Culture

Big Mountain Enduro Kicks off ’21 Season

The unlikely host venue was a departure for the largely Mountain West-focused series

The Big Mountain Enduro series ventured outside its usual Mountain West territory to kick off the ’21 race season, stopping in Ironton, Missouri, over the weekend. The race series, a staple of the U.S. enduro race community since 2012, grueling climbs, rowdy descents and big days in the saddle; places like Winter Park, Keystone or Crested Butte, Colorado, or Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ironton, a town of 1,400 residents 90 minutes south of St. Louis—a location that was likely a mystery to most of the race’s 360 registered entries—initially felt like an odd fit. But ultimately competitors felt right at home at Sheppard Mountain Bike Park, a new city-owned bike park built by Jagged Axe, the hands responsible for the trails at Glorieta in Santa Fe, an established BME favorite.

Ironton Courthouse
This is Ironton, Missouri…

Trailbuilders used every inch of Sheppard’s 600 feet of elevation to create the beginnings of an outstanding trail system that challenges the most competent of riders, without being too intimidating for newer riders. And that’s why the bosses over at Big Mountain Enduro knew that this would be the perfect venue to kick off the 2021 season.

…And so is this. Dual slalom royalty and king of steeze Mitch Ropelato showed up to rep his new bike sponsor, Cannondale.

The city doubled in size for the race weekend and brought in some of the biggest names in enduro racing; the local coffee shop and restaurants bustled with the anticipation of the race and every friendly local had a plethora of questions for all the athletes. Athletes were thrilled to return to racing after the pandemic truncated the BME season to just two races last year, as evidenced by how quickly the entire BME series sold out after registration opened.

Kera Linn, a new face on the enduro scene after a stint racing downhill, landed in second place in Pro Women.

The race’s five stages left all the riders with arm pump and a big smile on their faces after finishing each stage, and if they didn’t have a smile, they more than likely had a flat tire or a blown-up wheel in hand—the wheel companies in the sponsor village had their work cut out for them during practice.

Cody Kelley, a familiar face on the enduro circuit, navigates one of the smoother sections of the course. 

The fan favorite was Stage Four, Cannonball, a rowdy, steep and rocky trail that offered the riders every opportunity to pinch flat, even with tire inserts, or in a lot of cases, a dented or cracked rim. In the Pro Women’s category, Kate Lawrence from GT took home the gold with a tight battle for second between Kera Linn and Porsha Murdock, with Linn ultimately taking the silver with a 1.4 second lead over Murdock.

The Pro Women’s podium (who all earned equal prize payout as the men). Kate Lawrence ended up on the top step. Lawrence hails from Boulder, Colorado, with stops at MIT and soon Stanford, where she’ll work on a Phd in genetics.

On the Men’s side, Yeti’s Richie Rude took first place after winning every stage, with his teammates, Shawn Neer and Warren Kniss, taking silver and bronze respectively.

It’d be Rude not to cheer for this stacked podium.

The BME series picks up again in July 24-25 in Big Sky, Montana, the second of five races on the calendar this summer. All the races are sold out, but there is a waitlist.

Photos: James Stokoe