Race Report: Round 1 of the 2019 Montana Enduro Series - Helenduro

May 29, 2019
by The Montana Enduro Series  

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!”

The State of Montana's Capitol Building served as the check-in and starting line for the 2019 Helenduro.

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.

Travis Feller up and over on Stage 1.

Dan Barry doing Dan Barry things on Stage 1. He took second in Pro Men.

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.

Brandon Lesniak on the first feature of Big Dorothy. This trail is one of two directional bike trails built last year in Helena's Open Lands.

Sport Male Champ Aaron Haffey rolling into one of the many features on Stage 2.

Junior Female champ Addison Roush making her way past the crowds on Stage 2.

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.

Pro Women's third place finisher, Christy Graves, enjoying the greasy Entertainment trail on 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.

Sydney Deamarais on Stage 3, conducting valuable research to demonstrate the benefits of more unsprung fork weight.

Master's Male rider John Coulthard in the chicanes on Stage 3.

Ray Derenburger dodging rain droplets on Stage 4.
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 Results

The 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!


  • + 6
 Thanks, Tony, and all of the crew who make this one the funnest events I have ever done! I know you guys are on the ropes with trail issues and I hope that the other side can see we are not the bad guys but their allies.
  • + 4
 Great event, great weekend, great fun. Oh and thanks so much for the climb on stage 1 Tony....no really, thanks. Smile
Looks like some heavy sandbaggers at the top of sport men though....
  • + 5
 Congrats on the win Scott! Stoked to have you out there charging on an Esker.
  • + 4
 Hell yeah! Such a fun time. Thanks for the great work by everyone involved. See you in Whitefish!
  • + 3
 Thanks for the good clean fun, guys!
  • + 1
 What a fantastic event! Thank so much Montana Enduro Series for the countless hours you all put in to make this amazing series possible. Hats off to you all.

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