The 2021 North American Enduro Cup brought racers back to scenic Idaho for one of the first North American EWS qualifiers of the season, with racers traveling from all over the U.S. to visit Silver Mountain Bike Park. Silver Mountain is in the sleepy town of Kellogg, Idaho, and is a hidden gem of the inland Northwest (though it seems like every year, more and more people discover how great it is). The trails are long and rough, descending 3,400' from the top of North America's longest gondola down to town. Every foot of descent packs a punch, too, with gnarly tech trail options almost the entire way, plus some berms and jumps.
This was the fifth North American Enduro Cup at Silver, and the competition just keeps becoming more stacked each year. With a $12,000 prize purse and trails on par with full-on EWS races, it's easy to see why the stout EWS qualifier attracts so much talent.
Part of the appeal of Silver Mountain is the parking lot scene. Most of the racers camp in the parking lot, where there's ample space for vans, campers, and tents to spread out (even though they started charging for overnight parking last year, not that I'm bitter about that or anything). Those who slept in vehicles or tents in the parking lot got to listen to the rain come in around 2 a.m. and dream about the wet roots and wild trails they would face in the morning.
The race started off with a solid climb to wake up the legs and maybe brains, taking riders up roughly 2,000' to Stage 1, a series of trails seemingly made entirely of off-camber wet roots. Right off the bat, the race began to separate those who were comfortable in the conditions from those who were not.
After racing Stage 1 and taking the gondola back to the top, riders tackled Stage 2, which went quickly and gave riders the opportunity to ride some tech in friendlier conditions.
Stage 3 was another long stage, sending riders through a flow trail to a series of increasingly technical sections, finishing on a fresh-cut series of steep corners with plenty of opportunities to take (or miss) high lines or get trapped in the soft edges of the brand new trail.
After Stage 3, the Sport categories were done for the day, but everyone else climbed back up to the top (with a chairlift assist for the last section) before continuing on to the top of Stage 4. Stage 4 included some of the toughest standalone features of the race, while Stage 5 as a whole was a relentless mess of slick roots dropping into one of Silver's toughest downhill tracks, Snake Pit.
After five tough stages Saturday, racers had a bit of a break, then tackled the 4.4mi, 3,400ft descent that was Stage 6. The stage took riders down a series of rough tech trails, testing how long they could hold on, before dropping them onto an up-and-down off-camber trail and finishing with a pedally flow trail through the trees.
It was a full weekend for the racers, and despite (or maybe because of?) all the suffering, I'm sure everyone is already looking forward to next time.