The second stop of the 2019 Yeti Cycles Big Mountain Enduro Presented by Maxxis finds itself in Winter Park, Colorado. Winter Park, located about 70 miles West of Denver, sitting at 9,121 feet the resort is at its busiest during the winter months, however Winter Park, also known as Trestle Bike Park has been spinning lifts for cyclists since 1995.
Between Richie Rude back to racing, over 500 entries, and a new gondola with a 6 minute ride to the top of the hill, this was set to be a great day in the mountains at this iconic location.
Stop two of the 2019 Yeti Cycles Big Mountain Enduro presented by Maxxis provided the athletes with four stages over one day of racing. 3 out of 4 stages were lift access and this definitely brought a smile to the faces of more than a couple of racers who had participated in the first stop at Santa Fe which included some very hot climbs. All four stages added up to 12 miles of trail, 3,423’ of climbing (including lifts) and 4,953’ of descending.
Friday was scheduled for practice and if you were one of the early birds, you would’ve gotten a couple laps in before the storms rolled through and put a lightening hold on for the better part of 3 hours; this came as no surprise for the locals - it’s what to be expected this time of year. After the storm rolled out, and the lifts started spinning, we were treated to some hero dirt and there were plenty of us out there enjoying said dirt, maybe enjoying it so much that they forgot to grab their camera gear until the very end of the day missing most of the action...
Come race day, the tracks were bone dry again and the dust was plentiful, Stage 1 started on Trestle DH; one of the tougher trails on the mountain. Right off the bat the riders had the option to either drop or roll a wooden feature that had more than a couple of the riders pondering, and ultimately overthinking the feature. The stage continued down the mountain linking together a number of the more popular trails to be found at Trestle, which included steep rock gardens requiring clutch moves to make it through unscathed, and as the 500+ racers hit the dry courses the rocks became more exposed which left only the prepared riders relatively smooth work of these obstacles. With his fresh return from the last two stops of the EWS where he didn’t disappoint, it was no surprise that Richie Rude was going to be the rider to beat this weekend. With a 7 second lead, Rude took the win on stage one, with his Yeti team mates Carson Eiswald and Shawn Neer supporting him with second and third place respectively. Clare Hamilton of Juliana SRAM Pro Team took stage one with a whopping 19 second lead, Lisa Westermann grabbed second place and Stefanie McDaniel rounding out the top three of the Pro Woman class.
After the riders finished Stage One, it was a quick gondola ride back up to the top to get ready to race Stage Two. The second stage included flat out straights littered with baby doll heads, braking bumps as deep as the void above and drainage ruts as wide as Niagara Falls which kept the riders on their toes, as well as a jump line which saw some riders boosting it to the moon for the fans, and others just trying to keep their speed and not case the knuckle. Again, Richie was the man to beat, but after just over four and half minutes of racing no one could make it happen, Richie walked away with first place, Shawn Neer ended the stage two seconds behind first and overall 6th place finisher Trevor McCutcheon grabbing third place. Clare Hamilton dropped down the finishes list with a 6th place finish, however, with her 19 second lead from stage one, she would keep her overall lead intact. It was Stefanie McDaniel who would take the stage win, followed closely by second place finisher Lia Westermann, and Cooper Ott would round out the top three. It doesn’t take a professor of statistics at MIT to see that we were already seeing what the overall podium for both the Pro Men and Women might look like.
The infamous Mountain Goat played host to Stage Three of the day, this was also the only stage with a pedal transfer. After racers finished Stage Two, they would jump on the Olympia Express lift, and then have a 20 minute pedal to the start of Stage Three. Yeti team mates, Rude, Neer and Eiswald made up the top three, in that order. Fortunately for the fans, the Pro Woman were keeping things interesting, Cooper Ott took the win on Stage Three, followed by Stefanie McDaniel and Clare Hamilton, 10 seconds separating the top three. It was shortly after the pro’s finished stage 3 that the afternoon storms rolled in and the vast majority of riders got stuck at the top of Stage 4 while waiting out a course hold due to the storm. Once the first of the stranded riders started to drop Stage 4, there were immediate reports of a downed tree on the trail, this combined with another lightning strike close by led to an additional 30 minute course hold and plenty of rain. Once the storm passed, and the tree was cleared, the racers dropped as quick as possible to make sure to get to the bottom before the Colorado weather threw another curve ball. Rude took first place on Stage Four with an 8 second lead over Evan Geankoplis, with Shawn Neer grabbing the third place spot. Clare Hamilton showed her dominance with an 8 second lead over Lia Westermann, Lia just edged out Cooper Ott who fell into third place by .5 of a second over this 7 minute stage.
The Pro Men category saw Richie taking the overall top step, with Shawn Neer taking second and to round out the Yeti sweep, Carson Eiswald standing on the third step. Clare Hamilton stood proudly on the top step for the Pro Women, with Stephanie McDaniel securing second and Lia Westermann grabbing the third spot. It was a long day of racing, but with the rain holding off during the after party and awards ceremony, there were plenty of smiles and high fives to be had, and even a couple of beers to be drank - and isn’t that the best part of racing?
1. Clare Hamilton 0:26:07.9
2. Stefanie Mcdaniel 0:26:29.4
3. Lia Westermann 0:26:33.8
4. Cooper Ott 0:27:08.4
5. Alicia Leggett 0:27:15.1
1. Richie Rude 0:22:19.2
2. Shawn Neer 0:22:36.8
3. Carson Eiswald 0:22:52.9
4. Evan Geankoplis 0:23:02.0
5. Duncan Nason 0:23:12.4