The same weekend as the Lourdes World Cup DH opener saw the annual running of the TDS Enduro Race—what may be one of the best Enduro events ever. What makes it so special? Think of a race every bit as technically challenging as an EWS race but with all the good times and humor found when riding with just your friends. That's not to slam the EWS at all; it's just that an EWS has a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding it, as befits the top tier of enduro mountain bike racing. But there's very little of that glitz to be found at the TDS. It's just hard racing on trails built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers with just enough "loose dog" thrown in to make it amazingly fun. And the racing is serious: a top placing at the TDS is every bit as legit as placing well in Tasmania or any of the other far-flung destinations of the EWS. It's just that the TDS is the kind of event you'd find in your own backyard. If your own backyard was the Sanchez network outside of Grass Valley, CA, that is.
The format is simple: Friday is a pell-mell scramble to pre-ride the rat's nest of trails that lace the Sanchez Compound just outside of Grass Valley, CA. Due to the interlacing of trails and the shuttle service via Polaris ORV Ranger side by side vehicles, only certain trails can be open for training at certain times. Were they all open, the very real possibility of high-speed collisions would exist. So riders can link up and train on only certain runs at certain times. After a few hours of training, those trails close and new ones open. Since the two days of racing see riders tackling 14 different stages that vary in length from 2:30 to 4:30, things can get tricky on training day. To say it's hard to wrap your brain around it all would be an understatement.
All this racing evolved from a dozen and a half good ol' boys and girls schralping trails and drinking beer around a bonfire on the Sanchez Compound years ago. From that was born the first TDS Enduro. Since then, with the continued guidance of the Sanchez family providing direction and the support of many key sponsors in the local and the mountain bike communities, the TDS has grown from a simple affair to a bucket list item akin to winning a ticket to Willie Wonka's chocolate factory.
A special shout out this year goes to team Semper Fi. The Semper Fi Fund is a four star rated non-profit organization formed to assist injured vets from all branches of the US Military and their families as they recover from injuries and transition back into civilian life. One of the ways they do that is to provide sports and recreation outlets (like mountain biking) for the veterans in their care via sports camps that teach recovering vets how to pursue recreational sports like mountain biking despite traumatic injury—many of the camp attendees are missing limbs or face other handicaps in pursuing a return to recreating as a civilian. At the behest of Sam Tickle, the Team Semper Fi MTB director, Team Semper Fi scheduled a ride clinic on the TDS trails immediately following the enduro. As an appetizer, the team attended the race, with two Team Semper Fi members racing and the remainder opting to spectate. It was great to see the racers and the fans of TDS alike welcome them to the event.
On site camping. Or on-site Glamping? You decide. But the deluxe Tepui cargo rack tents make me err on the glamping side of the equation. Sure, you can get a hotel if you want, but should you get an invite to TDS, camping life is the way to go for the full experience. Yes, you get drunken revelry until O'dark thirty every night, but you also get a ringside seat on what a dozen and a half guys started with some trails and a bonfire years ago. Plus jumps. And shenanigans. And there's no better way to wake up than the smell of bacon frying.
"So... how you wanna do this?" Bromance at its best. TDS is the brainchild of these two tireless MTB racing advocates: Ron Sanchez and Mark Weir hashing out details prior to the main event. It's mostly common sense but there's some important info dispensed, too; skip that meeting at your own expense. Uncle Ron and the Weir Wolf want everyone to have a good, safe racing experience, but they'll only tell you the rules once. So listen up.
There are war stories, and there are war
stories. Many a racer at the TDS was happy to be alive after Saturday's punishment, but many of the spectators were just as happy to be alive to watch the racing. That's exactly the reason team Semper Fi opted to come to the TDS this year.
When it's all said and done, racers took on thirteen stages (one stage was nullified) and spent anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes on the clock. Good times were had. Beers were drunk. A friendly spliff or two may have been passed. Crashes happened. More than one racer went cartwheeling through the "oakpocalypse" of poison oak from the winter rain. There was the multiple bike pile up on "Broke Back" a la the Tour De France. But everyone came away with a grin. As day two wound down to awards, it was plain to see why Marco Osborne—a guy who's raced all over the globe—would call this the best mountain bike race ever. I will be back next year, that's for sure.
And that's a wrap. Special thanks to the Sanchez family for once again killing it, as well as the following groups and organizations that made this event what it is:
Winderness Trail Bikes
Ol Republic Brewery
Clif Bar Company
Tour of Nevada City
Fox Racing Shox
Auburn Bike Company
Semper Fi Fund
Fit Culture Studio
Modus Sport Group
and Hills Flat Lumber.