The weekend of racing at Mammoth Mountain wrapped up Sunday with the National Enduro Championship. Racers began Stage 1 early in the morning at the top of the mountain, then dropped down a course nearly identical to Saturday’s pro downhill track. Stage 2 was held on the north side of the mountain, and involved an extended pedaling section at the top, while Stage 3 wound its way down the south side, dumping racers out on the lower half of the dual slalom course. The day ended with Stage 4, which began on a fire road and followed almost the same path as the first stage down to the finish area.
Weather conditions at the start were more favorable than the sweltering days previous, with good cloud cover and a stiff breeze to help cool riders off. However, the mountain remained as dry and dusty as ever and racers slipped and slid through the loose, rocky terrain as they pushed their limits.
Racers were greeted by this view as they rode the chair up for Stage 1.
The start box for Stage 1. The first rider dropped at 8am.
The top of Stage 1 was nearly identical to the downhill course. Seamus Powell drops in to start off the pro men’s race.
Mitch Ropelato was fastest down Stage 1, and proceeded with three consecutive second-place finishes. His overall time earned him the stars-and-stripes jersey.
Cody Kelley was looking smooth and fast all day-fast enough to stay in the top ten on every stage and to get on the podium with fifth place overall.
Brian Lopes was absolutely charging on Sunday. He was just behind Ropelato on Stage 1, then went on to two third-place finishes and was fastest down Stage 4. His combined time got him the silver.
Riders left the ski run for a short jaunt in the trees. This rock was about the only solid part of a section filled with deep sand and peppered with small rock drops. More than a few riders had trouble staying upright through here. Drew Anderson, 13th overall, prepares to get loose.
Adam Craig comes up for air on Stage 2, which featured an extended pedaling section. The bell on his bar is for making his way through course traffic.
Seamus Powell leads the way down stage 3, which had a flat, pedaley section in the middle. Powell chose to keep his full face on, as Stage 4 followed much of the same course as the technical Stage 1.
Mitch Roelato looked calm and collected while he pinned it down Stage 4.
They don’t call him Flyin’ Brian for nothing. Despite being officially retired, Lopes is still one of the fastest riders around. He came down with a time of 29:11, just shy of Ropelato’s winning time of 29:03.
Kyle Warner keeping things low and fast down to the finish. Warner had a bobble on Stage 1 and came down fifth, but then won the next two stages and ended the day with third place on Stage 4. His overall time was good enough for a bronze medal.
Just before the sprint to the finish on Stage 4, there was a short technical plunge through the trees. Chris Powell used all his travel as he scrubbed speed for a sharp corner after a small, but steep drop. Powell finished 12th overall, just over two-and-a-half minutes behind Ropelato.
The pro women dropped about an hour and a half after the pro men. Olypic cross-country medalist Georgia Gould was the first woman down the hill. She wasn’t as strong as the fastest women on the technical first stage, coming down fourth, but kicked things up a few notches for three back-to-back second-place finishes to earn the silver.
The enduro course skipped the big rock garden on Stage 1 that was in the pro downhill race Saturday, and elected to use the longer go-around. Even though it wasn’t filled with large boulders, the alternate route was steep and very loose. Lauren Gregg looked in control through this section, and was nipping at the heels of the leaders all morning, finishing third in the pro women’s category.
Just as the pro men were finishing Stage 4, Jill Kintner was finishing up Stage 2. This pitch is steeper than it looks and covered with a couple inches of soft pumice and sand. Kintner had a decisive lead over the rest of the pro women’s field at this point, coming down first in Stages 1 and 2.
Laugen Gregg looked unfazed by this steep rooty section on Stage 3.
Erica Tingey had a bit of a bobble in the roots above, but managed to get back on her bike in the midst of the roots and rocks. Tingey finished ninth on Stage 3, but was eighth overall at the end of the day.
Don Leet may have been last in his 60+ category, but he had an infectious smile on his face the whole way down. Just before this photo was taken, Leet almost crashed not once but three times in the rock garden above. When he made it through, the crowd vigorously cheered him on to the finish.
Rachel Throop looking for the right line through the rocks ahead. Throop excelled on the technical parts of the enduro, coming down in second on Stage 2, and then placing fourth on the last three stages.
Throop rode aggressively through the last portion of the course and was fourth fastest overall for the event, just over three minutes off of the winning time.
According to Kintner herself, she hadn’t pre-ridden the last two stages of the enduro. The lift that riders took up for the last run went directly over this section of Stage 4, and as Kintner was riding up I heard her call down to a spectator to ask if the trail below was in fact Stage 4. She rode the stage plenty fast nonetheless.
Despite not knowing the final runs of the race, Kintner had a decisive victory over the rest of the pro women’s field. Her 34:54 time was over two minutes ahead of Georgia Gould’s second place time of 37:12.
Pro women’s podium. #1 Jill Kintner, #2 Geogia Gould, #3 Lauren Gregg, #4 Rachel Throop, #5 Amy Rambacher
Men’s podium. #1 Mitch Ropelato, #2 Brian Lopes, #3 Kyle Warner, #4 Adam Craig, #5 Cody Kelley
The men’s podium broke up rather quickly as Cody Kelley and Kyle Warner decided to attack Mitch Ropelato with their victory beers. Brian Lopes fled the scene to avoid the foaming alcohol, but Adam Craig stuck around for the show.
Kelley and Warner soon ran out of ammo and Ropelato gave chase.
Revenge was had!
Full results at usacycling.org.