IMBA National Enduro Series Stop #2: Big Mountain Enduro at Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Northern Idaho is stunning, the mountains are tree covered, and the view is amazing. We spend some time soaking up the scenery and breathing the fresh mountain air, but now it’s time to check out the trails!
It’s Friday, breakfast is ready and the gondolas are moving! Racers are taken to the top of Silver Mountain to pre-run the stages they’ll be racing over the weekend. Let it begin!
The stages prove to be gnarly AND steep. The consensus is; there’s no time for sitting in the saddle! A few riders come down the mountain and head straight to the bike shop to purchase new break pads. The racers have had a rough day bouncing down some of the longest stages they have ever ridden, but despite the sore muscles and scratches, spirits are high enough to hit the waterpark at Silver Mountain for some active recovery.
As I’ve mentioned before, IMBA’s goal and reason for sending a team to these six locations throughout the summer is to promote trail advocacy, especially before and after the races. It takes a lot of work to prep an enduro course for hundreds of riders not to mention the clean up after the crowd fades. Trail advocacy and education are crucial to the efforts made by those who maintain trails. Our assistance in these efforts can provide further opportunity to host races on trails like the ones here at Silver Mountain.
I had a chance to speak with some volunteers who are part of the Idaho Enduro Series. They were gearing up to help mark the course and prep the trails for pre-riding and race day. Curious about their local mountain biking community, I asked how they rally volunteers to help out.
“Social media is the best way most groups communicate. The problem seems to be that the enthusiasm to help out normally tapers out towards mid season.” James Lang
So, how do riders get excited about working with dirt, sometimes for hours? The Idaho volunteers suggested, perhaps building some new features or adding more trail. Those aspects may be more exciting, but the overarching issue is finding volunteers to maintain them once the trails are built! When asking the local bike shop owner about the surrounding trails (other than Silver Mountain), he mentioned a trail nearby, but nobody takes care of it, so it may not be the best place to ride. Bummer!
Rachel Mauden and her husband are big in the cycling community around here. When it comes to their 12-year old son who is already racing enduro, they’ve gotten creative with teaching him about trail work.
“He’s volunteered at every Idaho Enduro Series race that we’ve attended and he earns his entry fee.” Mike Mauden
Educating kids about trail maintenance and trail etiquette is crucial. The number of kids racing mountain bikes around here is multiplying quickly. The same could be said for the Midwest. These kids are the next generation of riders and we need them to be conscious about building and maintaining sustainable trails.
“It starts with the parents, and the adults.” Rachel Mauden
Last year, there were about 12 racers under the age of 17. This year, there are 34!
280 racers took on this NAEC two-day race that features intense and diverse stages, as well as some serious elevation gain. The PRO payout tipped the scale at $12,000, one of the biggest payouts in North America, and was equally handed out to the top five PRO Men and PRO Women athletes.
Back to the race…
Day 1 is marked by steep trail, sharp switchbacks, roots and random dips that make it impossible to go slow. The single-track winds through heavily forested areas and kicks you back out to a road with scenic overlooks that blur by as you commit to speeding down the mountain. The racers take a full body beating on Day 1 from the combo of speed and rocks. Many complain of sore hands and fingers from all the breaking and gripping their handlebars during the “freak out” moments.
Stage 1 is fast from top to bottom and will rattle you until your hands are numb.
Stage 2 has the characteristics of a true downhill course with big drops and some fun wooden features.
Stage 3 was the longest stage for Day 1 at 5.5 miles, descending 3,100 feet.
Day 2 starts with a grueling 11-mile climb up a logging road with 4,300 feet of elevation gain. By the time riders make it to the top, their legs are screaming. Many folks rest in the shade for a while before getting in line for the next decent.
Stage 4 is a PRO only, double black diamond segment called Hot Mess.
Stage 5 is a top to bottom decent. You could say the racers definitely earned their downhill.
“The risk-reward factor was really high and I think I rode that stage conservatively. I needed to go fast but couldn't risk crashing.” Jimmy Smith, racer
Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho is private property, which in some ways makes it easier to host a race here. When you work with city, or state parks, or even the forest service, there can be an immense amount of red tape. Either way, if there are multi use trails, it’s critical that mountain bikers and other trail users come together to protect and enhance those trails. By doing so, we can have more races in more places! Isn't that something worth volunteering for?