Words by Joey Schusler
Photos by Nick Ontiveros
We woke up with a fresh dusting of snow on the high peaks above Crested Butte. It had rained all night on the trails, leaving them in a greasy peanut-butter-like state. Today was going to be wild to say the least!
As per usual the shuttle loaded up after some much needed coffee and breakfast and we were off. By day three of the Crested Butte Ultra Enduro, racers had started to settle into the groove and everything seemed to be going a whole lot more smoothy. At this point I think all the racers were able to appreciate the long drawn out climbs, as well as the intense brake burning descents. Each were very fun in their own right. It’s been really cool to see riders that would normally throw in the towel have so much support from friends and peers at this race and press on day after day. People have definitely been overcoming some physical and mental limits during this race.
We climbed up and up and up until we reached a huge open meadow surrounded by Aspen trees and far down below we could see the town of Crested Butte, where we had been just a few hours prior. Racers were really taking in the experience with views like this. I even caught a few people taking selfies with the town in the background!
I was definitely concerned with how slippery the course was going to be, and rightfully so. It was fast and covered with roots and muddy slime. I had a total blast sliding around from one rut to the next. I certainly wouldn’t say that I ever really felt in control. At the finish line everyone all had their own sketchy stories, and from what I could gather most people had at least a crash or two. Overall I would say this stage was very uncharacteristic of Colorado and more in line with something you would ride on the East Coast or the Pacific Northwest after a big rain storm.
One thing that has really stood out this week is how incredibly fast the trails have been. Of all my years racing enduro and downhill on all different levels, I have never raced tracks that are this fast. Jerome Clementz recorded speeds nearing 50 mph on stage four! This is definitely a scary thought considering that about 90 percent of racers are doing this in a half-shell helmet. Many of the trails we are riding are mostly just ridden by moto’s and are far off in the backcountry. Big Moutnain Enduro has done an incredible job making sure there is medical staff on all stages and the logistics as a whole have been beyond dialed.
The second stage today was perhaps one of the most challenging of the entire weekend. No one had really had a chance to pre-ride it, so we were all a bit in the dark dropping in. It was a narrow ribbon of single track mixed with dozens of tight switchbacks. The tricky part was that there were some sniper rocks on the side of the track just begging to grab your pedal and send you cartwheeling down the hill. To top that off, there was tall grass everywhere, which made it almost impossible to figure out when the next turn was coming up. I was just scanning the trail for skid marks to figure out when to get on the brakes for the next turn.
Luckily today was cut a bit short with the cancellation of stage 3 and racers finally had an extra few hours of daylight to rest, recover, and dial in their bikes. Day three is in the books and we are in the home stretch now with 4 stages to go!