By Travis Fraser
I had been riding every week for almost two years prior to this race, but only started training specifically for Enduro about four months beforehand. I began doing big climb efforts up local suffer-fests like Harding and Maple Springs to prepare for a the “all-day” climbing you can see in enduro. For DH, I sessioned trails like Joplin, Luge, and some in Santiago Oaks and Laguna, working on fundamentals and confidence.
To round out my fitness I also made sure I had a good balance of low aerobic, high aerobic, and anaerobic training. To help with the high aerobic, I did 1 to 2 hour high intensity rides on my XC bike to increase my lactate threshold. At this point, the course had not been announced, nor the stages during my training, but I was planning for a 4-6 hour day with 4,000 - 6,000 feet of elevation gain with high intensity DH. I would find out later the course was much shorter than anticipated, but the training improved my overall fitness, nevertheless.
I raced on a 2020 Santa Cruz Hightower V2 with a 160mm Fox 38, a 150mm DPX2 with a Cascade Components link, Santa Cruz Reserve 30 carbon wheels, DT Swiss 350 hubs, SRAM X01/XX1 drivetrain, Code R brakes, Nukeproof Horizon clipless pedals paired with Giro Chamber II shoes, and Maxxis Minion DHR II front and rear. I opted for a Fox Proframe for my lid as I wasn’t sure how technical the descents would be – it turned out to be unnecessary, but a safe bet. I paired my helmet with POC goggles. I had a standard long sleeve jersey, Craft bottoms, 7 iDP Sam Hill knee pads, The Path socks, The Path/Dakine gloves, and a Space Brace brace for my left ankle. I also brought my POC chest and spine protector, but they were not necessary for the course.
For nutrition, I used Clif Bloks and Tailwind mixed with my water, as I was preparing for a longer effort. In addition, days prior to the race, I ate whole, clean foods and plenty of water to be sure I had no gastrointestinal issues and was sufficiently hydrated.
During registration, which was a couple weeks prior to the race, I wasn’t sure what class to join. As an experienced mountain biker with 5-6 years of serious riding I was confident, but I had never raced before. I had talked to a friend who had raced before, and he recommended to start in beginner class and that would help determine if I should change class next time. I followed his advice and signed up for the beginner class.
After getting my number plate on race day, I settled in for practice. I ended up doing the entire 9.8-mile course in the morning, which was a good idea, as I was able to see all stages and get a feel for the course. My fitness and significant training allowed me to essentially race the entire course twice at elevation without being too exhausted, so I was grateful for that. During practice I spoke with an Expert class competitor about race lines and he thought I had probably chosen the wrong class, but I was still confident that I could do well in Beginner Class at the very least.
I tried to line up a little early for the first stage to possibly go immediately after Sport class, but apparently many others had the same thought. When I began my first stage, which was roughly 1:30 to 2 minutes long, I had caught the rider in front of me before the end of the stage (There is a 30 second gap between riders.)
After this had happened, I knew that I had made a mistake in choosing this class, but it was a small stage and had time to make it up. Side note: I also noticed the first stage was quite different from Enduros I had seen in the past and the first almost minute was climbing, which I found to be odd. In any event, I lined up for stage 2 with hope that I would get a chance to make up some time. I took off and quickly caught the rider in front of me, thankfully he quickly moved out of the way, only a minute or so later I caught the next rider; however, there was little to no room for her to move so I had to wait quite a long time for an opening to safely pass. At this point I knew that I would not be competitive in my result and decided to just have fun with it.
As the final stage came, I was more relaxed and decided to just have fun. I started that stage and was just vibing and enjoying the day. I caught a younger rider and told him to just take his time – shortly after I was able to pass and finish the race.
I placed 17th out of 34 in the Beginner Class.
At first, I was upset that I was held up by so many riders, but the more time that passed and I had time to reflect, I was simply grateful for the experience and grateful The Path was able to help sponsor me for this event. I now know next time to join Expert or Sport class and I look forward to next year after even more training and joining the right class, I am confident I will perform far better in the right class. It was also nice to get the first race jitters out of the way and let that anxious anticipation fade.