After helping to promote the inaugural Trestle All-Mountain Enduro presented by Trek, it was Ross Schnell who took top honours once the dust settled on the five-stage event, along with Kelli Emmett of the Giant Factory Team.
The racing at Trestle Bike Park in Colorado, left all of the competitors – from pro to the slowest amateur and no matter their background, whether cross-country, downhill or trail riding – grinning ear to ear.
The highlight was the final stage, where the cumulative time from the previous four stages was used to set the start order and times – if the racers were separated by seconds they started with those same seconds in between – for the event’s Super D style finale.
This made for a rapid-fire barrage of starts in a cloud of dust, in which the first rider to the bottom would take both the stage win and the overall. "This race had a chance for everyone, I think," Mark Weir, Cannondale-Fox-WTB's all-mountain icon, told BikeRadar. "After that many runs it starts to balance out in terms of fitness and skillset."
"That was the best last stage I've done in a long time," he added. "It was so much fun to have guys you truly respect because they're in front of you or they're right behind you. When it's an enduro everyone knows that it's a true bike ride, it's not a downhill run that you get one chance on – you get many chances to prove yourself. At the end of the day, everyone's stoked about the results but more stoked about the feeling it gives you when you finish."
Mark Weir and Ben Cruz of Cannondale-Fox-WTB
Racing over the five stages brought the field together and did a good job of eliminating most combative competitiveness in favor of good-natured fun. "I love that the skinsuits came out," said Weir. "You could run glasses in your full-face [helmet] and look like a geek and nobody cared. You didn't have to have the sickest uniform and everyone at the end was still stoked, no matter how they finished, because they got a ton of riding."
Bringing enduro racing to the US
Schnell set out to bring the European enduro to the US with this first foray into race promotion and by all accounts, he came very close. The biggest differences were the ability to practice the courses at Trestle Bike Park – European events are often 'on-sight', meaning promoters don't allow practice before race runs – and their manmade nature.
Trek's Ross Schnell co-promoted and won the Trestle All-Mountain Enduro presented by Trek
"The way he brought the format was perfect," said Weir. "He brought it to all these guys who've never done this before. At first I thought it was too park-style and [the practice runs] kind of robbed it of the enduro feel, but it all made up for it at the end. Having a staggered start with the people you should be racing against made it fun and [gave] this clarity of where you truly stand in how you ride your bike."
Thoroughbred downhiller versus thoroughbred mountain biker
In both the men and women's events, mountain bikers with endurance backgrounds came out on top, despite the gravity and jump oriented nature of some of the courses. Schnell took the win with a deep dig up a climb midway through the final stage, up until which he was battling head-to-head with Brian Buell, a local 24-year-old downhiller with World Cup aspirations who rides for the Geronimo-Banshee team.
"It definitely suited the [rider] type," said Buell. "Schnell is a great all-mountain downhill type rider. He mixes it up with us on occasion in full downhill races. So to have this as my first one [enduro], it was definitely a good one to start with." Buell admitted he had trouble finding "flow" on the upper part of the last stage – a natural mountain bike trail, with all its inherent inconsistencies and surprises, which he described as a "hiking trail". He wasn't the only downhiller to struggle on this section.
Brian Buell (Geronimo-Banshee) took second place at the first Trestle All-Mountain Enduro
The women's event saw an almost identical battle between Kelli Emmett and 22-year-old Rebecca Gardner, an aspiring downhill racer sponsored by Beacon Cycles of Beacon, New York. Gardner stumbled upon the Trestle All-Mountain Enduro while passing through Colorado with her brother, Ryan – who claimed seventh in the pro men's enduro – on their way to the Pro GRT downhill race in Tahoe, California.
Gardner only had her Kona downhill bike on the trip, so she went ahead and raced the enduro on it, keeping close pace with Emmett until the final Super D stage. "If I do this race again, I probably won't use my downhill bike," said Gardner. "It was all okay until today [stage 5] when it was hard with all the pedaling and flat."
Kelli Emmett and Rebecca Gardner; the epitome of the endurance versus gravity racer
"This was different," said Emmett, comparing the Trestle All-Mountain Enduro to the Downieville Classic all-mountain event and the Ashland Super D. "There were a lot of jumps. There aren't any jumps in Downieville and there really aren't any jumps in Ashland either. For me it was definitely heavy handed [skewed] toward the downhill side, which made it fun and interesting."
Enduro: The future of mountain bike races?
Weir and the Downieville Classic served to put all-mountain racing on the map in the US. Since, other events have cropped up and become famous for the race and experience they produce: the Ashland Super D and the new enduro-style events run in conjunction with Whistler's Crankworx festival. After its first year, Schnell's vision of the Trestle All-Mountain Enduro is positioned to carve out its own spot on that growing list. "I think that the way Ross is turning into a businessman and a marketing guy, he's got a ton of heart and he has a mustache for Christ's sake," said Weir. "I can't imagine him quitting, and he's so passionate about the event."
Another thing going for the racing style is the fact it's best done on a trail bike – a style of bike that most riders buy if they're not intent on racing but having fun just riding a mountain bike. "It's basically the marketplace," said Weir. "You could bring your bike off the shelf and compete in a race like this, at an amateur level, and know that you're not leaving anything behind – all these bikes that are produced now, are produced for these events."
SRAM's Tyler Morland thought the weekend was all rainbows and unicorns
First year glitches
The logistical implications of carrying out an event like the Trestle All-Mountain Enduro are staggering and were compounded by the early evening storms that engulfed Winter Park Resort during Friday's start stage, a chainless downhill. Lightning sent the optical timing gear on the fritz, requiring organisers to fall back onto more primitive means, and some finishes were mistimed or failed to post. "They had to time something like 1,400 starts," said Weir. "They pulled it off. Every one [time] was accurate on my stopwatch – I'm such a jerk-off because I love to know what my time is, and every one was on the point."
After running out of daylight, promoters were forced to push the masters race off until the following day. At times emotion ran high, but in the end, especially after the final stage and raffle – with generous contributions from SRAM and other sponsors in which multiple X0 groups, Boxxer forks and even a complete Trek Remedy were given away – it was hard to find a racer who didn't have a good time. "For the first one, I think they did an incredible job," said Weir.