Janea Perry (5). And the bubbly battle immediately after.
Pro Men's podium, L-R: Craig Harvey (4), Branham Snyder (2), Logan Wetzel (1), Mathew Chynoweth (3), and Andrew Flaschenriem (5). The pro men also had a bubbles battle, ignited by Marin/ SR Suntour's Craig Harvey before the podium call up had even been finished.
That's all, folks. Keep an eye out for the dates for next year's NAEC event to be announced sometime late this year and be sure to make plans to register for what promises to become a fantastic fixture on the North American Enduro race calendar. Racing will be capped at 300, so don't lag when registration opens for next season's race.