The final round of the Rocky Mountain Enduro Series brought us to Salida, CO a city back-dropped by the 12,000 plus foot peaks we would be racing down. In the past, the Monarch Crest Enduro was a single event. This year it became part of the Rocky Mountain Enduro Series and fittingly it became the series' final. A three day epic with five stages in the heart of the Colorado backcountry. To lay it out simply take a look at these stats:
- 32 miles of timed descending
- 14,000 feet of elevation loss
- 21 miles of transfers
- 8,000 feet of climbingDisclaimer
: I raced the event and it was my first enduro. I had the time of my life out there. You are surrounded by great people for three days, you put yourself in a position to ride some of the best trails Colorado has to offer in one weekend, you push your physical limits, and you make memories that will last a lifetime. I was truly humbled by both the length of descents and the physicality of the stages. There were stages that left racers buzzing like never before and there were stages that put racers on their knees. It is a race that will make your strengths and weaknesses apparent.
Mother nature sent some snow Wednesday night. The race organizers wanted to get eyes on trails and conditions. Thursday morning we suited up for a possible ride and shuttled to the top of Monarch Pass. The snow line was low that morning and the drive up had everything from doubt and anxiety to excitement and wonder. At the top snow was already slushy but we could see the trail was completely covered.
Onward to Stage 4, Greens Creek... what a rowdy trail to descend in those conditions. The top half had about three to five inches of snow on it making it one of the trickier descents we had ever done. When we got to the lower section the dirt had turned into the hero variety. It was a ride to remember.
This pre-ride helped organizers come to a conclusion; if the sun that was forecasted came out, conditions would quickly become better. The race was a go!
The shuttle brought us to the top of Marshall Pass where racers would encounter the shortest transfer of the weekend to the top of stage one. It was a beautiful day, the sun was out, there was little wind, the temperature was just right, and the fall colors were peaking.
Stage 1 was on Starvation Creek, a 4.5-mile ripping course to get you warmed up to what was in store for the weekend.
At the finish of Stage 1 there was an aid station with not only Honey Stinger bars, goo, and water but also whiskey and bacon. Choices like that are always welcome but racers would not have a choice about the transfer. It was an eight-mile brute with 2,650 feet of climbing. Pick your poison and go.
Stage 2 utilized the Silver Creek trail. The top section was hard racing blind with high-speed sections into tight turns that were easily blown if not on your A game. The lower section got rowdy through rock gardens and tire eating boulder fields.
At the end of the day, racers were already fatigued but the energy level and excitement for the rest of the weekend was through the roof.
A one stage day... but it was the biggest of three days. After a long shuttle ride to Stage 3 transfer, racers were eager to get their legs moving. It was an eight-mile pedal and hike a bike with 3,850 feet of vertical. Racers summited Granite Peak, a 12,620-foot peak, and were greeted by spectacular views. Staying warm wasn't an option, most dropped as quickly as possible. Starting well above tree line and descending deep into the forest below, the trail was incredible. The 9.3 miles with 3,900 feet of descending had racers maxing out heart rates and pushing their physical and riding limits the whole way down. Over thirty minutes of racing later you were at the finish line completely toast and wondering how much more you could have pushed and more importantly how much further to the shuttle. It was then back to town for refreshments and a hearty meal of pasta and cake.
The night before, mother nature wasn't kind to us. Rain in town meant possible snow in the mountains. But, the race must go on. To the top of Monarch Pass we went. It was frosty up there. Luckily the transfer to Stage 4, Greens Creek, was without much hardship other than some cold feet. A bonfire awaited racers at the top of Stage 4 and a quick warming session was much appreciated.
Time to drop! The top section was snowy and slick but that didn't stop racers from pushing hard. The lower section turned things up to eleven with perfect dirt that begged you to push your limits, it was 5th gear pinned to the finish.
At the finish racers were buzzing and on a high from Stage 4. You could feel the groups' adrenaline induced energy. It was those moments that made the weekend so memorable.
A storm could be seen at the top of Monarch Pass and there was a debate if it would be safe, miserable, or dangerous to go up to Stage 5. The decision was split down the middle. All racers were wet and cold and no one could blame each-other for choosing what they chose. About half went back to town and half went back up to the top of Monarch pass to transfer the five miles.
Stage 5, Fooses Creek, was snowy at the top and the drop in was gnarly with a steep chute down into the tree line. The Pro class made the decision to drop as a party train. It was a wild and fun ride down. A perfect way to end the weekend. In the end, Stage 5 would not affect anyone's time. It was a hard decision that the organizers had to make. Ultimately, when you are in the backcountry at high altitudes mother nature will throw curveballs.
For full results visit, http://www.sportident.co.uk/results/2017/RockyMountainEnduroRound5/
Thanks to all who came out and made this race happen! It was one I will always remember.
To sum up the weekend from another racers' perspective: