The North American Enduro Cup is fast becoming one of the bigger events in the North American enduro scene. Only in it’s second year, the NAEC has already marked its territory and is redefining standards. For starters, there’s a $12,000 pro purse payout – one of the biggest for any enduro race in North America. It’s part of the IMBA National Enduro Series, which also has a $12,000 payout. Looking to qualify for the Enduro World Series? The NAEC is a good place to earn some points. The event also shares points with the Montana Enduro Series, the Idaho Enduro Series and the Cascadia Dirt Cup. With a venue like Silver Mountain Bike Park you can expect courses on par with those found at the EWS. The stages are demanding, the rewards are immense and if you’re looking to make a name for yourself in the North American enduro scene, this is your race.
For me, one of the great things about this event is its appeal to such a diverse group of riders, from big names like Luke Strobel and Kyle Warner, to sporty weekend warriors who are looking to put up a time. The event puts eyes on the sleepy old mining town of Kellogg, Idaho, which sustains a solid population of local core riders and nearby enthusiasts alike. Whether you’re throwing down on a room at the resort or bumming it in the parking lot like us, you can’t help but love this place.
Day one kicked off with a grueling transfer climb of nearly 2,000 feet in elevation gain. By 10 o’clock, riders were already experiencing 80-degree heat. The first of three stages for the day sent racers straight into fall line tech on a trail known as Spooky Woods. One of the favorites to win, Luke Strobel, suffered a puncture early on and was taken out of contention, opening up the top step. Stage 1 continued down Wide Open – a high speed, bobsled section that gives riders a chance to drop the hammer and the final section down Man Child requires precision on a series of high consequence doubles.
I became intimately familiar with these consequences after I misjudged my speed on a step down and came to a stop with a wonky wheel. Fortunately, I wasn’t far from a ride and was dropped off at the Full Speed Ahead tent. Patrick from FSA was kind enough to set me up with a demo rear wheel, and I was off with a notably lighter and stiffer rear end.
After a gondola ride to the summit, Stage 2 sent riders down the same course featured in the NW Cup downhill where they were confronted with some serious tech and a minefield of sharp, loose rocks. Alhambra gave riders a short break before dropping into Frankenbeans. Line choice and big balls were rewarded in this section and the top times took the option line, known as Baby Swiss, an 18’x10’ step-down followed by a lofty step-up.
The final stage of the day was a full top-to-bottom run with over 3,500 feet of descent. The top section was classic Silver with fast, rough and technical tight turns. Below that, cornering speed became the biggest asset as the course gained flow with some faster tech options that rewarded good line choice and clean execution.
In the end it was Alex McGuinnis that would take the win for the pro men, with Kent Billingsley 1.43 seconds behind and Matthew Chynoweth coming in just over 21 seconds behind to round out the top three. In the pro women’s category, Kim Hardin took the best time of the day, followed by Porsha Murdock and Janea Perry who were 31 seconds and a minute and a half behind. The race was one for the books and for those that truly love enduro, the NAEC at Silver Mountain is a mandatory trip.
Want more info? Head over to the official NAEC website.