Our man-on-the-ground, maker of legendary race-fuel sandwiches, and Sports Marketing Manager Allan Cooke gave us a full rundown of last weekend's Enduro World Series stop at Aspen/Snowmass. Read on for more.
After five muddy races in a row the team and the rest of the EWS riders and crew were all looking forward to Aspen/Snowmass in hopes of a dry race. The forecast for the week couldn't make up its mind and changed every hour so getting on with the race week with positive thoughts was all we could do.
The two days of practice went really well. A heavy thunderstorm rolled through two days before the stages opened up to the best riders in the world and the conditions were on point. This week the cast was Mark Scott and Iago Garay along with four special guests: Mitch Ropelato, Nic Bean, Kyle Bowman, and Christian Fitipaldi.
Mitch Ropelato showed up in Colorado to compete in his first Enduro World Series event of the 2017 season. Mitch is always a threat when he’s into an event, and he had arrived in Aspen with his new Nomad and was all smiles and motivated. Two Santa Cruz employees and members of the Factory Race Team had qualified for the race with good results on the California Enduro Series (CES). This would be the first EWS of Nic Bean and Kyle Bowman’s young enduro Careers; Nic competing in the U21 category and Kyle Bowman in Pro. Also this week we had the pleasure of working and riding with open-wheel car racing legend and good friend of Rob Roskopp’s, Christian Fitipaldi.
Everything came up Millhouse for race day
It's not the drops you have to watch out for—it's the elk
Christian was competing against 47 other riders in the Pro Masters category and was killing it all weekend and getting better with every stage. To step in to a completely different form of racing and be mid-pack was pretty amazing. He was able to finish 25th overall for the week and came in after the final stage so stoked and telling tales from all the stages. There was a drop just after a fire road that he was airing off of it no problem in practice but during his race run he rolled up to it and noticed a large rack of antlers right about where he was planning to land. At the last second he grabbed the brakes, took the go-around, and saw a massive elk standing on the track. The elk didn't get too spooked and Christian was able to bring himself and his bike down in one piece, narrowly avoiding disaster. He'll be competing at the next round of the Verizon Indy Car Series in Wisconsin this coming weekend.
Representing Factory Racing since the beginning, this was Kyle Bowman's first EWS appearance
Another Factory Racing alum, Nic Bean is gaining confidence at every turn
Nic Bean started riding for Santa Cruz as part of our Grassroots racing team and it wasn't long before he became part of the family. He landed a summer job on the production line, joined the Factory Racing Team, and then moved to a part time position as part of the Showroom and Factory Demo crew. He was 16 when I first saw his Grassroots Racing application and he's just now graduated from High School and moved towards giving enduro racing a real shot. He's a good kid that has had many wins and podiums in the Junior category at Enduro Cup, CEWS, and Big Mountain Enduro races and this race at Aspen was his first taste of the world stage. Right off the bat he noticed the increased level of trails and competition and determined that his goal was to finish and gain the experience and valuable knowledge that would help him achieve his goals of racing full-time on the EWS. This introduction was more than successful—not only did he finish with the bike and his body in one piece, he was also able to secure 25th overall and land a top 20 finish in stage three. When we head to Whistler later this month, Nic is coming along and I predict a top 20 finish overall.
Kyle Bowman is a 21-year-old Santa Cruz shredder who also began things on the Factory Production line and in the Showroom. He's been working for Santa Cruz for three years and he's been part of the Factory Racing team since day one. Like Nic, this was also Kyle's first glimpse into the world stage of racing EWS. I was able to ride with him and the rest of the team in practice and his stoked was on 11 the whole time; it was great to see Kyle's simple joy for riding mountain bike over the week. His race was littered with lessons and even some big crashes, but Kyle was having the time of his life and it's always a pleasure to have people with that kind of attitude in our pit. In the end he finished 79th overall, which isn't bad considering it was his first Enduro World Series race against the best riders in the world on the toughest track the U.S. has to offer.
