The next round of the Revolution Enduro comes to Eagle this weekend. The organizers promise trails that have never been raced before. So we went out to test the tracks and see what's up. The following are our observations:
First of all, if you are afraid of the hike-a-bike hell that made up day one of the Steamboat stop on the series, fear not. The transfer stages are fairly mellow. The first transfer largely consists of a casual road ride laughing and chatting with friends. If anyone follows Megan or myself on Strava you may be seeing our feed and shuttering in terror. I promise that is not the case!
Eagle has two distinct networks of trails - The usual standards of the Boneyard trails that are very familiar to almost everyone on the Western Slope and the enormous expanse of trails on Hardscrabble Mountain. Several of those trails like World's Greatest, Love Connector, Abram's Ridge and School House Rock are truly epic and we'll developed MTB trails. There are many more that are moto routes that are really fun to ride on a bike like Elk Drops, Star Wars and the Plunge. The biggest challenge in this area are the climbs. My first experience in this area involved a slight wrong turn onto a moto trail that wasn't on MTB Project. It ended in a 25 mile hike up insanely steep chunder in redneck four-wheeler paradise just to get back home. After that episode I have been very cautious about venturing into the Hardscrabble network beyond my level of familiarity. With this stop of the series it was time to take another whack at it.
The difficulty of the trails on Hardscrabble Mountain is the navigation. It is a complex network of fire roads, bike trails, ATV scars and moto routes that aren't always on MTB Project or Trail Forks. An e-bike or 250 is a great asset to figure it all out.
For this particular race we looked over all the beta. The obvious answer is to shuttle the course, but we didn't want to organize that and being real mountain bikers, not some dirt bag freeriders who only ride the chairlift, we aren't afraid of pedaling our miles to earn our descents so we worked out a plan. We would climb transfer one to stage one which puts us right back at the car. Next we would park in town and ride up Abram's Ridge to Firebox Road to stage 3 and 4. From the beta we studied it looked to be maybe twice as far as Abram's to World's Greatest, which is a favorite ride in the area.
After 30 miles and 5,500 vertical feet we realized the error of our ways. It could have been worse, but when you are starting up a steep fire road climb realizing that the only options are to keep going, turn around and go back up an even steeper fire road that you just came down, or point it down the next fire road to the right and hope it lands you on HWY 6 for a humble road ride back to town from Gypsum rather than an even steeper and looser climb, you know you have signed up for an adventure.
That is the bottom line for this race. It is WILD. When we hear "Eagle" we think home of the Vail working class. A great little neighborhood just off of I-70. Boneyard to Pool and Icerink. We don't think of wild untamed expanses of back-country trails that aren't even mapped, but that is the sleeping giant that is Hardscrabble Mountain.
In this race the showcase is the sheer potential of the area.
We start at the intersection of Hardscrabble and Sawmill Road high above town. A casual road pedal takes us near the summit of Hardscrabble where you will see views of ridges and valleys that you didn't even imagine existed. From there we start up the ridge on what is described as a "primitive trail" known as Sawmill. Really, it is a overgrown game trail with a few machine dug pits and piles of dirt to keep four-wheelers from tearing it up. As it trends downhill it becomes more established, but there will be a few sections that are little more than game trails in a meadow. This trend continues well past the start of the stage. We found ourselves asking, "What kind of "Enduro" is this? Why not put a little downhill in the Enduro? Isn't that the point?"
Well, after a bit of pedaly descending through those meadows, the course took a little left turn down Sawmill Gulch and Hardscrabble Mountain flexed it's muscles. The gulch quickly turns into a rocky, burly, unrelenting, steep descent that will rival any technical downhill out there. Stage one means business.
After you meet the road, transfer two is another relatively short and easy road pedal to a blind stage. Our best guess is it will be a moto singletrack descent through the woods, but be ready for anything. There are a good few stretches of rocky Jeep trails in the area as well.
After the blind stage is Mike's Night Out. It opens with a very difficult hike-a-bike to the top of the ridge, but don't worry, it is short enough. The descent is largely non-technical narrow singletrack with a few tricky bits thrown in. It gets increasingly steep and ends with a bit of skiddy dirt surfing. The hardest part is that there is really no where to release the brakes. It gets steeper and steeper and there is always a turn or a tree or a feature in front of you. Find the little spots to get off the brakes so you don’t burn them into a smoldering mess.
The next transfer is very casual road and singletrack and not very far to get to the top of World's Greatest. This is an exceptional trail. It is the most established trail in the race and really has it all. It opens with fast pedaling through the open meadows which gradually become steeper and rockier. It becomes loose with rocky turns and has a few small ledge drops. Nothing too intimidating, but be on your game at race pace. That transitions into flowing dirt corners with an occasional rocky patch thrown in. There is one particularly steep uphill punch that isn't very long at all, but is just the perfect level of steep to test your skills and fitness before rolling over into steep dirt surfing all the way to the intersection with Elmer's. Elmer's is the most popular finish to World's Greatest and the direction of the race stage. Elmer's is a reformed moto trail so it has whoops, corners and a flowy, fast pace. Just don't send it if you don't know it! There are a few things that just beg you to get airborne when you cannot see the landing. The landings aren't always where they should be, or what you think they will be, but if you crash you will fall into the sage brush so it won't hurt too much and you will smell good, so you’ll have that going for you… which is nice.
The ride finishes up on School House Rock which is a good time all on its own, just watch for dog walkers.
The bottom line is this race will be wild. Not in the out of control sense, but in the going where few have gone before sense. Eagle has an absolutely jaw dropping potential for trails. With little traffic, a few re-routes around erosion traps, one or two more dedicated uphill routes, and perhaps a shuttle service to the rim, Eagle could easily be uttered in the same breath as Moab. This race is an amazing opportunity to showcase the beautiful futures of Eagle and hopefully inspires a few people to donate to local trails to see our sport flourish in an amazing area.
See you all Saturday!
Ride Demo Days