North American Enduro Cup
Part I – Ride and Race

Words by Kyle Warner // Photos by Chuck Finlay

There was a point in time when Kellogg Idaho was home to one of the largest silver mines in the United States. Nowadays, it is primarily known as the home to Silver Mountain Resort and for the second consecutive year it played host to the largest Enduro race in the United States. The North American Enduro Cup is an event where three separate race series (Idaho, Montana and the Cascadia dirt cup) come together and provide some of the biggest days and highest payouts U.S. racers will see all year.
I had never been to Kellogg before this year but I had heard good things and was pretty excited to check it out. I arrived in Kellogg on Thursday evening so I could get a good night’s sleep and prepare for the only official practice on Friday. The schedule for practice at this race was actually a bit hectic. Realistically with five tracks to learn in one day and some pretty long runs, I knew I would really only get one run down each trail. It was going be hard to get up to speed on all of the tracks with only one practice run, but the majority of the 60 man pro field was in the same boat so we had to just roll with it!

Once we got our packets picked on Friday morning, one of my teammates and I threw our bikes on the gondola and headed up to check things out. It only took about half of one run to figure out that the riding at Silver Mountain is a trip! The terrain varies from high-speed open trails with big berms and jumps to steep, tight, technical trails with roots jutting out from all directions. It was going be a fun race venue for sure! After spending a few hours doing runs, it looked like three of the five stages were going to be shorter 2-5 minute tracks with pretty defined lines and lots of tricky corners. However, the real trick to this race was stages 3 and 5, which were 17 and 13 minutes long respectively. After practice was all said and done, it was time to roll back to the van, clean up the bike and squeeze in a quick, fun session on the pumptrack!

Saturday morning rolled around and I felt pretty good about the race. My strategy was to just have smooth runs and limit the damage on the shorter tracks so I could save some energy throughout the day and pin the longer tracks top to bottom without fading. The first stage went decent for me but I ended up getting way more arm pump than I was expecting due to some nerves and bad lines. The second stage was on a more sustained downhill track and turned out a lot better. I just had a super smooth and steady run, but nailed my lines and kept it upright. The third stage was freaking brutal but so much fun! It’s not very often that we get the chance to do longer runs these days, but I really enjoy the challenge of settling into a 90 percent pinned pace and trying to sustain it for 17-minutes. I had a really good run aside from a few tiny errors at the bottom, but I think everyone was pretty gassed at that point. I waited a few minutes for some more guys to come through before pedaling back to the venue, and even though we were all completely destroyed from the first day of racing, everyone was still throwing out high fives and F-yeahs. Once I checked in at the venue with my timing chip, I was sitting in 5th overall for the day, which I was pretty content with. I was eager to try and climb a few places on Sunday.

But first it was time for a river session to revive the legs!

Sunday morning was a whole other animal compared to day one. We started out the day with a 2.5-hour climb up to the top of Stage 4. The hardest part of the climb was just staying hydrated due to all of the sun exposure, so I just took my time, sipped on my water and watched people pedal past me. Finally we arrived at Stage 4, a little worse for wear but excited to drop in on the most technical downhill track of the event. I dropped in and within 100 feet could feel my Jello legs kicking in… I knew that a crash would cost me more time than I could make up by pushing so I just got down the hill safe and sound and turned my focus to the final long stage of the weekend. Stage 5 was by far my favorite track of the weekend. It started out fast and flowy on a jump trail for about 3 minutes, and then dumped you into tight, technical, rooty hell for the next 10-minutes. I had a killer run going on and pushed hard from top to bottom but man, the last few minutes were so sketchy! I was literally coming into braking bumps with two fingers on the levers and my seat pinched between my knees just so I could hold on! I don’t know if I have ever ridden a track that gave people so much arm pump. Just like Saturday, the crew gathered at the bottom of the trail, telling stories of misplaced trees and OTB’s. It was a heck of a day and I was curious to see if I made up any ground.
We all rode back to the venue as a group, but I split off to get changed first and let a bunch of people check in before I turned in my chip. I like waiting until the end to play spoiler sometimes and it keeps me from running back and forth to the TV screen every 30 seconds to see if something changed. Finally I cruised over and saw that I was able to move up one spot from the previous day into 4th, which was cool! The top three guys rode amazing for sure, but they had been able to get some practice in during the weeks leading up to the event so I felt like I rode pretty well considering our limited runs on Friday. It was definitely a nice way to cap off a few stressful weeks and it was a great way to spend some time with all of the awesome people that came out to race. I also want to say a huge thanks to everyone that helped put on such a great event and thanks to the town of Kellogg for hosting all of our dirtbag asses.

To be honest, I may have popped my champagne a little early on the podium! Sorry boys!

 

Kyle Warner is supported by: Marin, SR Suntour, Shimano, Fly Racing, Deity, WTB, Onnit, Maxima, Garmin, Slime, MRP, DVO, Amaincycling.com

North American Enduro Cup
Part II – Behind the Lens Race Recap

Words & Photos by Chuck Finlay

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.

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