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by Erik Timmerman

Enduro racing has finally made its way to New England. Last weekend Highland Mountain held the first OverMountain Enduro Race. Having never entered a race like this before and having been intrigued by all of the Enduro racing I’ve read about, I had to go check it out. With World Cup cross-country racers and downhillers alike competing, who would have the edge? How would this format be for a trail-cruising, bike park-riding, climb-hating sloth like myself?

Ben Moody rallies the rocks at Highland. Photo by Erik TimmermanFormat
Initially, the race was to start with a downhill qualifier, followed by a course starting at the top of the mountain, around an XC loop at the bottom, back to the top and down again. To me, that sounded like a recipe for a fast XC guy to win it on the climb and myself to get pummeled. I figured I’d go and watch the race, but wouldn’t enter. After consulting with a number of pro riders who have entered these sorts of things before, the format was changed to 3 mostly-downhill “Special Stages” with a climber’s prime stage race to the top. Riders could not change bikes or equipment during stages. This sounded great and I was in.

Bike Choice
The next question to confront was what kind of a bike does one use for this sort of thing. This was an easy choice for me. My only real options were a 5-inch travel Giant TranceX or my trusty Intense M6. TranceX it was. I probably outsmarted myself by putting a set of Michelin Comp16 tires on. The theory being that keeping it on two wheels would probably go a long way towards a good result.
     On race day, the 5 to 6-inch travel bike was the prevailing choice. There were some who rode on DH bikes and others that went the other way to lighter XC bikes. Really though, the OverMountain Enduro is meant to be a mountain bike race and these days, a mountain bike is pretty much a 5 to 6-inch trail bike.

The Courses
The courses were pretty interesting as the designers chose not to just send it down existing trails. They connected several of Highland’s bike park trails together. In some places, undefined “glade sections” tied trails together. These sections were taped very wide and but not necessarily thinned enough so you could ride anywhere you want. Competitors were allowed to pre-ride the all but the third stage course.
Aaron Chase knows every nook and cranny at Highland. Photo courtesy of CannondaleSpecial 1 Stage
The first Special started out open and fast, but soon dropped into some rain-slicked, muddy chutes. A quick climb led to riding down the Threshold trail to the “Reef drop,” which was popular with the spectators and fairly challenging (I cleaned it in both practice runs, then managed to wreck on it in the race). Below this was the first gladed section. The glade was taped so wide that you could actually ride past the exit and then have to hike back up if you weren’t watching. The line burned in well enough during practice that it looked like most people were able to find their way out without getting suckered down past the exit.  From here it was straight forward riding to the bottom of the mountain. There was a catch though. Instead of stopping at the bottom of the trail, you needed to keep it pinned and ride out through the parking lot and into some single track to the finish. This was the longest stage with a winning time of 4:48.
World Cup DHer, Marc Beaumont putting his skills to work. Photo by Erik Timmerman.Special 2 Stage and Climber’s Prime
The second Special was a continuation of the XC Loop. Not too tricky, but new trail and soft. It was manageable pain and the winning time was 3:59. From the end of Special 2 you could keep going full throttle and try for the Climber’s Prime. The course went up the Easy Rider trail, which is a super mellow kid’s DH trail. It turns out that the mellowest kid’s trail is actually kind of steep if you have to ride up it. I was really glad the M6 was on the roof of my car.  Just like he had with the first two Specials, Kona pro, Barry Wicks, crushed the climb and won the $500 Prime prize with a time of 18:29.

Special 3
The third Special started from the same place as the first stage, but went straight into a very widelycut glade. The main feature of this glade was a huge log and a ledge that split it up, creating three line choices. There was a center line that looked fast, up and over the log – if you didn’t wreck. The left line went down through a ledge, forcing a lot of riders to tripod or stall, and the longer line on the rider’s right that looked pretty straight-forward and seemed to be the most popular choice. Below the ledge was more sucker glade that pulled riders too far down and made them climb more. The racers who stuck the highline still had a punchy little climb in front of them before speeding down some nice, fast bike park trail.  The speedy feeling of that hardpack was soon replaced by the churned up leaves and dirt of the final glade section. This glade was cut tightly with small saplings everywhere and an off-camber exit that was pretty tricky (at least to me). From here, it was one last quick sprint down some narrow, mossy trails to the finish line. This was the quickest stage and went to Highland’s own Ben Moody in 2:45.
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Results? Fun!
I’m hoping this is just the first of many enduro races I can enjoy. The thought of having a series of them in the Northeast seems like it would rejuvenate our scene. I learned that even if the climbing doesn’t matter, it still matters! There was a bit of climbing in all of the Special stage and suffering like a dog on the big climb doesn’t help you mentally or physically. While it was nice to have the confidence of the Comp16s, they were not worth the weight. Maybe training a little bit could help too.  There were definitely no fat boys on the podium and while it seemed like the stages took some time when actually racing, the race was pretty quick. Barry Wicks total time was only about a half hour. Perhaps some longer races will take place in the future and the joy of real mountain bike racing will continue to spread.
Jason Moeschler letting it hang out and on to 5th place. Photo courtesy of Cannondale

Men's Top 5
1. Barry Wicks, Kona - 4:48.28, 3:59.40, 3:00.31 - 11:47.99
    Climber's Prime: 18:29.35
2. Mike West Yeti/Fox Racing - 4:53.70, 4:11.49, 3:00.05 - 12:05.24
    Climber's Prime: 21:09.09
3. Ben Moody, Team Trek Coop - 4:53.84, 4:31.81, 2:45.55 - 12:11.20
    Climber's Prime: 38:13.51
4. Nate Hills, Walt Ruch Racing - 4:51.70, 4:22.67, 3:00.59 - 12:14.96
    Climber's Prime: 22:12.18
5. Jason Moeschler, WTB/Cannondale - 5:01.37, 4:19.02, 3:07.06 - 12:27.45
    Climber's Prime: 21:21.11

Women's Top 3
1. Dawn Bourque, Chainline Cycles - 5:56.34, 5:55.05, 3:33.07 - 15:24.46
    Climber's Prime: 33:15.39
2. Alison Zimmer, 5.10, iRide - 6:15.55, 5:21.18, 3:49.97 - 15:26.70
    Climber's Prime: 28:31.73
3. Kate Parhiala, JRA - 6:02.37, 5:56.11, 4:06.02 - 16:04.50
    Climber's Prime: 33:47.17

The genesis of the race with Van Dine and Chase
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