29 Jun 2017

DFT United Race Report: North American Enduro Cup

When the date was released earlier this year for the 2017 North American Enduro Cup (NAEC) at Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg, Idaho, it was the first race to be added to the 2017 DFT United Team Race Calendar. A last minute add to Josh Gibb’s race calendar last season, it proved to be a spectacular decision as he pulled off a win in Expert Men 18-29. Going into the 2017 season with an increased focus, NAEC would be a big focus for DFT United riders to be ready for the June 24-25 race weekend. The team came into race weekend having ridden the Silver Mountain Resort trails two days over Memorial Day weekend and again the weekend prior to getting the trails dialed for the massive two day event. NAEC is a 2-day enduro encompassing 5 Stages ranging from two to eighteen minute stages. Day 1 featured 5,810ft of descending with Stage 3 having 3,500ft and 6 miles in length. Talk about having some major arm pump after that caliber of a run! Day 2 would include Stage 4 (PROs only) and Stage 5 requiring all riders to ascend from the base to the top of the mountain climbing over 3,500ft in 95° F heat. Once at the top, the Pros climbed a bit higher to hit Stage 4 and everyone else would drop into Stage 5 to descend 3,500 ft on mostly Black Diamond trails. This enduro is not for the faint of heart or unprepared. Hydration and fuel were key over the entire weekend of racing.

Kellogg, ID – An Interesting History
Kellogg, ID is in the Silver Valley is about 30 minutes east of Coeur d’Alene in the Idaho Panhandle region. Beginning in the 1880s and for more than a century, Kellogg was known for its abundance of silver, lead and zinc (also called the Silver Valley). The mines provided employment for area residents with some being able to trace their ancestors in the valley back six generations and “Uncle Bunker”—Bunker Hill, the large mining complex there—was the hand that fed them throughout the years. While the mines were feeding them, it was also slowly poisoning them. In the mid-1900s, it was told that an offshoot of the Coeur d’Alene River that flowed by the local school located between the Bunker Hill lead smelter and zinc plant was a “light, glowing green color”— similar to a glow stick. In 1973, a fire broke out at Bunker Hill and destroyed part of the baghouse which is the main pollution-control system for the lead smelter. For the next year and a half, the smelter continued to operate and dust polluted with heavy metals rained down on the area. Once known as “the dirtiest town in America”, over the past 25 years huge efforts have been made to clean up the area and the historical mining towns of Wallace and Kellogg, Idaho’s designated "superfund" cleanup sites have been transformed into resort and recreation destinations.

The DFT United Lineup:
Team riders who raced the NAEC:
Kent Billingsley – PRO Men
Josh Gibb – Expert Men 18-29
Sylas Linnemann – Jr Expert 17U
Zach McCracken – Jr Expert 17U
Louie Blair – Jr Sport 17U

The Race
Stage 1 Saturday: Riders had a one hour climb from the resort to the 5 Corners location on the mountain, which is about halfway up the mountain. From there they would drop in into the root infested, loamy “Spooky Woods” then onto the ultra-fast “Wide Open” to “Man Child” and then to “Frog Trees”. This stage would have everything!

Stage 2 Saturday: New to NAEC for 2017 was the NW Cup DH Pro/ Cat 1 track which would be host to stage 2. At only two and a half minutes long and known to be one of the rowdier trails on the hill, it was an opportunity for the DH riders to show their stuff.

Stage 3 Saturday: This stage was a full top to bottom run featuring a solid mix of fun, fast, and flowy trails. Kicking off with the rough and fast start on Jackass then a quick hook left onto El Burro Loco (freshly cut in last year it is a nastier version of Jackass featuring some of the best dirt on the mountain). Racers would then rejoin Jackass and depart the Chair 3 Zone (Upper Mountain) heading onto Lower Jackass. Riders can relax their hands for a brief moment on Ridge Road and then its back on as they enter onto Corkscrew, a trail that's all about keeping speeds up through the corners. After a short jaunt on Highlife racers will ride another new trail for this year, Lowlife, which will deliver them to 5 Corners. Here you can hit the hip jump and then back into the woods for a long, fast, berm fest on Afternoon delight. Next up is Pepsi Can which throws some tighter turns and a few tricky lines into the mix and then it's on to Wildcat. This trail features some wonderful flow, a few roots, and a white knuckle straight line that's good for a few flat tires. Snaggletooth is another optional trail that is significantly shorter, but features some difficult rock sections and requires commitment and should be learned during practice days. Either way the rider decides to go, Wildcat delivers you to Cemetery Road, and then it's a sprint to the finish on Frog Trees.