It all clicked for Mitch and his Nomad during Stage three
Hula is life for Ropo
Mitch Ropelato made a seven hour drive from his home in Ogden, Utah to join the crew and race his first EWS of the 2017 season. Whether it's BMX, speed and style, pump track, downhill, slalom or enduro, you can bet that Mitch will do something to blow your mind—he's one of the best all around riders in the world. Practice went well for Mitch and following him down the trails gives you a sense of just how good he really is. The self proclaimed “Lifestyle Athlete” blew the minds of the enduro world on the first day by winning stage three and beating the best full-time enduro riders in the world. After his win Mitch was fired up, and on the stage 4—the first of day two—he placed 5th. An unfortunate flat tire slowed him down on stage five but he came back strong with a 6th place finish on the 6th and final stage. Despite the flat (that put him in 70th place for stage 5) Mitch finished 22nd in the overall. I'm hoping the success last weekend gets him fired up and that we'll see him at more Enduro World Series races in the future. When Mitch is around everyone benefits from this incredible attitude towards racing and his amazing abilities on the bike.
Eyeballing up an LT-sized inside line just before Rockies-chop started
No sense in braking after the drop if you can smash the berm at the bottom
Two weeks before Aspen kicked off, Santa Cruz-SRAM team members Iago Garay and Mark Scott flew in to Colorado to get acclimated to the altitude and to participate in a training camp with Santa Cruz rider Alex McGuiness (aka. Krunk Shox). Krunk was getting ready to ride the Singletrack 6 in Canada and hosted the boys for a tough week of high-altitude training rides in Park City, Utah. Iago and Mark were felling really good coming in to Aspen and were excited to race the 30mm version of the Reserve carbon wheels. Until this point in the season both had been racing on the 27mm Reserves with no problems and were looking forward to the added stability of the 30’s in the big Colorado mountains.
Iago would have his best race of the season. He finished out day one and day two in the top 20, placing 13th on stage three and 17th on the sixth and final stage. Iago is honing in on the keys to success with each consistent finish, now the key is to figure out the formula and apply it to every stage. He's always shown potential at the races and the best part is how much fun he has, whether successful or not. Iago's style and presence on a bike is contagious and it makes everyone around him want to ride just a little bit more—he really shows what bike riding can be inside and out. After the week's race, Iago (like the rest of us) was totally beat. Leaving it all out on the track is what its all about and Iago did just that.
Mark is always a threat to the podium at any race and Aspen was no different. During practice Mark was his usual calm and quiet confident self and he was super comfortable on the new, raw tracks that the Big Mountain Enduro crew had cooked up for this year. Unfortunately, about half way down stage 1 it was obvious that something just wasn't right with Mark. He wasn't able to push his limits physically and when it came time to push hard, he just couldn't go and even threw up a few times between stages one and two. It didn't seem like the altitude or even something that he ate but something took its toll on his energy level through two days of racing. Usually Mark eats enough to feed an army, but he wasn't able to get the nutrition into his body and that resulted in low energy levels on every stage. Despite it all, he managed to finish 14th overall and even landed a top 10 finish in the final stage. It wasn't an easy race for him but his efforts showed everyone how bad he wants to race and how hard he pushed in the face of feeling as bad as he did.
We're going to need a bigger tailgate
At this point Mark has to be getting tired of hearing people saying he's ready for a breakout race—it seems like all year he's been right there until a flat tire, a mechanical, or some illness gets in the way. He needs to stay patience and that patience will pay off. The results will come, there's no doubt about that, and when they do all of Santa Cruz will be right there with him. Mark is still young and all of these challenges will help him deal with adversity when he's at the top. He's sitting in 12th in the overall rankings with two races left in the season. The team's goal for him is to finish top 10 for the year and that's well in sight. We all know he can do it and so much more.
It's a 28 hours drive to Whistler for the next round of the Enduro World Series in a week and a half. Time for me to hit the road. - AC