It’s rocky, raw and perfect for racing. Keystone Resort hosted the Big Mountain Enduro for the fifth year in a row, for one of the most challenging mountain bike races in the Rockies.
Close to 200 riders came out on June 24 to compete for the lowest compiled time over four rough downhill stages on the mountain. Anne Galyean led the pro women’s class to first place and Shawn Neer took the top spot in pro-men.
The race started with one of the most technical stages the organizers have ever put together. Stage one linked double black diamond rated trails from top to bottom, making it a grueling and technical track to race on.
“Stage one was hard. It was probably the most technical enduro stage I’ve ever done,” said Michael Larsen, of Boulder, who races professionally for Yeti Cycles.
Riders started the first stage with flowy jumps and bermed turns before it took them into the steep, rocky and dusty chutes and drops that Keystone is known for.
“I like being scared a couple times in a stage, and stage one definitely fit that bill,” said Anne Galyean, who races for the Yeti Cycles national team. “I come from a downhill background, so for me, the gnarlier the better. It was probably one of the best race stages I’ve had in my career, ever.”
For the 2017 season, Big Mountain Enduro has seven different stops with locations in New Mexico, five different races in Colorado, including Aspen, where they will host the Enduro World Series as that event travels across the globe, the Big Mountain Enduro finals which will be in Crested Butte and the final stop of the series in Mascota, Mexico. They’ve become the premiere enduro racing organization in the Rocky Mountain region for those who do it professionally, and also for those who don’t. The format of enduro racing has grown exponentially in the last decade, and is a perfect battleground for riders who love mixing cross country type fitness with the skills that it takes to excel at downhill racing.
Most of the races incorporate a variety of terrain, with the idea of seeing who can excel on all types of trails from rough and steep to smooth and flat, where the riders are expected to pedal and sprint if they want to do well. Even though Keystone incorporated the most technically demanding trails available, the stages still varied.
“I think out of all of them, stage four was the flowiest, and it was a little pedally too, so it was still the spirit of enduro,” said Suzy Williams, who took the win in the women’s amateur division. Although the race was primarily lift served, with just two short transfers from stage to stage, the downhill riding takes a different kind of fitness.
“It’s pretty physically demanding from an upper body standpoint. So, having really good core stability– so that the arms and shoulders have a platform to work from– is important,” said Dee Tidwell, who took second place in the Master Men’s 40-plus category. Tidwell is the owner of Enduro Mountain Bike Training.
Most of the Yeti Cycles racing team excelled, with the team taking eight of the ten top spots in pro-men and the top spot in pro-women.
After Keystone, Big Mountain Enduro picks up again on July 8 at Winter Park, and July 29 and 30 in Aspen for the Enduro World Series. “2017 has been one of our biggest years yet,” said Mike Day, the race director for Big Mountain Enduro.
The other venues are expected to be just as demanding, but Keystone still remains notorious for its technicality.
“It’s the most raw terrain of any bike park in the state,” said Day. “People love it for that and people fear it for that.”