At the top level of any sport, there’s a knife-edge between success and failure. For mountain bikers, learning to ride the knife-edge between going fast and crashing comes with a very steep learning curve. Even when you feel you are perfectly dancing with that edge, there are no guarantees. A mechanical issue, flat tire, or wrong turn can quickly derail your race. In enduro, consistency is key – not pushing your physical and technical abilities too far often yields a better result than riding on the edge. With that said, there is a time and place to take risks and push your limits.
For the penultimate round of racing, the CES headed to the Northstar Resort in Lake Tahoe. Known for their legendary ski slopes in the wintertime, the mountains of Northstar turn into a world-class bike park during the summer months. With a mix of rough natural trails and flowing jump trails, it is the perfect venue to test a rider’s all-around skills.
After a long night of driving, we finally arrived at our cabin in Lake Tahoe. Being one of the only two-day rounds of the series, we knew that we had a lot of pre-riding to do on Friday. Lucky for us, we had lift access all day Friday, which helped keep the legs fresh for the weekend. Not only was it my first time at Northstar, but it was also my first time riding a real bike park, so my suspension set up was a little off. The bike park is geared more towards downhill bikes rather than trail bikes, which became immediately clear as we started charging through the rough rock gardens and big jumps of Northstar. After a little tinkering, I started to feel more comfortable on all of the high-speed trails. We were able to hit all but one stage during practice, which was a huge confidence boost going into Saturday’s race.
Northstar presented one of the most gravity-focused courses of the season, which meant that having your bike set up properly was crucial. Due to the intense terrain, many riders ran into mechanical issues such as flat tires, broken wheels, blown out shocks, bent derailleur hangers, and much more. In some ways, the race turned into a war of attrition; just surviving and not destroying yourself, or your bike, could put you in a position take a win or podium. In an interview with Jared Graves, the 2014 Enduro World Series Champion, he was asked about his bike’s weight, “ I don’t even weigh my bikes, you set them up how you want them, so they’re durable and you don’t have to worry about it, and it weighs what it weighs”. With this in mind, I set up my bike with heavy casing tires, extra sealant, new brake pads, and did a full run through checking just about every bolt on my bike.
My focus for the weekend was to put in consistent rides on every stage, while still carrying a solid pace, which was quickly derailed on the first stage of the weekend. It was the only stage that we didn’t pre-ride, but I heard from many others that it was pretty straightforward and not extremely technical. With a solid start, I was feeling comfortable on the uncharted terrain, until I took an unfortunate line. There were two line choices: hop over the log, or take the long way around and skip it. I opted to take the riskier of the two lines and hopped over the log, only to find that there was a rock garden waiting for me on the other side. I landed in the middle of the rock garden, and was instantly sent over the handlebars. A little dazed and confused, I hopped up as fast I could, grabbed my bike and was on my way. Fortunately, the only damage to my bike was a bent brake lever, so I was able to finish the stage out strong. Knowing that the crash had hurt my time, I was tempted to ditch the consistency plan and go all out on the next five stages to make up for lost seconds. After a little more thought, I came to the conclusion that five stages is still a lot of racing and with the rough, technical courses of Northstar, riding the ragged edge could easily result in another crash or mechanical issue.
It took me a couple stages to get my rhythm back, but I eventually started to feel more comfortable again. Sitting in seventh after the first day of racing, I was not stoked on my performance, but the two-day format was nice because it gave me time to re-evaluate my strategy and riding. I knew I was riding tight and probably a little too conservative, so my goal for the second day was to open up and ride with more confidence.
Motivated by my less than stellar results on Saturday, I came back Sunday with some stronger rides. Day two featured stages that were a bit more technical than the first day, which played to my advantage. As I started to ride more aggressive, the stages felt smoother, and I was finally beginning to find my flow. After it was all said and done, I jumped up two spots in the overall standings, landing in fifth place for the weekend. Considering the rough first day of racing, I was happy with the result. More importantly, I was stoked to get closer to my limit, while remaining consistent on the second day of racing.
Northstar saw the most stacked pro class of the season with big names like Curtis Keene, Cody Kelly, Marco Osborne, and many more. Needless to say, Trevor had his hands full with the world-class talent he was competing against. He was one of the few on the team that managed to ride fairly consistent during the race. His consistency paid off with a 24th place finish, which is impressive being that many of his competitors were Enduro World Series regulars.
While Trevor’s weekend was consistent, it was far from uneventful. en route to Sunday’s first stage, Trevor’s derailleur got sucked into his cassette. Luckily, he was close to the pits, so he ran to the Sram support truck where they got his bike fixed up in a matter of minutes and he was back on his way. Then, during the race on Saturday, his phone fell out of his pocket on the trail during one of the stages, but he had no idea where. After checking with Lost and Found several times, we figured his phone was gone for good. However, on Sunday, during the last stage of race, my girlfriend Emily was cheering Trevor on at the bottom of a stage when a photographer walked up and asked what Trevor’s last name was and she replied, “Roland” and the photographer said ,“I have his phone!” Although it was severely cracked, Trevor was still stoked to get his phone back.
Maddie and Leah rode strong, especially considering the tough, physical courses that Northstar had to offer. Leah took seventh with Maddie not far behind in ninth in the Women’s Expert class.
Kasey ran into a similar situation as myself. A couple of crashes on the second stage left him in the middle of the pack after the first day of racing. Rather than riding conservative after his crashes, Kasey opted for the “catch up” strategy. Taking back-to-back wins on the first two stages of the day on Sunday, he was able to battle his way back onto the podium with a fourth place overall in the Sport class.
In the under 18 Sport class, Jacob and Mason both put DSENDiT up on the podium. After the first day of racing, Jacob was sitting in second, but was locked in a tight battle for the lead. On day two, he put some great rides to take the win overall with Mason in fourth.
So what’s the moral of the story? Learning to stay consistent and knowing when to take risks is the key to success in racing. Much easier said than done, but learning to walk that line will help you reach your full potential as a rider. Of course, there are many other factors, such as fitness, handling skills, bike prep, etc., but without a solid mental game, good race results will be hard to come by. Overall, it was an awesome weekend for the team; we all had a blast, everyone rode well, and nobody got hurt. That is a win in my book.
Photos by Emily Coe and Satchell Cronk (http://satchelcronk.smugmug.com/)