This past Saturday, April 14th was the first ever official Bell Super Enduro held at the locally infamous Soquel Demonstration Forest in Santa Cruz, CA. The Enduro is a race format first popularized in Italy but is slowly gaining ground in the US. The idea is the riders complete a series of transition climbs in which time limits are set, but not actually timed. The real test comes on the downhill where riders are sent off in 30 second intervals like a normal DH race and the winner has the fastest times of all combined descents. The Bell Super Enduro had a total of 3 timed descents and 3 transition climbs.
The feel of the race was completely different from any I’d ever participated in before as I was able to casually ride and chat with people I was about to be race against. I quickly discerned that the majority of the women at the race were not only Santa Cruz locals, but very accomplished pro riders, and I was pleased to be in such fine company. People were also shocked to hear I was a teacher. It seemed like the majority of the riders present were either pro or involved in the bike industry.
The top of the initial climb left everyone with mud caked tires as there had been a respectable amount of rain the previous week. We lined ourselves up in whatever order desired, and were sent off down the first descent of Ridge Trail, a very pedally descent with two steep and tricky uphill sections. As I lined up I felt my nerves start to kick in and I got that sick feeling in my stomach. I pedaled hard the first section of trail, then started to pick up speed as the trail dipped down hill. I slid out in one of the overly wet corners and lost at least a minute straightening my bars. The wetness set the tone for the remaining descents where I found myself somewhere between two-wheel drifting around corners and clenching and breaking enough just to hang on.
The second descent was down “sawpit” a trail I had only ridden once before, the previous week. I knew there was a gnarly rock garden and a small climb, along with the typical fast, swoopy, steeps of Santa Cruz. This ended up being my fastest run relative to the other riders. I made it cleanly through the rock garden and started to get a better handle on how to tackle the disastrous corners and mud pits. About two—thirds of the way down the trail I came across one of the other female riders and after I made several vocal attempts to pass, she ended up crashing out in a huge mud drift and I managed to keep my line straight enough to pass her on a long, incredibly muddy section of trail.
The Braille Trail was the final descent, and it’s worth noting that this trail is the reason many mountain bikers come to Soquel, it is incredibly fast, steep, twisty and hosts numerous log rides and stunts. I felt pretty good when I arrived at the top, much less nervous than at the start of the previous two sections, and I didn’t have to wait long to begin my descent. I quickly realized the rain had changed the conditions of this trail much more than the others as I found myself again clenching up in the corners trying not to slide out. I tried to get myself to relax and lay off the breaks as much as possible. I ended up placing 6th with a total time of 31:18, a minute behind 5th place. This was the most enjoyable race I have ever participated in, and was a great opening to the spring racing season!