Friday, October 18, 2013

Santa Cruz Super Enduro Race Report

I missed out on the inaugural event last year since it was only a fifty rider field.  But this year I was lucky enough to get one of the two hundred spots that sold out in under two hours after registration opened... and so did my teammates Marshall and Ryan.  Sweet!  We don't get the chance to ride together often so we were all looking forward to it.  I drove down Friday night and stayed at my in-laws who live only thirty minutes away.  And I was enjoying the relaxed diet of enduro as compared to XC... I ate WAY too much apple crisp dessert my mother-in-law made with apples from their trees.  Oh well... chalk it up to carbo loading!  That and the four packets of oatmeal I had in the morning... :-)

The race venue was in the canyon right smack dab in the middle of the San Andreas fault.  And as Santa Cruz Bicycles employee and racer Scott Chapin explained to me... those mountains are moving that way and those mountains over there are moving that way (opposite).  I think he was expecting the earth to just open up under our feet.  Marshall and I debriefed that convo while trying to stay warm.  Notice my thermal jacket! (And new baggies so I'd fit in a little better)
After the racers meeting... 8:30am came and went.  And we were just standing around killing time, expecting somebody to yell "GO!" or something.  About 15 minutes went by before someone came up to us and said "I just came down from my car and I think they're sending people off, numbers 1-30 or something..." Well it wasn't even that official, but pro's needed to get to the top by a certain time.  I was number 27 and Scott was number 1.  He was freaking out a little bit figuring he would have to be the first one to go off at the top (which wasn't the case... if we'd actually been listening during the riders meeting!) so we set out at a blistering (for enduro) pace up the hill, passing racers left and right.  About five minutes into the climb we still hadn't warmed up yet!  He eventually backed off but I kept up the pace because it felt good to open up the legs... or work out the apple crisp... however you want to call it!  Eventually I got to the top and start of the first stage... and was the first one there.  TRANSITION STAGE WIN!!!!  

After about twenty minutes of chillin' it was finally time to line up and take to "Special Stage 1" which started out on the rolling "Ridge Trail" before dropping down onto Corral.  Since I'd been sitting around so long it was a cold jump start to the system.  From stationary to full sprint out of the gate... oh... and don't hit any trees!
Ridge trail is pretty awesome but definitely one of those trails where it pays to really know it.  And I didn't.  I was checking up way too much in the corners where I probably could have kept pedaling.  And I totally got detracted by some cheering hooligans drinking beer at 9:45am and almost sideswiped a tree in a corner I forgot was there.  Oh well... SUPER fun!  The trails were dry and loose so almost every corner had the potential for washout.  And they all made me feel like I had a tire going down because even my WTB Vigilante up front was drifting!  On the Corral fire road I opened it up and put my head down.  I laid into one corner a bit too much and almost lost it, then I looked down to check my tire pressure and when I looked up, TAPE!!  I swerved left and hit the little hip jump they'd taped off.  My bad for not looking ahead!  The rest of the stage had many more of those taped off diversions, and some of them were a little confusing, making a zig zag down the fire road and up features on the sides.  But I finally came to the finish and skidded to a stop with a good lung sear.  I rolled down to the aid station where a bunch of riders gathered.  It was like we'd never ridden bikes before... everyone was coughing and hacking from the cold start.  Someone said their feet hurt!  Ryan and Marshall came down shortly after with the same feelings but were all smiles from the fun trail.  

It was starting to warm up so I ditched all my cold gear and started up the climb with the guys.  Eventually I was all by myself climbing again.  I was in my easiest gear, and a comfortable cadence!  I felt like if I went slower I'd waste energy.  Oh well... I figured I'd just chill at the start of SS2 for a bit and relax before hitting it again.  Wrong!  When I got to the start area, the starters waved me on and said they wanted to keep people moving through.  I looked around... nobody else there... Ok well I guess I'll go!  I got to the start line and this is literally how my start countdown went:

Starter: "30 seconds to start."
I'm just finishing putting my goggles back on...
Starter: "10 seconds... 5...4...3...2...1... oh wait!"
Me: "Uhh.. What?!" (Laughing... I take my hands of the bars)
Starter: "Ahh.. oh well.. GO!"

And so I was off... and the "WTF WAS THAT!?" thought in my head about the start sequence soon left and a big smile returned as I hammered down another section of Ridge Trail towards "Sawpit."  
 The bottom of Ridge Trail has an off camber rock garden which I nailed faster than in practice a week before, as well as the next two rooty sections.  Sweet!  Then came the climb up to the top of Sawpit.  This shouldn't have been a big deal... but man did it BURN!!!  I felt so gassed!  But at least I kept it in the big ring.  Sawpit is pretty awesome as well with some steeper sections, tons of turns and a few spots to really open it up.

With another clean run I was happy and having a blast.  I knew I'd left some time out on the course, braking a little too much into corners and almost flying off the trail in another spot.  I was just having fun and really enjoying "racing" in such a relaxed atmosphere.  Marshall and Ryan came down feeling good about the day as well, but Ryan was a little frustrated with a minor washout.  We chatted for a bit and then headed back up the hill for the final stage of the day.
We had to wait a bit for the start crew to be ready for us before letting loose on Braille Trail.  This is the steepest of the three trails and definitely the gnarliest.  There are features built up all over, some of which are faster and some slower.  Right after the start and first sweeping corner, my eyes went straight for the line which ended up being slower, a go-around instead of a jump over a tree.  Oh well.  Time to pedal hard and make it up!  I bottomed out all the suspension my Tallboy LTc had to give in a couple g-outs and let 'er rip on the straight spots.  This trail is a blast!  As I came down towards the end there were people cheering all around the final few turns through the trees... pretty cool!
I almost lost it through that last S-turn before the log... my front tire washed and then suddenly grabbed and "barked" at me as I almost high-sided!  Thankfully the tire didn't come off the rim and I jumped the log and sprinted around the next corner to the finish.
We hung around at the bottom of Braille for a while, chattin' it up and debriefing on just how awesome the morning had been.  But that was the problem... the day was "over" and it wasn't even noon yet!  So the three of us and Ryan's buddy Jeremy headed back up for a little "team ride" fun on Ridge and Sawpit.  That post race ride with the guys was so awesome... just ripping the trail wheel to wheel!  I wish we had some cameras!  I couldn't see squat with the dust, but I was the only one with goggles so I was sittin' caboose.  Oh well!  Riding so close was sweet.  I wadded up in the rock garden on lower Ridge... oops!    
If the race itself didn't put a big enough smile on our faces, that ride certainly did!  We didn't even mind the climb back out because we knew our "finisher ribbons" were waiting and some enduro "recovery."
After final results were posted, I ended up 24th for the pro men.  Marshall was 18th and Ryan 19th.  But I'm not disappointed at all... I had a blast and I love hangin' and ridin' with not only my teammates but all the other cool racers I've come to know over my first season with enduro racing.  I will DEFINITELY be hitting these up next year!


  1. Hi Clint I'm the start timer who gave you a hard time at stage SS 2 and I'm sorry if I messed with your mojo , we were under a lot of pressure to get it right, glad you had are great time and will becoming back next year cheers Aussie Bob !

    1. Hah no worries Bob! Believe me I know how difficult it can be to get timing right. Thanks for being out there!