Jill Kintner & Mitch Ropelato Win the 2023 North American Enduro Cup

Jun 22, 2023 at 11:15
by North-American-Enduro-Cup  
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The 2023 Schwalbe North American Enduro Cup took over the small North Idaho town of Kellogg this past weekend for two days of racing. Almost 300 competitors descended on the Idaho Panhandle to race on some of North America’s rowdiest terrain. Less than two months ago, most of Silver Mountain and Kellogg, Idaho, was buried in snow. There were legitimate concerns that the upper mountain was not going to be available for the 2023 event. But Mother Nature played nice, and after a quick retreat of the snowline, a hallmark of the event was maintained with the 2023 Schwalbe NAEC showcasing two brand-new trails for the event, both of which were completed a couple days before riders started practicing.

Practice

2023 NAEC Practice
FRIDAY
2023 NAEC Practice
Waiting for a trip up the Gondola to start practice.

With the course announced the evening before, riders started their weekend with Practice on Friday. The day treated everyone to incredible dirt, and Schwalbe, Cannondale, Shimano, Transition Bikes, Specialized, Aurum Suspension, Risse Suspension, Clif Bar, Red Bull, Ablis, and Thule got everyone set up by providing amazing Neutral Support. The Cannondale Farm Team kept their grill going and provided a hot meal for riders taking a break.

2023 NAEC Practice
The start of Stage 1 and all of the loam and roots.

2023 NAEC Practice
Practice treated riders to fantastic weather. Not too hot, sunshine, and lots of incredible dirt.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Pro Men's winner Mitch Ropelato getting things dialed during Friday Practice.

2023 NAEC Practice
Junior Expert winner Charlie Connell trying a new application of Cush Core for Practice Day.

2023 NAEC Practice
Pro Woman Spohie Allen in the trees and between the tape.

2023 NAEC Practice
We heard you like roots, so we covered your roots with some more roots. Fifth Place Pro Woman Rachel Pageau surfing some roots.

2023 Schwalbe NAEC Practice Day
The après ride scene in the pits/Neutral Support area.

Race Day 1

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
SATURDAY
2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Jill Kintner with the afterburners on.


Rain fell on Friday night. It was just enough to settle the dirt back down and keep the tacky dirt in place for Race Day 1.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Pro Male Jake Green in the meadow on the fresh-cut Stage 1.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Nikolas Nestoroff on the middle line across the log on Stage 1. Nikolas finished fourth in Pro Men.

Stage 1 sent riders from the Gondola Village and up the lower part of the Silver Mountain Bike Park. After a half-hour pedal, riders ascended to the top of the stage by following tape through the trees. At the top, they dropped in on Mission Accomplished, a trail cut in just for the race. Working with the landowners, the trail was special-built in six weeks for the NAEC and decommissioned as soon as the race was complete. A meandering ribbon of dirt weaved through tight trees with multiple, untested line choices before opening into high-speed meadows, then the stage connected back into a perennial favorite of the SMBP, Man Child.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Pro Woman Megan Tuttle on Stage 1.


2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Austin Gilchrist nearing the bottom of Stage 1.

The transfer to Stage 2 led riders through the towns of Kellogg and Wardner, then up to 5 Corners, a midway confluence of trails in the SMBP. From there, Stage 2 began by heading down Soup Kitchen’s off-camber roots, then into Mom Jeans, a SMBP trail that had its debut in the 2019 NAEC, before leading into the local favorite War Gerbil, another NAEC trail from yesteryear. The three trails tested riders over nearly 3 miles/5k, and the fastest times were just under the 10 minute mark.

From there, riders transferred back to the Gondola Village and took the first of two rides up the Silver Mountain Gondola. This was the first time that riders were able to access Neutral Support during the race, as well as the new-to-the-NAEC Bag Check, where riders could self-support with gear, food, and tools stored in the Neutral Support area.

Schwalbe helped riders get back on course with fresh rubber and cooked tacos for most of the afternoon to keep riders fed. Risse and Aurum were busy rebuilding rear shocks mid-race for competitors and fixing stuck dropper posts to keep riders on course.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Shawn Webby meeting a few of the many, many rocks at Silver Mountain Bike Park.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Pro Male Zach Mehuron emerging from the scree.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Local rider Ella Erickson just missed the podium in 2023, taking 6th in Pro Women.

After riding the Gondola, racers dropped into the steep and technical Hot Beans/Frankenbeans combo. This stage was more of a full-on downhill track, with punchy rocks and steep corners. Although it was short, Stage 3 was one of the most demanding stages on Day 1.