At the end of Day 1, the boys were all looking good with Kent sitting 4th in Pro Men, Josh 2nd in Expert Men 18-29, Sylas 6th and Zach 9th in Jr Expert 17U, and Louie 3rd in Jr Sport U17. A solid day of hard work for the crew!

Transfer 4: All riders departed from the Silver Mountain Gondola following the signs through town and up towards the top of the mountain. At the saddle, PRO riders made a right turn to make their way up to the start of Stage 4, and everyone else continued up to the left start of stage 5.

Stage 4 Sunday: (PRO ONLY) This stage was comprised of two different sections of trail. The top half utilizes a steep, rough and raw section of the Stix & Stones dirt bike course which is not part of the Silver Mountain Bike Park Trail System and would be your one chance to ride it for the year. This is the steepest section of the whole race course. Once riders make it to the service road they turned right and dropped into Hot Mess. This Double Black Diamond trail is steep, loose, surfy, and features several mandatory drops. Pros were then able to hop onto Chair 3 and upload to the start of Stage 5.

Stage 5 Sunday: After a punishing 10 mile climb in the heat, the Stage starts with the original Silver Mountain Trail, Hammer - a mix of tech sections, jumps, and even a small road gap. As riders continue down out of the Chair 3 Zone they hit a small drop and enter Lower Hammer where the jumps get bigger and it's recommended that riders familiarize themselves with this section in practice. Riders will merge onto Mutton Conductor and bang out a longer tech section with a mix of roots, rocks, and steeps. Arriving again at 5 Corners, riders will shoot straight across the road onto Spooky Woods, a classic root infested tech trail. At the bottom of Spooky Woods the course takes a quick right then left dropping onto the steep and loose Wide Open Road. This turns into Wide Open, a little bit smoother high speed trail with a couple of jumps and some rough and bumpy sections. Shortly after the second jump everyone will bang a Louie and turn onto a short section of Tinkerbell and then Secret Squirrel - a narrow trail with a mix of flow and high speed off-camber. From there riders joined onto Man Child right before the step up to step down, and finish up with some low angle roots and corners. Everyone will cross Cemetery Road and see how fast they can work this fun and flowy section that rounds out the top to bottom lap. You are welcome for the complimentary crab claw!

Heading into Sunday, the boys all predicted Stage 5 to be their best stage of the weekend… and it was! Kent blasted Stage 4 gaining time on the top 3 riders, then crushed stage 5 winning the stage and slotting him into 2nd overall for the day by only 1 second! Josh was looking to repeat his 2016 win with another come from behind win and was on a heater but had to pass 8 riders along the way jumping over two downed riders on his Stage 5 run. Josh still managed to win Stage 5 in the massive Expert Men 18-29 class seating him 2nd overall for the weekend. Sylas was on the hunt for a spot on the box in his first enduro and was able to make up time on the final stage bumping him up a spot from Day 1 to claim 5th overall in Jr Expert 17U! Zach, on his way back after a broken wrist at NW Cup 1, was looking to really pin it on Stage 5 to move up in the standings. Unfortunately, Zach got a flat about 1 mi-nute into his run ending his day. Our final rider down was Louie Blair. Louie has been on a roll this season taking the win last week at NW Cup #4 at Tamarack Resort, ID and was hoping to finish in the top 5 of this super grom category. Louie killed it on the last stage closing the gap on the top two riders locking in another 3rd place finish to his tally for the season.


NAEC also features a team category for overall points. DFT United pulled in a solid second place finish in this category as well! It was a fantastic weekend of racing at a beautifaul location with an elite field!