With only 9.6 miles of riding in store for day four, we had a still-early but rather-leisurely morning, with a chill roll out directly from the sponsor village in downtown Crested Butte. We began the day by pedaling up Kebler Pass road, turning off after only a few miles onto the Carbon Trail. If you’ve been reading along over the course of the past three days, you probably know what’s coming next: a heinously-steep, washed-out, hike-a-bike climb. However, thanks to the short day and single stage of racing, a mere 1,924 feet of climbing felt like child’s play compared to the previous three days. Before I knew it, we’d all reached the top of the climb and were preparing to drop the only stage of the day.
But of course, before the beginning of the stage, we had a bit of a wait. While on the one hand I’ve grown to hate all the waiting around before stages that every single enduro race seems to require, on the other hand it’s been a great time to get to know my fellow racers. Over the course of the Ultra Enduro, and the Big Mountain Enduro series as a whole, I had the opportunity to chat with dozens of racers while waiting around at the start line, during the transition stages, and at the post-race meals while enjoying burgers and beer. In fact, every race there were many familiar faces, and dudes I got to know on a first-name basis that I raced with again and again.
Over the course of the five-day Ultra Enduro, the same camaraderie developed: I’d end up pedaling alongside and hanging out with guys who were approximately the same speed and level of seriousness as me, and we had a great time pedaling, chilling, and then shredding when the time came. Out of all the race formats that I’ve competed in, enduro racing may be the best type of race for chilling with your friends, and making new ones.
While hanging out is all well and good, eventually it came time to race, and I dropped in to the Green Lake trail. Green Lake wasn’t nearly as steep as the other trails that we’d been racing on all week, but if you dropped the hammer it was still possible to keep a good head of speed through the upper section. Thanks to the thick groves of pines, which transitioned to aspens, the dirt was dark, loamy, and tacky all the way down the mountain.
As the descent continued, the trail got tighter and twistier, with some challenging switchbacks and tight trees to thread at high speeds. A few short riser climbs–which I wasn’t expecting at all–brought some serious athleticism to this stage, which boasted one of the longest stage times of the week, on average, for everyone. I’d never ridden this trail before, but as I finished my run I realized that this stage could make or break times for people who hadn’t sucked their chains on the first stage of the week.
Amazingly, the Green Lake trail ended right in town–and I’d never ridden it before! While The pedally sections made this probably my least favorite race stage of the week, it was hands-down one of the best sections of singletrack that we got to ride. I would have much preferred to simply take my time and savor the swoop and flow, the grip of the loam, and the beauty of the forest instead of racing through it. Word on the street is that Green Lake is a popular ride as an out-and-back from town, and with the mellow grade I can easily see the appeal. Next summer, I fully intend to enjoy this section of sweet trail at a more leisurely pace.
After three days of hard racing, the shorter day of racing on Saturday afforded many racers the chance to practice the next day’s downhill stages up at the resort. I considered joining them, but instead decided to save my energy and my money, and hit the chairlift early the next morning to shred a few practice laps before the timed stages began. For the afternoon, it was time to enjoy Crested Butte, the beauty of the mountains, the company of my wife, and some delicious food and beer!