Michaux Double Down Enduro

My deluxe accomodations for the night!

My deluxe accomodations for the night!

This past weekend I headed out to Gardners, PA for the Michaux Double Down Enduro put on by Zach Adams of Fast Forward Racing Productions. The last enduro of my race season for 2013! I knew a bunch of friends were going so I was looking forward to it and I wanted one more crack at an enduro course this year. This would be a 3+hr drive for me so I decided to rent a “rustic bunk house” at the nearby camp ground. Luckily my cabin was right next to another occupied by friends, Brice Shirbach of Fattirefests.com, Matt Miller, Callie Horwath and Chris Talotta. We ran into Tim Carson during the pre-ride and he wound up staying in my cabin. There were a handful of others that rolled up in vans and camped by us. This made for a great weekend, campfire, some brewskies and some laughs.

Pre-ride

After getting to my cabin and setting up camp, Brice rolled up then we headed down the road to the race venue to get some pre-riding in. The logistics of the event were nice, the transfer climb was right across the street from the event parking lot and the two courses finished not far up the road.

Rock garden early in the Moss trail.

Rock garden early in the Moss trail.

The parking location would help me plan out my runs so not to carry any extra weight on me or my bike. Time to hit the road and see what we were in for.
Fixing flats and checking lines. Left to right...Matt Miller, Chris Talotta, Brice Shirbach and Callie Horwath.

Fixing flats and checking lines. Left to right…Matt Miller, Chris Talotta, Brice Shirbach and Callie Horwath.

As we got to the top of the transfer climb we met up with Matt, Callie and Chris then rode with them. We stopped at various points along the trails to scope out lines through the rocks. We ran into a couple of issues when Matt punctured his rear tire and then I wound up with a small hole as well but the Stan’s sealant wound up working to stop that. Getting input and advice from Matt and Chris was great. Chris used to race pro downhill so he has some serious skills on the bike. Matt is a smart and fast rider who rides for Giant Mid-Atlantic, he loves the rocks so his insights were helpful. All in all a good day riding with friends. Here is a quick edit of our pre-ride (please excuse the quality, I tried using some software I don’t normally use to edit video and it wound up degrading the video in a bunch of parts. Also parts might make you sick from the shaky camera.)

 

Race Day

Breakfast at Fay's hit the spot!

Breakfast at Fay’s hit the spot!

With the 12 O’clock start we all had plenty of time to wake up, get some breakfast and make sure our bikes were ready to go. Chris, Tim and I headed out to a local spot in Carlisle, PA called Fay’s. We beat the rush and enjoyed some home style cooking!
After we got back and everyone was cleaning bikes, I unfortunately got to check out the bikes that Chris and Tim were riding. They both were on Specialized carbon 29r’s weighing in around 25lbs. This kind of depressed me because I’m pushing a 32lb bike around. They definitely had the right bikes for the trails we’d be racing on today.

Riders meeting

Riders meeting

After relaxing for a while we all headed down to the race venue to check in and get to racing. The weather was almost perfect, partly cloudy with a high of 47 degrees! Not bad for race day in early November. A quick sign-in, get our timing chips, see some friends and we were off. No need to warm up as you start the day with a 2 mile climb to the top!

 

Race runs

First trail up was “Moss”, a 1.9mi trail used for stages 1 & 3, which had a short decent to a short climb then into the gnarly rock garden. Off I go…I got to the line in the first rock garden that I had practiced and noticed that a key rock that ramped you up and over a large boulder had been flipped. No time to think about that…find a new line. I made it through the tight gap between the large boulders and into short punchy but very rocky climb. I got off track and wound up running to the top. Hop back on and get into the switch backs. These were tough because you want to maintain momentum but navigating the tight turns can prove difficult.
Out of those and into some faster downhill trail then onto the tight and twisty woods section that levels off some. I have similar trails that I ride where I live but…this Moss trail has rocks littered throughout that make it much more challenging.
This part of the course is definitely better on a 29r as they can roll over the rocks easier than the 26″ wheeled bikes like mine. I was feeling good as I weaved my way through then BANG, I nailed a small tree with my left shoulder. This stopped me in my tracks and well…it hurt! I had to try and get the momentum back as there was a tricky rock section ahead that if you are not on the right line you will be on the ground. Of course there were a handful of spectators at this spot cheering riders on which kind of helped get me back in the game.
After getting past this point you still have some flat rough terrain to conquer then you can get to some fast open trail.
I pedaled through the remaining downhill portions so not to lose any more time.
Swipe my card at the reader and head on to the next transfer with Brice. This is a big reason I love enduro, you get to think about what you did, talk it over with your buds and get ready to do it again.

As we reached the summit to start stage 2 we took a short snack break and stretched a bit. The next trail is Vista, a 2.2mi trail used for stages 2 & 4, this was my favorite of the two as it had more fast flowy downhill to it. This stage started with a steady uphill climb to a tricky downhill rock slab that had a sharp right turn at the bottom. My first time through there was a woman with a dog right at the bottom, bad spot to take photos as riders would be coming directly at her.

Following Brice through the rocky terrain on our pre-ride.

Following Brice through the rocky terrain on our pre-ride.

After you come off the rock slab you have to follow a short climb up and into more rocks. The line through here was not well defined and allowed you to get off line easily if you missed it. (see photo on right)
The trail snaked over these boulders then into a short decent which was littered with rock and the occasional downed tree.
Another level section to small uphill then into my favorite part of the course. Twisty flowy trail that allowed you to get up to speed and rail through the turns into some dark loamy soil. My Kenda Nevgal tires were hooking up nicely through here. More rocks and a bunch of short drops off. I misjudged a right turn that sent you over a rock and I wound up slamming into another tree with my left shoulder, again. Oh, that felt great! I had just passed a rider and thought he’d be on me in no time but that didn’t happen. Lucky for me the pain wouldn’t keep me from riding down. It only became an issue on sections where I had to muscle my bike up and over rocks and downed trees. All apart of racing as they say, you have to keep moving!
The rest of the course was just what I was looking for, fast rocky decent that allowed you to open it up! The stage ends with a short open trail sprint up to the finish.

I would get to stage 3 and try not to repeat what I did the first time around and had a better run with no tree impacts but had a problem with over shifting. I had to stop to yank the chain out from between the spokes and large cog three or four times during the race. My second run down Vista was smoother but again had shifting problems. I must have tapped my derailleur on a rock in the first stage just enough to put it out of alignment to cause the over shift into my easy gear.

What could have been

As with any enduro race, you run the risk of having mechanical or other problems during your runs. I mean…we’re riding as fast as we can down the mountain, through trees and rocks, something is bound to happen. I was lucky enough not to flat or have any tire issues on race day. My Transition Covert performed great but I think I would have been better off with a bigger wheeled bike this day. I did get forced off line a bit weaving through trees on my first and second runs and slammed my left shoulder into those trees but again that can happen. You, as a racer, are judging trail conditions at race pace, this is another reason why enduro appeals to me so much! You are constantly testing yourself.

Those accidents and mechanical issues killed my times for sure but didn’t kill my spirit for enduro. I will have to work hard to come back stronger for next year. I was shooting for top ten on the day but after the first stage I thought that probably won’t happen today.

Results

I wound up 19th out of 31 in the open men’s division. In looking at the results I think top 14 or 15 would have been a good day. There was some real talent on course race day. Congratulations to Jon Gabor on the men’s open win and Sue Haywood for the winning the women’s open division! At the end of the day we all thought that the event ran really well and Zach did a great job putting on a top notch enduro! Click below to see the official results and times.
Michaux Double Down Enduro Results

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