I headed down to Highland Bike Park this weekend for the Overmountain Enduro, not really sure what to expect. I'd heard awesome things about Highland, and I'd also heard it was pretty knarly. So I was intrigued to say the least.
I was also a bit nervous. I've done a Super D here and there, and I raced a few gravity events in college, but I've never done a proper enduro before. And even though I have a few tricks in my dh toolbox, racing fast downhill is a different ballgame all together.
Initially the plan was to head down Friday and preride the course. Then it poured all day and I had more work to do than I thought. So I stayed home. Which was great from a rest up and feel good standpoint, but apparently not so good from a race fast standpoint. There is a definite learning curve to these races, and not going down the day before was mistake number 1.
Before I get too far though, there is one thing I should say: this race was a blast. Do yourself a favor and put it on your race calendar for next year.
So, back to it. We got up early and headed down to Highland Saturday morning. Which gave me enough time to register and ride stage 1 a couple of times. Stage 3 was only open to foot inspection, so we checked that out too. Then it was chill out and wait for the start mode until the pros finally started at 3 pm. I have to say I got more nervous for this one than any other race all year. I think it has something to do with the fact that you know you're going to have to take some risks to do well.
Stage 1 was a good time. Super fast, with some wall rides, rock features, and a lot of berms. Preriding helped for sure, and I was riding pretty fast, though I need some berm riding practice for sure. The bottom half featured a hint of climbing and some old school NE singletrack. I figured that would be my strength and I punched it there.
Stage 2 was fast, flowy, tight singletrack. No preriding meant I threw in a few too many brake checks, but it was the shortest of the three stages, so I figured it wouldn't be a big deal. That stage flowed right into the climber's prime. That was a tricky one, because when you're racing Adam Craig and there's no prize for second well......
So basically I rode a fun, fast tempo up the climb, and backed off when it got steep and hard in order to save energy for the last stage, which was the most technical by far. Guess that worked okay, I got second in the climber's prime, though again, that didn't really do me any good. Hmmmm, going to have to asses that one for next year.
That brought me to the top of stage 3, which, for some reason, I had a hard time keeping my head in the game for. I rode the top part okay, but not great, and then came into the steep, muddy chute mid course all wrong. Soon enough I was in the trees. And that was pretty much it. My head was out of the game and I'd lost a bunch of time. Too bad too. It turned out I was 9th on stage one, and a good, clean run on stage 3 would have put me in contention for the top 10.
Guess that reinforces how important pre-riding it for these things. You have to have your lines down for sure, and you need to know what they feel like at speed. I didn't do that for stage 3 and it cost me big time.
Oh well, I guess that's what next year's for. Live and learn.