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.
Private Property. Respect the rules. You want to ride here? Do your part and dig and give back. There is no free ride here.
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.
"Where the f*ck do we go now?" "How about we do 'Coors Light' so we can hit 'Bloody Knuckles' again." Tasha Thomas and Joanna Petterson exchanging notes on trail links during the full tilt boogie of the TDS Enduro's practice on Friday.
Training and trail selection brilliance; a typical training run consists of following, say, the Miller's Beer can, and dropping in on 'Hey Buddy' to 'Casey's' to 'Moose Knuckle' to 'Axe Grinder'. Or follow the Mickey's Beer can and do Upper and Lower 'Casey's' to 'Moose Knuckle' to 'Angry Dolphin' to 'Cupcake'. Sound confusing? It is, but just follow the beer cans designation and it'll all work out. But it's definitely a game of choose your own adventure during practice.
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.
Team Semper Fi members with Mark Weir and Ron Sanchez. These are a crew that's been there and done that. Many have PTSD or traumatic physical injuries. But coming to the TDS and being just another racer or just another fan? Priceless.
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.
You want traction? You can't handle the traction.
Party train practice laps were the flavor on Friday. Riders were getting in as many training laps as they could; partly in an effort to get tracks dialed in, but mostly because it was a brown pow kind of day: the dirt was so good that the term "velcro dirt" best described the grip in the corners during practice. Plus, the reality of the situation is that with the rat's nest of trails at the Sanchez compound, without a LOT of training runs, on race day it'll be a game of multiple guesses unless you've put your time in. Sure, certain sections of trail like "Vigilante" and "Godfather" are hard to forget, but even Ron Sanchez admits he'll occasionally get turned around on a ride.
Shuttles courtesy of Polaris ORV... the access roads at the TDS venue aren't proper roads so much as they're steep, road-width paths hacked out of the surrounding mix of manzanita, pine, and poison oak. They're anything but shuttle vehicle friendly. Unless your shuttle rig is a modified Polaris Ranger capable of carrying up to six bikes and riders at a pop. These little babies are absolutely the way to get in those laps.
Cory Sullivan diving into Godfather, one of the more memorable tracks at the TDS. So much of the trails are composed of high-speed toboggan runs down manicured berms that when you come into something like "Godfather", with it's craggy, sharp, basalt steps mixed with off-camber corners, it's a bit of a shock to the system.
Hurts so good—Bobbie Chandler carcassed hard on the brief "Vigilante Trail" practice near the day's end and put a fun tattoo into his palm. He'd race stages one through five on Saturday, but ultimately he DNF'd after a rough encounter with a tree on the bottom of "Oak Shaft". Next year, Bobbie, next year.
Again, Ol Republic Brewing was part of the party, supplying a post practice/pre-race soiree at the brewery with food trucks and a tasty selection of beverages on hand. Race days saw goggle man cans of IPA dispensed on site for those of legal drinking age in exchange for donations for trail upkeep. My personal choice? "Chocolypto": an imperial stout aged in tequila barrels.
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.
Race day came way too early for Nathan Riddle: there wasn't quite enough coffee on tap to fuel up the Santa Cruz/WTB hard man first thing in the am—better go get a second cup.
Die hard fans come to the party ready for action.
"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.
Hi Tech gate starts... For real. Timing chips on the forks handle real-time timing; but racers need a "start", hence the rubber band start line.
"Oak Shaft" done right...
...and "Oak Shaft" done wrong.
Dynaplug was the way to go at TDS. Nearly every racer came across one or more of the finish lines with tire sealant spewing everywhere. Brice Shirbach used three plugs to seal up this gaping wound dished out on Stage 2 of day one. And it was good enough to hold all day long.
Post race pies courtesy of the Pizza Company. Beer, pizza, and good times kinda go hand in hand, after all.
Every dog has his day, though. Especially when Seth from Camelbak is cooking tri-tip on the grill.
From a dozen and a half guys with beer, bikes, and a bonfire, the TDS has shed its pimples and headed to upper-class education. This year's edition saw a Whip Off contest open to any and all racers. Jon Buckle sent it sideways more so than most to take home the bacon.
Loading up for the giddy up. Camelbak came through with a do-it-yourself breakfast burrito buffet open to all racers for the start of day two.
Many racers got fired up by watching the live stream of the finals of the Lourdes WC at the breakfast buffet. Ahh, technology.
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.
Even with a 22-second cushion heading into day two, Marco Osborne kept it all business. He may have stayed up until the wee hours toasting smores at the bonfire, but that was the extent of whooping it up for the racer sporting the number one plate. And like every other racer at the event, Marco opted to wear the American Flag Sock Guy socks as a way to show solidarity and respect to the Team Semper Fi members racing and spectating at the event.
Some things seen during the TDS Enduro simply cannot be unseen.
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.
Selected volunteers were awarded an Onyx Hub laser etched with Buddy Newman's signature and his Goggle man logo.
How do you win the spirit leader award at TDS? You go hard everywhere. Aaron Bradford not only raced hard, he partied hard, and he got shit done as a Shimano race tech, putting fellow racer's bikes in line ahead of his en route to a bloodshot 25th place. Not too shabby for a guy turning wrenches full time for Shimano and Modus Sport Group.
Women's top three (LtoR): Ariana Altier (3), Joanna Petterson (1), and Amy Morrison (2).
Men's top four (LtoR): Mason Bond (4), Danny Chiang (2), Marco Osborne (1), and Scott Countryman (3).
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 Camelbak Polaris ORV Clif Bar Company Tour of Nevada City Cannondale Fox Racing Shox Team Soulid Sock Guy Nature's Bakery Camp Chef G-Form Protection E-13 Components Sacramento Cyclocross Auburn Bike Company
Semper Fi Fund Violich Farms Dunn Vineyards Thule Racks Red Bull Onyx Racing DG Prints Telestream Dynaplug Fit Culture Studio Santo Mezquila Loam Coffee Tecnu Outdoor Manito Construction Modus Sport Group and Hills Flat Lumber.