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Many places in the U.S. can brag about having a rich mountain bike history, but very few that can claim to have as rich of a history as Durango, Colorado. Some of the biggest names in U.S. mountain bike history either call or have called this area of Southern Colorado home, and some of the biggest events that shaped U.S. mountain bike history can also lay claim to this area too, so it only seemed right that the Big Mountain Enduro series would have its fourth stop of the 2021 series based out of Purgatory Resort, 30 minutes north of Durango.
Racers had two full days of seat-time; the first day, riders battled it out over four tracks located at the resort. The tracks were rough, rowdy, dry, dusty and just all-out scary, but the two stages that stood out as putting the fear of an angry mother into the majority of the racers were Stages 3 and 4—World Cup DH and Links, respectively. World Cup DH provided the racers with 4 minutes of relentless brutality. If they were talented enough to make it through one section of the steep, rocky and loose track, they were greeted with another section that made the last feel like a quick walk to the pickleball court. Stage 4 brought the anxiety with steep chutes that had the racers picking through or riding over unforgiving rocks. Either that, or they were faced with steep chutes filled with moon dust and sections where the trail disappeared under the wheels of the rider, then reconnected to earth right before chicanes made up of aspen trees.
Day two went back to the Big Mountain Enduro’s roots with a backcountry stage which included a 14-mile transition to the stage, then a 9-mile pedal back to the resort, with a 4-mile timed descent thrown in the middle of the transitions. Once back to the resort, the athletes rode the main lift back to the top of the resort for Stage 6, which was another run on World Cup DH.
The start list was stacked, although a couple big names were missing from the start gate—series leader Richie Rude and Shawn Neer made the pilgrimage to Europe for the upcoming stops of the Enduro World Series, opening up two potential podium spots. Mitch Ropelato and Cody Kelley had their sights set on those podium spots and on one another, and any bystanders paying the smallest of attention could tell that these two best friends/competitors were either going to blow themselves up or they were going to end up first and second. The big question was, who was going to take home the fake plastic check with “First Place” written on it. This honor went to Ropelato after he claimed stage wins on all stages but Stage 2 where Kelley took the win. After two days of Kelley putting the pressure on Ropelato, he found himself on the second step of the podium at the end of the weekend, a mere 17 seconds back over 29 minutes of racing.
The woman’s field was filled with the usual suspects; Kera Linn, Porsha Murdock, Lia Westermann and Lauren Bingham, while Kate Lawrence made it to Purgatory she called it a weekend after the first day of racing, with an ongoing injury. The big addition was the legendary Jill Kintner, making an appearance in the BME series, following surgery for a broken finger that had her sidelined for the past 12 weeks. Kintner struck that off with no hesitation, taking stage wins on all six stages at her first race in 17 months, leaving no doubt that the heavily decorated U.S. racer will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Honorable mention goes to local ripper Fiona Dougherty who grabbed a fourth place finish after racing concluded Sunday afternoon.
Once racing finished Sunday afternoon, the pain and exhaustion from the weekend was written over all of the athletes faces, however, whether they showed it on their face, or just in their eyes, you could see that everyone was stoked to make it through the weekend no matter their place in the standings. There is no question that this was one of the most grueling, if not the most grueling stop on the 2021 Big Mountain Enduro calendar, and there is no doubt that everyone will be hoping that Durango / Purgatory makes an appearance on the 2022 race calendar.
Racers have a couple weeks off from the series before its return for the final stop of the 2021 series in Brianhead, Utah.