As I drove down to Crested Butte and grabbed breakfast at the gas station on the way to the resort, I was excited for day 5, the final day of the Crested Butte Ultra Enduro, to begin. But if I’m being honest with myself, I was most excited for the race to just be done. After four long days of racing, I was really looking forward to going home, sitting on the couch, and not having to do anything. But before I could kick back and relax, I had one more day of racing to complete.
The most physically demanding stages were over: it was literally all downhill from here. But racing full-blown DH trails–one of which was rated a double black diamond–on a 140mm trail bike presents its own set of challenges. While I was excited to get a lift to the top of the mountain, and to go home and drink some beer afterward, my nerves started to get jittery as I pulled into the parking lot at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR).
I showed up at CBMR as early as possible to grab first chair and begin practicing. I started by hitting Captain Jack, the infamous, new double black diamond downhill run. As I dropped down the mountain, I was surprised to realize that there was only one long, steep rock garden, and that the rest of the trail was quite easy. I picked my way through the faster, advanced line in the rock garden, didn’t have any serious issues, so I figured I’d be good to go for the race run.
Next, I practiced Avery a couple of times. I’d ridden this trail years ago, and despite not having as advanced of a rock garden as Captain Jack, I thought there were more tricky spots overall on this trail. So, I spent two runs sessioning it before practice closed.
Stage 1 was held on Luge, which is a relatively flat, pedally trail. I finished the run clean, called it good (despite maybe not pedaling quite as hard as I could have), and prepared to race Avery.
Avery went off quite smoothly as well. I remembered why I had loved the Avery trail so much when I rode Evolution Bike Park back in 2011: It’s fast, sort of flowy, but technical and challenging with plenty of spots to keep you on your toes. While I took a bit of a bypass around the largest rock drop, I felt pinned and confident the entire way down the mountain on stage 2.
Despite powering through the mental and physical exhaustion of a full week of racing, the day was going smoothly… until the final stage. Mostly ready to be done and check the Crested Butte Ultra Enduro off my list, I dropped into the final stage of the day. As I hit the big rock garden, everything was solid for the first 5 feet or so, and then my front wheel hung up in the rocks, and over the front I went! It was probably the single worst spot of the week to crash, as I endoed straight into a massive rock and tumbled down the mountain a few yards through a sea of boulders. I thought for sure that I’d be bloodied up and injured, but as I slowly got to my feet, to a chorus of “ooh!”s and “are you all right?”s from the photographers stationed there, I realized that thanks to my full face helmet and knee pads, I had come out of the crash unscathed! (Be sure to check out a pair of before-and-during photos of my crash, in this Mountain Flyer article.)
I walked uphill to collect my bike, looking up the mountain to see if I’d be passed by the rider behind me. I waited a few seconds to see if I’d get caught, but as I didn’t see anyone, I slowly eased back into the course, heading toward the bottom of the mountain. The hardest part of the stage out of the way, I finished the rest of the run clean, with all of the stages of the Crested Butte Ultra Enduro successfully under my belt!
Chilling out on the grass with a juicy burger and an ice-cold Dale’s Pale Ale, I thought about the long, arduous week I had endured. Thanks to a mechanical on the first stage of the week and a bad crash on the final stage of the week, I knew that my times wouldn’t be anything to write home about. But I had accomplished what I’d set out to do: I’d completed every single stage of this five-day race, and I’d done so without suffering any major injuries to body or bike. Along the way, I’d ridden well over 100 miles of some of the steepest, gnarliest trails that Crested Butte has to offer–the majority of which I’d never set tire to before. I’d made new friends, seen beautiful places, and had a fantastic week riding some of the best mountain bike trails in the world. While in all honesty I was really glad to be done, I knew that the Ultra Enduro would be a life experience that I would never forget.