Last week I was confronted with a difficult choice as a pro rider. The second stop of the Big Mountain Enduro series in Keystone was going on this coming weekend, but I also had an option to go to Crested Butte with a friend to get some training at high elevation with big mountain riding.
It was a hard decision as I love mountain riding, but also feel like I wanted to be in the race scene to represent my sponsors colors and keep learning to battle with the top guys in the country.
An unexpected appointment in Phoenix on Wednesday for some important paperwork made the decision for me. The appointment being in the middle of the week prevented me from arriving in Keystone early enough for practice. Since that race is 100% bike park and lift operated, it is easy to practice and do laps in the park a week in advance of the race which most of the top guys I’m battling with were doing all week. It seems like I would have gone with a disadvantage already with only one practice day.
I then made the decision not to go and organize the riding trip to Crested Butte with my friend. We left Thursday and made a stop in Durango to ride a little loop and get rid of the driving legs! After more driving, we finally made it to CB.
We started our riding with the classic Doctor’s Park trail, which is still in one of my top trails ever. The weather held out and we got a good run in. I’m always all smiles when I get to the bottom of that 6 miles downhill!
Moving to town, we got on the second ride of the day, and pedaled up to Green Lake, a pretty big climb with steep sections to the top of the mountain where a small lake is sitting at 11,000 ft. A local dared us to clear it all, so it was our challenge for the ride. Done! The downhill from there was fast and rooty, still a bit slick in spots from the rain the past couple days, but making the dirt really good also. It was a good first day and we were ready to get in the big mountain loops! After climbing to 11,000ft twice that day, we realized how different it is to be high in the mountains and decided to make adjustments on our bikes. Going from desert set up to mountain set up (smaller chainrings, and lighter tires)
I looked into the map for quite some time on the evening to figure out a plan. Forecast was looking promising and I was mentally ready for an all day ride.
Everything flowed to the plan. We pedaled 30 miles in 5 hours with 6300 ft vertical, 2 big descents. 12,329ft was the high point of the day, and the weather held up till the last ten minutes back to the car. The last time I had such epic days in the mountains was during last year’s race here, and it really reminded me that it is what I like and what I wanna do. I thought about this all day during the long climbs, and it took away the fact that I was feeling guilty to miss the Keystone race.
We were going for another epic day on Sunday as well. Planning on another 30+ miles and 6000-7000 ft vertical. We did our first loop on Teocali, but my buddy’s bike started some weird grinding noise, and he wasn’t very confident with riding it another 3+ hours. We ended the ride short and I went for another lap on my own to finish the day. The ride was still 25 miles and 4000 ft of climbing.
We enjoying the cool mountain passes and late afternoon storms in the big mountains. On the way home, we decided to make a stop in Moab to ride Mag 7 to Portal before heading back to AZ. It was interesting to be back in the desert and to feel more at home on rocks and sandstone. It’s a different kind of hard effort, but one that we are more used to.
Overall, that trip was a success and we got the high elevation painful climbs we were looking for in preparation for the next World Enduro Series in Crested Butte. I don’t think that the fully lift operated Enduro race in Keystone would have been better than a 4 day riding trip in the alpine for me. It reminded me that sometimes the choice of the heart is better than the “must do” one, and I’m looking forward to racing in Crested Butte in a couple of weeks.
Alex Petitdemange is an enduro racer from Annecy, France now living and training in Sedona, AZ. He raced as a XC JR and U25 pro for 5 seasons while mixing it up with some moto. After 9 years with no racing he jumped back into the sport while living in Moab, Utah and finished well enough for a podium position and was hooked back into racing as a pro in enduro.