The bottom of Stage 3 left riders with a short pedal to Chair 3 and a quick ride back to the top to start racing again. Stage 4 was a beast, with riders starting on the relatively mellow El Burro Loco before turning onto the second brand-new trail that was debuted for the NAEC. Carnage Asada is a new addition to the Silver Mountain Bike Park that was completed the day before Practice started on Friday. It tested riders with more fresh trail, unestablished lines, and demanded attention to extract flow and speed. After Carnage Asada, riders dropped into the one-two punch of Daisy Downs/Daisy Dukes. Daisy Downs saw a tremendous amount of work put in by the NAEC crew before the race, clearing brush and tidying up lines. Daisy Dukes, a trail built for the 2022 NAEC, was showcased again on Stage 4. A year of riding had turned the trail into a completely different animal than the 2022 trail.

After transferring back to the base, the Sport riders were finished for the day. Everyone else tapped into the Neutral Support again, then headed back up the Gondola for the final stage of racing for Day 1.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Ingrid Larouche took home the Pro Women's Third Place in 2022 and again this year.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Pro Male Tristan Merrill opting for the tree line instead of the dirt line.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
The defending champion from the 2022 Schwalbe NAEC, Jake Keller, dropping in on Stage 5. Jake took home third in Pro Male in 2023.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Junior Sport racer Adeline Dishman making the most of the hero dirt conditions.

Stage 5 used Stix & Stones and Snake Pit. Stix & Stones got a full makeover this year. The NAEC crew cut out a bunch of trees, raked the whole thing top to bottom, and cut in some new line options. Stix is steep, smells exactly like hot brakes, and sounds like carbon eating rocks. And sometimes rocks eating carbon. After Stix, there was a turn onto Snake Pit, where the smell of hot brakes intensified and there were somehow more rocks to navigate.

After the racing ended Saturday, the NAEC crowd headed to The Beanery for a fundraiser benefiting the Lake City Trail Alliance. Locals and racers gathered for food, drinks, live music with LoGee, and a raffle with a bevy of items from Thule, Cannondale, Transition, Silver Mountain, ABLIS CBD, and CDA Bike Co. After a couple hours of lounging in the grass and gorging themselves on nachos and beverages, the party moved to the parking lot for Kawasaki Elektrode racing hosted by Cannondale’s The Farm Team. The little electric Kawasaki bikes and some helmets came out, keg course markers were set, and four person relay racing commenced on the figure eight course. The bikes might have been small, but they’re packed with power. Cheating was highly encouraged, and this ended up being a complete spectacle of wrestling and bike handling skills.

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
Food, music, electric pit bikes, and foosball - what more could you ask for between race days?

2023 NAEC Race Day 1
If you ain't rubbin, you ain't racing.


Race Day 2

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
SUNDAY
2023 NAEC Race Day 2
The Gondolas, pits, and Village on Sunday morning.

Day 2 started with everyone uploading on the Gondola. The first riders on the course were the e-bikes, where they completed a special power stage. They dropped into Hammer, a jump-strewn line that departs from the top of the mountain then hooked into Goat Rodeo. Shortly thereafter, they took an immediate left onto a service road and had a flat-ish sprint on a service road before turning left and heading uphill. Here’s where everyone maxed out their bikes and heart rates by climbing the 360 feet (115m) on El Burro Loco back to the summit. While it was a relatively mellow descent, it proved to be a beast of a climb, even with the e-bikes’ assistance. After passing over the summit, the Power Stage continued and dropped off the other side of the mountain and into Hot Beans and Frankenbeans.

Power Stage


2023 NAEC Race Day 2
John Holloway going up and over a drop on the Power Stage's climbing section.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Kera Linn taking flight.

