KODIAK TOUGH SOUTHERN ENDURO TOUR- ROUND 2: “DINO VALLEY ENDURO” GLEN ROSE TX MARCH 27/28
I was REALLY excited for the Southern Enduro Tour to make it’s way to Dinosaur Valley State Park. The use of trails that are normally only reserved for hiking meant that we would see some of the gnarliest terrain to date. Friday’s pre ride enlightened many rider’s to what that would actually look like. A huge group stopped to walk and session a few different drops on Stages 1 and 4. The decision on whether or not to take the bypass or launch the drop seemed easy for some. Others seemed to be waiting to make that decision mid race run, when the adrenaline would mask reason!
I was very happy with my pre ride. I felt I had great lines on all the really technical sections and the Giant Bicycles USA Trance Advanced 0 and Industry Nine Trail 245 wheels were awesome! There were a few key sections that I felt I may be able to make up a few seconds, I’d just need to nail the lines during my race runs. It was back to the race shop to get the bike and the Skratch Labs bottles prepped for Sunday.
The setup for these one day races is really cool: We head out and do a lap of 5 Stages, come back to the Expo Area to turn in our chip and eat lunch, then head back out for another loop. Kodiak Tough does things right and everyone seems to have a great time!
Race day started off SUPER COLD and I was hoping the temps would come up a bit before we headed out for loop 1. I double checked the Trance was all good, took down a bottle of Skratch Hyper Hydration, and got myself ready to roll. My pack was all set with the various things I might need out on the trail including a bottle of Exercise Hydration, some Skratch Energy Chews, and my riding shoes and socks. Why were those in my pack you ask? Well, one of the first things you have to do once you head out towards Stage 1 is cross a pretty decent sized river. I’m not a big fan of wet shoes or sand and water in my drivetrain. I may have been laughed at by some, but my tactic of carrying my bike across the river in an old pair of gym shoes worked out pretty well for me.
We pedaled up to Stage 1 and I was feeling pretty jacked to get the day going! I decided to go with the full face helmet, a Giro Cipher, for this race since the speeds were high and so was the risk factor. This stage starts off from the top of the ridgeline and immediately bombs downhill for a decent amount. I few quick and loose turns can really wreak havoc if you try to over ride them. As I broke the timing beacons and headed down, my focus was on staying clean through those upper turns and carrying as much speed as possible. I got through well and came to the “big drop” section where you have multiple line choices. Far left is the bypass and looked to be significantly slower. To the right was the faster, but more dangerous line. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since it wasn’t taped when I’d done my pre ride. But the explanation I got from a few riders was spot on and I came into it with my eyes high and had plenty of time to spot my line. I got my bike pointed and boosted right off the ledge and made the sharp left hander. From here, you had to navigate gingerly since the ground was super loose and a bit wet. After dropping down a few more ledges, it was a hard right up a short hill that I felt was faster to ride up. Once you crested it, with legs on fire, it was back on the hammer through some killer root infested singletrack that could really reach out and grab you. A quick right left switch back led you into another decision making section. This is one of the spots where I was super confident in my line choice. I went straight at it, carrying good momentum and rolled off the double drop, making sure to bounce both tires on the second ledge to help me scrub a bit of speed and get set up for a quick left hander and the section that weighed heavy on most peoples minds all weekend. It was a pretty spicy drop section that you approached at a 45 degree angle and had to get pointed straight before you hit it. Add in a major root infestation and baby head rocks everywhere, it was certainly a recipe for disaster. I came charging at it, rolled up high and pointed the Trance down as I hammered off the top of the big ledge. My plan was to land, jump leaning right, jump again leaning further right, and jump one last time, avoiding a major intersection of roots. The cheer of the small crowd that had gathered just reinforced how I felt about my execution. Only a hard left hander remained and the finish beacons were in sight. I was very pleased with Stage 1 and I didn’t feel i’d left any time out there.
Stage 2 started with a steep hike a bike back up the ridgeline. It wasn’t a long pedal to the green signs indicating the start was near. I got set up, affixed my goggles and rolled through the beacons to start my run. “Don’t over ride” was all I kept saying to myself and it worked until the second turn. Inside foot off, just sliding across the marbles and hoping I could keep it upright. This stage was brutal. It seemed impossible to get any sort of rhythm going, but I fought it the entire way, just trying to not leave precious seconds out there. I was thankful it was over and that I’d kept it clean, albeit not that fast.
Stage 3 had a pretty long transfer and gave me some time to enjoy the surroundings. The beautiful landscape, the crisp morning air, and the small bugs that like to fly into your eye. Not even thinking, I raised my gloved hand up to wipe that little guy away and I promptly dislodged my contact lens. I quickly stopped, pulled off my helmet and tried to fix it. But as soon as I got it out of my eye the wind swept it away. I couldn’t help but laugh as I just continued on to the next stage.
Stage 3 starts off with about 30 seconds of wide open pedaling and then the remainder is spent navigating some high speed, rocky, switchbacks and washed out rain ruts. I’m certainly not blind, but only having one contact certainly drained a bit of confidence from me. My hope was to make it through clean and not get caught by one of those ever present mini boulders. It worked and I flashed through the finish beacons and rolled on to Stage 4, one of my favorites.
