Rugged, raw and real were the words that racers used to describe BME #3, Keystone on July 6-7, 2013. The third stop of the Big Mountain Enduro Series also served as the second stop of the North American Enduro Tour where racers from around the country came to chase points for the overall title at the end of the season.
“This particular stop of the Big Mountain Enduro at Keystone was my favorite thus far, in terms of course design, accessibility of venue and overall sponsorship and partner support. The six stages were very rugged, well balanced and showcased big descents, which we’re know for here in the Rockies,” said Brandon Ontiveros, executive director of the Big Mountain Enduro Series. Coming off of that successful weekend and the momentum that’s building around BME, we couldn’t’t be more stoked on what’s in store for Durango and the Moab finals, which will be true backcountry Enduro’s with no lift-accessed terrain.”
This past weekend showed that enduro racing is a testament to the body and bike, with racers being challenged by six distinct stages, four that were full top to bottom runs with 2300’ vertical drop, including sections of Keystone’s notorious downhill terrain and plenty of pedaling to even out the competition.
From Day 1, Joey Schusler (Yeti Cycles) set the pace for the Pro Men’s field winning Stages 1 and 3 and putting valuable seconds into Ross Schnell (Trek POC Bontrager Shimano) and Nate Hills (Mavic SRAM Yeti) racing on his home turf. Schusler’s World Cup downhill racing experience gave him the slight edge needed to put down the fastest times, although all three were perplexed by the fact that Joey won the more pedal-intensive green circuit on Stage 1, but took third in the downhillesque Stage 2. All three went into Day 2 knowing that things can change in a matter of moments with half of the racing still left on the table for Sunday.
On the women’s side, Heather Irmiger (Trek Factory Racing) continued to take charge winning Stages 2 and 3 on Saturday. Irmiger comes from a background of World Cup cross country racing and has made a splash in the enduro scene this year as one of the few women who hit the same lines as the guys. Krista Park (Cannondale) is also a consistent contender in the Big Mountain Enduro Series and battled it out with Irmiger from stage to stage.
Sunday’s racing included the well-anticipated Stage 5. At only three and a half minutes long, there was little room for error on the most technical stage of racing that sent racers down rocky, burly fall-lines. This is where Schusler put a stake in his lead by winning Stages 4, 5, and 6 and solidifying the win by 18-seconds over Schnell and Hills who took second and third respectively. Mason Bond (Yeti Cycles) and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Trek Factory Racing) took fourth and fifth in the overall.
Park took the win on Stage 4 for the Pro Women and Margaret Gregory, a new face in the Big Mountain Enduro Series threw down for second and took the win on Stages 5 and 6. Gregory reeled in enough time to take third behind Irmiger and Park. Jill Behlen (Tokyo Joes) and Lea Julson took fourth and fifth in the overall.
When it was all said and done, racers relished in Oskar Blues beer and the laid-back mountain town atmosphere at Keystone Resort surrounded by series’ sponsors Yeti Cycles, Shimano, Mavic, Oskar Blues, Elevation Cycles, Smith Optics, Clif Bar, MRP, POC, Kicking Horse Coffee, FOX Racing Shox, Club Ride Apparel, and Mountain Flyer Magazine.
With nearly seven weeks until the next Big Mountain Enduro stop in Durango, racers have plenty of time to recover, race some more, and recover again for what will be the most physically demanding race of the year followed by the endearingly named Whole Enchilada which will serve as the finals for the Big Mountain Enduro Series and North American Enduro Tour at BME #5, Moab on September 28-29.
Words: official race report photos: Nicholas B. Ontiveros