Words by Joey Schusler
Photos by Nick Ontiveros
No shuttles today. We got to sleep in a bit, as we only had one stage to accomplish. The extra rest was much needed, and I saw a level of excitement in the racers now that we were in the home stretch of the 5 day epic.
The town of Crested Butte has been in a state of near chaos for the last day due to an experimental advertising campaign by Bud Light, where they have taken over the entire town and have had a huge obnoxious party. I couldn't think of a more harsh contrast of fit athletic enduro MTB racers and frat boy partiers clad in Bud Light apparel.
Once we were out of the hectic downtown dubbed, "Whatever, USA," we were back in the wilderness riding our bikes, which was quite a refreshing thought. We pedaled up to the top of stage one as a large group. Josh Carlson made quite an impressive move by holding a wheelie all the way up Keebler pass to the turn off to Green Lake. A 3-kilometer wheelie uphill at a decent pace. Props to you Josh!
From Keebler pass we banked up a 1,500-foot hike-a-bike. As we reached the top, we found ourselves in yet another stunning alpine setting! This week has been truly something special, and everyone that I have talked to has been humbled by the unforgiving terrain.
Stage one for the day was a game of contrasts. The top section was some of the fastest and most ripping singletrack we have ridden all week. After 5 minutes, I found a rhythm and at a certain point I started to go faster and faster as my confidence built. Once we hit the halfway mark, things changed for the worse for racers’ legs and lungs. Punchy climb linked up with punchy climb and I found myself struggling to keep moving forward. I knew I was on a smoking run, so I kept on pushing. The finish line was nothing but comical. Riders were laid out gasping for air and everyone was almost too short for breath to even converse with each other. The only rider to come through and not be completely out of breath was Jerome Clementz, and go figure, he even took the win for the stage! I was happy to have a good run and slot into the 4th spot.
After the one and only stage for the day was complete, it was time to head to the bike park and get a few practice laps in for the three final stages. By this point in the event, everyone has really gotten to know each other well and it has begun to start feeling more like an awesome riding vacation with a ton of friends. We were all lapping out run after run. It felt a bit like cheating to be taking the chair lift up after a week of self supported backcountry runs, but at the same time none of us were complaining. It was nice to be able to see the stages before we race them tomorrow and actually get a sense of where to go; I think it will change the dynamic. I'm especially excited for the last two stages, which are full on DH tracks. I will definitely be gunning for stage wins!
So far its been a total blast. I'm not sure what I will do on Monday when I wake up and have to get back to work. I just want to ride my bike with this crew everyday! What an incredible event it has been so far. One more day to go!