It was a chilly Saturday morning down in the Soquel Demo Forest and racers slowly rolled in to get ready for the four stage enduro. I was ready to go early, except I discovered my DOSS dropper post wasn't returning all the way back to the top. I talked it over with a bike shop friend (Steven Lewis) and we figured it was just low on air. It was, but then he put WAY too much air in which I discovered as I tried it out for the first time and it almost broke my wrist it came up so fast. I'm glad I wasn't sitting on it!! So we figured it'd be a good idea to take some air out and remove the eject effect. After a quick riders meeting it was 9am and we were given the ok to start pedaling up the hill towards stage one. This is usually where Scott Chapin and I "race" each other up the hill... which we did... but at a casually brisk pace so we could chat about our other agendas. That being the odd mix of cross and enduro this time of year. He was thinking that it would be possible for him to get down to Salinas and race the CCCX cross race if he finished the enduro quick enough (which he didn't, because he snagged a podium spot at the enduro). And my goal was to "XC the enduro" and finish everything as quickly as possible so I could drive the three hours back to Sacramento and set up our cyclocross course for our race.
We made it to the top in good time and the timing crew were all set up and ready for us to start whenever. Sweet. So off came the arm and knee warmers and on went the goggles for the fun to begin. Stage one was the same as last year but I still felt like I was riding blind. I generally remembered the contours but not the details of what was around each bend.
I felt pretty smooth though but didn't take any risks. After crossing the line I just motored on through and up the transfer climb to stage two. Unfortunately I lost my water bottle somewhere on stage one. Oh well.
When I got back up to the top, that timing crew was ready to rock as well (awesome!). So I took a swig of water from one of the guys and was off hammering down the ridge trail before turning down Braille Trail. This stage is really fun and flowy with tons of spots to jump off obstacles and pick up a bunch of speed quickly before several g-out gulleys and short climbs.
Again, I felt smooth except for one close call when a rock kicked my back end the wrong way and I shouldered a tree to stay upright. I didn't really feel fast though as I didn't really remember every line over the many blind knolls and corners. But I rolled through the finish and continued on and climbed up to stage three.
I got to the top at 10:30 and was on good pace to finish everything and be on the road again by noon. And the timing crew was all in place and looked ready to go here too. But then they told me they couldn't start anyone before 11. "What?! It's 10:30! Damn." It didn't make any sense to me since there was no traffic on the trail from prior stages. But thankfully one of the guys started checking the radio and he got the ok to start me at about 10:40. Awesome! And I was off! Stage three is one of the more technical stages and also the longest of the day. With plenty of rooted and rocky steep sections up top, tight in the trees. I was making my way through pretty well until I came out of a tight left and saw there was a cut off tree stump really close to the trail on exit. I carried the lean out of the corner a little longer and cleared the stump with my front wheel, but brought the bike back up too quickly which caught my right shoe on the stump. BOOM!!! Like I'd hit a land mine I was ejected up and over, landing about 15ft down the trail... on my back... on some roots. Still sliding I rolled over just before the bike tumbled over me. I was totally stunned and couldn't breathe. I'd landed on a root right about where my left kidney is and also where my multi tool and pump were in my jersey which didn't help. After moaning a bit and getting up slowly, I made sure all the bits were still where they should be and were operational. My right hand took a crunch and was hurting a bit and my lower back was really in pain. I had a headache too. But the bike didn't have a scratch on it and I knew I needed to get moving to stay loose, so I got back on my horse and continued on. I certainly couldn't push it and was just trying to get through the rest of the race. I couldn't dive into the corners at all because holding myself up against the g-forces really hurt my back. Especially on the last stage which was the new flow trail. It was fun, and I finished, but I could hardly hold on.
A lot of people were climbing up to stage three as I finished up the final stage and I was still making good time. The climb out of the canyon back to the car seemed endless and hurt... man did it hurt. I packed up and was on the road before noon. Awesome! I got back and was able to help set up the course for our cross race which turned out to be really successful. I'm really glad I had the support system to make getting down to Santa Cruz and racing the enduro possible. I really wanted to finish out the series like I'd planned to at the beginning of the year. With the crash in Santa Cruz and my course mix-up at Mammoth a few weeks prior, my results weren't were I'd hoped they'd be but I still managed to place 10th overall for the series. I'm even more stoked for my teammate Ryan who captured the overall win for the series! The Tallboy LTc rocks!