Stage 4 is a great mix and super loose turns up top, wide open pedaling, and a very technical drop section. My plan here was to keep it low key up top and not wash out on the marbles, get into the the pedal section with some good speed, then get pointed down the drop and not destroy a rear wheel on the way down. Well, a decent mistake left me approaching the pedal section with way less speed than I’d hoped, so I just got up out of saddle and dropped it as hard as I could. At the end of this section is where you have to be really careful. You go from a wide open sprint and drop it down to nearly a crawl as you navigate a LOOSE left hand turn to get setup for a pretty high speed drop. I made the turn, got up high and pointed properly, then let it rip down through the bottom of the stage and through the finish. It certainly could’ve gone better, but I felt I had a decent run.
The transfer to 5 was the biggest of the day. It gave me some time to ponder what was happening with my competitors. The field at this race was pretty stacked and there were a few dudes that love this sort of terrain. My hope was that I’d been able to keep myself close and that I’d have a chance to open it up on the second loop to close the gap.
Stage 5 was one of the coolest! It also started from the upper ridge line and had you almost instantly bombing straight down through the trees. I knew it would be easy to overcook a turn and potentially get caught up in either a massive rock or worse yet, one of those trees. I carried as much speed as I could while keeping it under control and readied myself for the rapidly approaching 180 that would lead down into a few switchbacks, then into the finish. I hit it clean and even managed a little French style nose wheelie on the last turn. Rolling though the finish had me relieved that I’d kept it upright and pretty clean on all five runs. Now it was time to head back to the Expo Area and see where I stood.
Being one of the first riders back, I had to wait it out as rider after rider rolled back to turn in their timing chip. The looks on some of the faces and the bandaged forearms and knees told the story of how menacing the trail could be. Usually we’re able to see our times after the first loop, but the decision was made to keep us “in the dark” and head out for loop 2 not knowing where we stood. My thought process was simple: I felt I was about 15 seconds back and needed to make that up and then some on the these 5 stages. I headed out with two of my closest competitors(and super cool dudes) to Stage 1 and got myself prepped to cautiously attack stage by stage. Both of them had suffered crashed on the first loop, so I figured I was in a better position than previously thought, but that didn’t change the game plan.
Stage 1 again went great! I felt a might have been a bit slower than on loop 1, but it was still good. Prepping to start Stage 2 had me repeating one of my favorite mantras, “slow in fast out, smooth is fast.” About halfway through the stage I couldn’t help but smile as I was NAILING every single line and carrying major speed! I rolled through the finish and couldn’t wait to see the time difference between that run and the first one. It was more of the same on Stage 3 and I headed onto Stage 4 looking to remedy those first loop mistakes. The top section went nearly perfect and carried even more speed than expected onto the pedal section. Knowing I was going much faster than run 1, I just kept it in check and focused on hitting the drop smoothly and finishing strong. It couldn’t have gone better and the transition to five was a good one! I was confident and excited. One more stage and I felt there was a good chance I’d now be 3 for 3 in this series. Five was once again a blast! I even tried to throw in a bit of style for the photographer as a hammered by! The switchbacks came and went as I cruised through the finish and back to the Expo. I couldn’t help but hangout and reflect for a bit as I put my “river shoes” on. What a killer weekend! The weather was near perfect, my bike worked amazingly well, I stayed clean on every run, AND I got to hang out with some of the coolest people around! I train hard and take it very seriously because my goal is to win every time I’m on the bike. But I know that’s not going to happen and having fun is the underlying motivator. I love this sport! I l love the community! First, last, mid pack, it doesn’t matter as long as you are having fun and improving every time you’re out there. If you’ve been curious about checking out an Enduro event, stop thinking about it and do it! It’s some of the most fun you’ll ever have and quite possibly the most growth you’ll experience as a rider.
I rolled back to the Transit Connect and unloaded my gear and grabbed my Skratch Rescue Hydration. After making my way over to the Timing Tent to turn my chip in, I soaked in the atmosphere and listened to as many stories as I could. There were some of defeat, mixing trepidation of an obstacle with reckless abandon. There were also those of pure victory, in conquering what seemed impossible only a few hours earlier. I saw smiles all around and the beer certainly remedied the majority of wounds that were received.
It took a little longer to get the timing sorted out, but I couldn’t have been happier to take another victory in the Southern Enduro Tour! Winning 9 of 10 stages was also a bonus, as was going faster on all but one stage on the second loop. It’s awesome to see the time spent at Phoenix Training Camp paying off! I’ve put the majority of my focus on this Series and it couldn’t be going any better! I’m looking forward to getting back at it so close to home on April 17th, The Sansom “Shred Enduro” is only about 45 minutes away and I have a feeling it will be a rowdy and fast course!
Again, I have to thank Plano Cycling & Fitness for keeping my steeds rolling, Giant, Industry Nine, Skratch Labs, ZOIC Clothing, Esigrips, and Scorpion Bike Stands