A brisk morning greeted participants, volunteers, and supporters at the first stop of the 2019 SoFi Montana Enduro Series. While the moisture from the previous night’s rain lingered, the morning fog hung just over the State of Montana’s Capitol-turned-race start. Undeterred, the non-profit’s Race Director, Tony Zammit shouted to the racers at the pre-race rider’s meeting:
“Welcome to the 2019 SoFi Montana Enduro Series’ first stop, the Helenduro!” Letting the music filter through the ranks of riders, Tony paused for dramatic effect; “You’ll notice that there are a few uphills in the stages this year. When you’re cursing me under your breath on those climbs, remember: those complaints feed me and make me stronger!”
Setting out from Capitol Building’s South Lawn, participants were treated to a hearty sampling of Helana’s famous in-town single track shortly after leaving as they worked their way to the summit of Mt. Ascension. Overlooking the valley and stages from previous years, riders used the scenic climb to suss out the dirt, debating where on the mountain the dirt would yield the most (and least) traction. Stage 1 launched riders down the Ridge Trail scree-field, smashing through golf to basketball sized rocks before a nefariously taped brake-checking switchback led riders up a meandering climb then right into a rollercoaster of a flow trail, finished just the weekend prior. Cruse Control, named after the famous Helena-resident from the 1800s, Thomas Cruse, provided decent grip for the earliest riders to descend through the bermed corners. The stage did claim more than one tire and sent a few riders tumbling as they adjusted to the wet rock and fresh earth.Left: Riders surveying the first slight bend off the top of Stage 1. Steep and straight down meant no enduro lines appeared on the first part of Stage 1. Right: Chris Luehder braving the steeps of Stage 1.
A brief, scenic transfer led to the mid-mountain start of Stage 2, Big Dorothy. Named after a prodigious Madam that operated a brothel in Helena until 1973, the trail involved significantly more features than Stage 1. These features were made all the more devious by the knob-erasing slime clinging to tires with the tenacity of that ex you don’t like to talk about anymore. This generally resulted in mayhem, as riders found themselves slipping and sliding their way down treacherous A/B line options, emerging from the trees at the bottom with muddy shorts and jerseys denoting the meetings with Big Dorothy along the way.
The forecasted rain continued to hold off while riders pedaled yet again to the top of Mt. Ascension. Stages 3 and 4 shared the first half mile of trail, creating a party atmosphere at the shared starts. A remarkably flawless zippered start system was used, requiring racers on Stage 3 to turn down Entertainment Direct. Entertainment Direct consisted of a herculean taping effort creating chicanes down a 45-degree slope and finished with a quick pedal across a slippery bridge and onto a trail called Aftershock. This part of Stage 3 included a pedal that kept going, seemingly forever, and shall never be named again. The trail that shall not be named concluded stage 3 and deposited racers on the day’s first transfer which connected to the shared start at the top of Stage 4.
Die-hard hikers and spectators cheered on the die-hard bikers as they shared the transfer trail in the rain. This transfer took riders to Stage 4 and to Entertainment Proper, a perennial local favorite which meanders through the woods. However, the forecasted race began to appear, making the trail grease appear proportionally with the accumulating precipitation. Instead of finishing with the typical local route off the hill at the bottom of Entertainment, racers faced a twist. Where typical rides end the stage at the trail’s natural conclusion, 2019’s Stage 4 led riders on a brisk (timed), mostly-flat pedal totaling 3.1 miles in length, concluding on Little Moab. Always treacherous, Little Moab is an aptly named rock outcropping that offers abundant traction in the dry. And literally none in the wet. The stage, with racing conducted in the latter condition, caused yet more consternation for riders trying to keep the rubber side down and podium hopes alive. Stage 4 and its conclusion, Little Moab, showed no mercy. The fastest Stage 4 time was over 10 minutes of flat-out riding.Left: Molly Higgins cruising into the finish of Stage 4. Right: Larry Bruce navigating the slick finish of Stage 4.
With the final stage in sight, and clouds looming, a spirited stomp up the final transfer of the day led riders to Stage 5. Depending on when the rider being interviewed actually arrived at Stage 5 - before, during, or after the rain unleashed - the stage was either praised for its creativity, or cursed for its utter and complete lack of traction. Stage 5 combined the classic trails Pinchot, T.R. and Rodney Meadow, into a fulfilling, if slippery, conclusion to the 2019 Helenduro. The cherry on-top? A joyride back to town, time for laughing and reflection with fellow racers, culminating by spilling into the gleeful cheers of race organizers and fellow riders hosted by Karmadillos restaurant.
A jubilant TJ Lehman took to the mic to announce the Pro Male podium, with a 1, 2, 3 consisting of Scott Mooney Daniel Barry, and Michael Grimland in that order. Meanwhile, Tara Wilson, Kaia Jensen, and Christy Graves took 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Pro Female category. Meanwhile, Vigilante Bike Shuttles ferried tired riders back to their vehicles back at the Capitol, while Wildrye Distilling donated swag and booze for lucky winners. 2019 Helenduro Official ResultsThe pro podiums.Left: The Vigilante team was out in force to get people back to vehicles at the Capitol. Right: Eva Culpo showing off the times that got her to the top of the Expert Women's podium.
Hang on to your vuvuzelas and cowbells, we're heading to Whitefish Mountain Resort for Round 2 of the 2019 SoFi Montana Enduro Series on July 13! Don't want to wait that long to race? Head over to www.naenduro.com
and register for the North American Enduro Cup as a bonus round for the 2019 SoFi Montana Enduro Series! You can also check out www.montanaenduro.com
for more fun stuff or just to say hi!
Check out the full photo album right here on Pinkbike!