IMBA is asking American members and clubs to step up and help save a small, but very important federal program, the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA), a division of the National Park Service. The commentary period has been extended to May 30: please contact your Congressional representatives, and consider forwarding this email to other trail users. The Bush administration's proposed $500,000 program cut for 2007 is unwise and will hurt our nation's trails. Instead, IMBA hopes to see a budget of $10.1 million for RTCA, a suitable remedy for years of flat funding.
With the group re-gathered and the course marshals apparently in place (the took off ahead of me with out some necessary info), Stage One took off on more of the same. Starting with a wide, flat, relatively smooth trail, the racers sprinted off to soon encounter more fast, rocky downhill action with plenty of opportunities to launch air off of both water bars and rocks. Flat number two quickly reared it's ugly head and put Erin out of points contention for stage one. Winners? Who knows, I started the stage and then ran sweep (and did this for most stages throughout the day), so blow-by-blow finish descriptions will need to be handled by someone else. What I do know is everyone made it in one piece.
After the puncture victims caught up, Stage Two was ready to begin. This one was all or nothing, a dab/no-dab stage where riders had to negotiate gnarly rocks, roots and trees cleanly to get any points. Many valiant attempts were made and only a few had what it took to pull it off. Another flat tire was inflicted and there were a few good crashes with one fierce attempt to take out a small tree. As expected, the tree won.
From here the riders paraded down a screaming paved downhill to the start of the first climbing stage. A loose, rutted former jeep road with fist sized rocks scattered about and climbs for approximately 1.25 miles. It includes many steep sections and about a dozen large earthen water bars just to increase the difficulty. Plus there is the added mind screw of a false summit just to get your hopes up before crushing them again. I gambled that by the time they got to the top, everyone would be to tired to kill me for making them race this stage. After the next grin inducing downhill and beer stop, all should be forgotten. Or so I hoped.
A couple of full suspension riders came cruising by and we let them get a reasonable start up the hill before the swarm of one speeders engulfed them. Despite the large lead they were eventually caught by most of the punk bikers and left far in the dust. The stage started with a Le mans start to get everyone spread out for the long, painful climb with the spectators either cheering the riders on or heckling them, I couldn't tell which. With the pack on their way I started my own long climb up to join the suffering. When I got to the top there was a lot of heavy breathing and there were no signs of murderous conspiracies, so I appeared safe. We let the remaining racers finish up and get a breather before we enjoyed our climbing reward.
Stage Four is down, down, down on tight, twisty singletrack after a quick "round the horn" start to spread everyone and throw them off balance (the horn being me standing in the middle of the trail). Getting out front early pays off with little room for passing on this skinny section that seems to go on forever. One of the best sections of trail on the course in my opinion, it twists and turns tight between trees, over rock piles, a couple of skinny bridge-type features made of natural materials finally finishing with a steep fall-line section near the end of the stage. Gravity pulled you nearly the whole way and you hardly had to pedal a stroke if you didn't want to. If that wasn't reward enough, a barrel of Tuppers Hop Pocket Pils was waiting at the finish. One rider went over the bars early on but quickly recovered and didn't seem any worse for the wear. Otherwise, I think everyone escaped unscathed.
After much refueling, water bottles were topped off with the aforementioned "energy drink" and it was time to climb again. This time as a group, up a nice skinny cut to the top of the next ridge. Stage Five was a flat out run along the ridge top with a enough fallen trees and scattered rock gardens to keep things interesting.
Stage Six should have been dubbed the "deceiver" since it starts as a fun downhill ripper with assorted rock lip options to get air off of, then flattens out on a slightly sandy section that leaves you spinning out your gear. Then *BAM*, just as you've lost all momentum you get a nasty climb that's tough in steepness, line selection and rutted, rocky technical difficulty. Cleaning it is a reward in itself, getting points was a bonus. Another parade section followed nearly identical to Stage Six except the race wasn't on so the riders could relax a bit. This deposited us at the start of Stage Seven and reunited us with some rogue course marshals who had gotten a little excited and blew past the finish of the last stage. Reunited once again we were ready once again for some downhill action.
With a few words of warning and a little advice I turned the riders loose to do Stage Three in reverse. Yes, that 1+ mile uphill earlier in the day was the canvas for a pack of hyped up single speeders to draw their lines all over. For ex-BMXers like myself, those big fat earthen water bars are like ripe fruit ready to be picked from the tree. All day I had tried to be a good organizer and ride sweep, making sure no one was left behind, had a mechanical or stacked and needed a hand. But here, once I made sure all riders had made their way up the short preliminary climb, I abandoned my position and let loose on the descent. The water bars that sucked on the climb up become perfect launch pads for floating fat air on the way down. Fun and dangerous at the same time, I am just waiting for the day I do damage to myself. About half of the water bars are not perpendicular to the trail making take off tricky, many feed you into a landing zone that also happens to be a turn and most have loose rock or buried boulders somewhere in the area you want to touch down. It makes for high speed thrills and potential spills but I savor every minute of it. Luckily no one bites it and there is only one flat discovered after everyone has completed the stage. Another refueling stop courtesy of Tuppers and our gracious beer ladies and we begin the parade to the next section.
We've done a good bit of climbing so far, but it's not over yet. To spare the group and allow a bit of recovery the next big climb is a group ride. Through an XL stream crossing that is a guaranteed soaker and up, up, up a dirt road we go. By the time we get to the next stage start it's evident that the course is starting to wear a few people down. But there is not a single complaint, everyone is still having a good time, there are just some tired legs in the pack.
Stage Eight yields some more climbing followed by a stretch of more or less rocky singletrack that turns to some REALLY rocky singletrack climbing. Everyone tops out at a little knob and then we have some non-stage fun hitting up some stunts. A few crash and burn incidences, but no broken bones and probably no scars, so all is well. At this point we are nearing the end, but it's not over yet, we've still got some elevation to gain!
We head out as a big group and roll about a mile, mostly climbing, circling back and retracing Stage One. At the begin of Stage One we regroup and point the bikes up another trail, one more climb for the road - or to the road as it were. Stage Nine is kind of steep, a little loose, but wide and not nearly as bad as it looks but there are definitely a few riders whose legs are saying "screw you, I'm done". No shame in that, lots of tough climbing if you had a multi-gear rig, even tougher on the uni-cog. By now most people probably want to kill me if they could muster the energy. I promise more beer in hopes of saving my skin. It works. Only one more stage to go.
What's an enduro without a derby? So, Stage Ten finishes things up right, with a mob of cyclists circling like sharks trying to knock each other off. I notice Ricky d has adopted my tactic of riding against the crowd, but it does him more harm than good and he's out early. Dave B. and Dave G. duke it out in the end as the crowd tightens the noose and Dave comes out the victor. With renewed energy everyone sprints towards the barley and hops wagon with a little jousting on the way and some air between their tires and the ground. Points are tallied and the champions are announced. All hail the 2006 Single Speed Punk Bike Enduro Champions: Becky and Ricky. And no, there were not two women's divisions!