To say my anticipation for this event was high is an understatement. I haven’t looked forward to a “race” as much as this in quite some time. Very quickly, the Enduro format is different than the typical Cross Country(XC) races I’ve been competing in. Enduro combines actual cross country riding with timed stages. These stages are generally more downhill focused and even have some very technical sections. The idea is to ride your fastest during these timed sections and have the lowest combined time once they are all completed. It hearkens back to the early days of Mountain Biking, riding for the pure fun of it!
There were a few key components to my excitement; 1- There aren’t many Enduro’s this close to home. 2- I was very curious to see where I fit in on the Enduro spectrum. 3- I wasn’t quite sure how my Mach 429 would handle the terrain. To be frank, I felt going into the day that it might actually handicap me a bit. Well, I was certainly wrong!
My weekend started with a less than stellar pre ride on Friday. The weather hampered the delivery of a crucial piece of equipment, a dropper seat post. Lowering my seat from it’s typical XC height made quite a difference, but it was still sketchy on a few sections. With no course markings up yet, I sessioned what I felt were the first two stages of the race. Although comfortable with some lines I was able to find, I was still leery at not pre-riding the 3rd and 4th stages.
Thankfully, my dropper arrived in the nick of time and I was able to install it on Saturday night. I went through my Mach 429 one last time and hoped the weatherman’s rain predictions were wrong. The drive to the venue was going well, I was focusing on my strategy for the day, and then the rain started to fall. I pulled into Dinosaur Valley Park in Glen Rose TX to a light drizzle and proceeded to check in to acquire my German Sportident Air+ timing chip. This system is incredible and was lauded by all the “seasoned” Enduro riders present.
After loading two bottles of Skratch Exercise Hydration into my bag, I Headed out onto the first of two laps. I basically just did my best to blend in with the sea of high dollar all mountain machinery. I was a bit intimidated at not only the suspension advantage these riders had, but the fact that they were mostly wearing full face helmets, Leatt braces, and full coverage pads had me questioning my preparation. The communal aspect of this discipline is really cool and we all rode together as a group for about two miles. After making the first climb, we arrived at Stage 1. Full of nerves, I wasted no time in dropping my seat and dropping in as the third rider down the stage. What proceeded was a day of pure joy, nervousness, and excitement from riding my bicycle!
STAGE 1 was the most technical and longest at just over 2 minutes. I was forced to bypass the first A line for fears of damaging my bike or body on a pretty big drop. Although about 5 seconds slower on the B line, I felt I could make up time on the other stages. Thankfully, this was the only B line I would be hitting on this day. STAGES 2 and 3 saw a great deal more pedaling and this is where I felt piloting the Mach 429 gave me a distinct advantage. Only averaging about 1:30 each stage, I was determined to do what I could to make up time. STAGE 4 started off on a very rocky descent, moved into a slightly uphill pedaling section, then turned hard left and into what was deemed one of the gnarliest A lines in the race. With the B line costing significant time, it was never a choice to take it over the much faster A line. It certainly helped that there was a decent crowd of people assembled to see the eminent carnage from this pretty rocky drop off. I came through this section on what I felt was a great run and I proceeded to charge through this section super clean and felt very light on the bike. I hammered through the timing pylon as hard as I could and slow peddled back into staging to turn in my timing chip.
Being one of the first riders to complete lap 1, I wasn’t quite sure where I was at. After a thorough drive train cleaning, I was ready to head back out for lap 2. I was shocked to have multiple riders approach me and ask me how I was able to go so fast on “that bike.” Starting lap 2 in the top spot was a bit daunting. My goal for this event was to get my feet wet and acclimate to the Enduro format of racing. That goal quickly changed to ending the day on the top step of the podium! As we approached STAGE 1, the rain picked up. I anticipated things getting a bit dicey, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the peanut butter like conditions. I played it smart, hammered a bottle of Skratch, dialed it back a bit, and did what I felt would keep me at least in the top 3. I kept it upright on all four stages and rolled back into the staging area unsure of my final placing. Being one of the first riders back, all I could do now was consume my post race Rescue and wait.
That hour seemed like an eternity, but I can’t describe how cool it was to hear my name called as the winner of Dinosaur Valley Enduro! After the podium celebration, I was inundated with riders and spectators that wanted to discuss their new found realization of the 429’s “Enduro” prowess. It also didn’t hurt that I was apparently one of only 5 riders to hit the A line on stage 4. This crowd, and this area for that matter, are VERY well served by a Mach 429 and I’m very happy that my participation in this event highlighted that.
I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of Round 1 of the Arkansas Enduro Series in Iron Mountain AR on April 11-12. I’m confident in my ability to compete in this format of racing and I’m quite certain that being on my new Mach 6 will have me in an even better position!