Stage 6


Once the Power Stage was complete, everyone (including the e-bikes) lined up for the top-to-bottom Stage 6. The stage started on the Hammer and its new raw section before turning into Goat Rodeo. This trail is the SMBP’s offering of a little taste of BC in Idaho, with surfy turns and long root strewn straightaway. From there, riders connected onto Mutton Conductor, which steps up the chunk, roots, holes, and gnar. It’s an absolute hand killer that takes a lot of skill to maintain speed on. After ripping through 5 Corners, next up was Spooky Woods and its roots that have been pounding bikes since the 90's. At the bottom of Spooky Woods, the trail went back onto Day 1’s Mom Jeans and the first part of War Gerbil. After exiting the woods, and crossing the Grassy Knoll, Secret Squirrel was up next, followed by the end of Man Child. Finally, riders crossed Cemetery Road and flowed out on the much-faster-than-you'd-expect Frog Trees. All told, Stage 6 saw only a handful of riders able to dip under 16 minutes for a stage time.
2023 NAEC Race Day 2
It's unclear if the tree was bent before or after Pro Male Peter Romero came through.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Chelsea Kimball hovering over the tacky dirt on the Top-to-Bottom.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Jill Kintner passing by some native foliage on Stage 6.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Junior Expert Dominic Wilson high on Stage 6.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Schwalbe kept the Day 2 Neutral Support game strong with an hours-long taco feed for everyone finishing the race.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Dugan Merrill being spectated by a Bozeman legend, Mike Grimland.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Expert Male Max Franklin taking the high line.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Expert Male Clayton Saxton navigating the log crossings.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
Second Place Pro Male John Richardson enjoying the side knobs on his Magic Mary/Tacky Chan combo.

2023 Schwalbe North American Enduro Cup Official Results

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
The Pro Women's Podium. 1st - Jill Kintner, 53:23.7; 2nd - Porsha Murdock, 54:52.8; 3rd - Ingrid Larouche, 55:09.3; 4th - Carina Claassen, 55:36.4; 5th - Rachel Pageau, 55:52.7.

2023 NAEC Race Day 2
The Pro Men's Podium. 1st - Mitch Ropelato, 44:39.9; 2nd - John Richardson, 44:52.4; 3 - Jake Keller, 45:06.9; 4th - Nikolas Nestoroff, 45:07.4; 5th - Cameron Joye, 45:15.9.

Want more? Take a look at the photos from Practice, Race Day 1, and Race Day 2 right here on Pinkbike!

Author Info:
North-American-Enduro-Cup avatar

Member since Jan 14, 2016
31 articles

20 Comments
  • 9 0
 Big thanks to all the volunteers who made this happen, and Cannondale for keeping the vibes going!
  • 5 1
 Great race - excellent weather and dirt this year.

Good article, but lacking in coverage of the vaunted 50+ expert class Smile
  • 2 0
 Mitch winning on the short travel cannondale? Interesting choice. Was it was super pedally?
  • 3 0
 Interesting that there seems to be a trend of shorter travel bikes doing well in enduro races. Rhys Verner won the EDR on a Druid with a zeb on it, Charlie Murray did really well after switching from an Enduro to a Stumpy Evo, and now Mitch winning on a Habit. Also interesting that the new Meta V5 is 150/160. Hmmmmm....
  • 1 0
 @ewebster50: the other two Cannondale riders that were on the shorter travel Habit crashed out. Everybody else was on the Jekyll. There’s a bit of debate for either travel.
  • 2 0
 People are finally figuring out that 170mm "Enduro" bikes are really not needed for 95% of the enduro races.
Maybe it's time for a Hard Enduro category in the bike world. Smile
  • 3 0
 @sledMXer: just like bar width, you are choosing stability over maneuverability. Mitch has the skills to give up stability more than many. Over biking (especially reach number) is a thing for sure currently, but so are wide bars and other things that actually cause more fatigue because lack of maneuverability in rough terrain making it hard to stay passive, especially on brutal and long stages like the NAEC is famous for.
  • 2 0
 Yeah Dom! haha, sooo sick to see him on pb.
  • 3 0
 Great race report!
  • 2 0
 NAEC = the best race always! See you again next year!!
  • 1 0
 Maybe I’ve been under a rock, but haven’t heard much of Mitch in a while!
  • 2 0
 Well done
  • 2 0
 Nice job mitchster
  • 2 0
 Best race of the year!!
  • 1 0
 That tree totally grew like that, come on!
  • 1 0
 Only hot girls, as well as me write to me ➤ u.to/mWPGHw
  • 4 7
 Is this a one off race, or like the World Champs for a series? I’ll say NA racing is not easy to follow and seems fragmented. Maybe that’s why the winner here finished 82nd in EWS last season.
  • 4 0
 Yeah, that guy in first place is pretty slow. I think is top EWS finish was a 3rd place...
  • 9 0
 This is a confusing comment. He was running a ZEB (probably 160mm at least) Got 3rd at Northstar EWS, won Trans Maderia and Straight Acres dual slalom. He has even (by Pinkbike) been called one of the best all around riders of all time.
Do we need to tell you about Jill Kitner too? She is pretty good too….
Oh and Silver Mountain had very legit trails.
  • 1 2
 International racing is a much different level of competition, the courses are also totally different. Like college football to the NFL. Its like this in every cycling discipline, road, mtb, bmx gravel. etc.







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