Alison Zimmer has taken the East Coast Pro Women’s Enduro field by storm this year and seized the opportunity for the ride of a lifetime competing at the Enduro World Series at Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, CO this past weekend. A story of two-wheeled excellence, family adventure, and perseverance; Ali recaps her experience competing at the pinnacle of Enduro Mountain Bike racing.
Words: Alison Zimmer
Photos: VAST vastaction.com
Arrival – Wednesday 7/24
After 20 hours of work in 2 days followed by nearly 24 hours of travel, Dan, Hannah, and Myself arrived in Winter Park, CO to a nice little condo and clear skies. Needless to say I was totally exhausted. I unpacked and went to bed, while Dan put my Xprezo Super-D together.
Practice Day – Thursday 7/25
I arrived at Winter Park around 8:30 am, registered, and hopped on the lift to get some Trestle Bike Park experience! The race course details for Friday were not to be released until noon, so I could just free ride. I meet a local, “Chris”, on my first lift ride up, and he took me down a nice mello-ish trail “Shy Ann” to start the day; Fun! We went back up for another run down “Boulevard” and I watched as he took a horrific bail on the initial rock garden… I dropped my bike and ran to him, his eyes were rolling in his head, and he was incoherent. Head injury. I yelled for help, which was quickly there and watched as my new friend was backboarded out. Yikes. I went on to ride alone.
By now the race course details for the next day were posted. Trestle Dh trail for stage one (the gnarliest on the mountain) and Shy Ann to Double Jeopordy to Rainmaker etc, for stage 2. I had one practice run on each course when a huge storm rolled in. First rain, thunder, then crazy hail that turned the mountain white, to down pouring rain again. After a couple hours it let up, and the lifts were running again. I took one more run on each course. By then I was tired, and thought saving my energy was best, in retrospect another run…or walk… down the steep technical gnar of Trestle would have done me some good. Early to bed, already feeling it!
Race Day 1 – Friday 7/26
Start time 10:30 am. Stage 1 started off well, the weather was perfect, dirt was tacky for Colorado, and I was being cautious to not over do on the first run and be smooth. I passed the most technical aspect of the trail and was feeling good, when I found myself off my line and in the wrong place on a rock garden… I went over the bars and tumbling down a steep grade, broke my visor, and when I stood up to go again the demolished visor was blocking my view. I kept trying to push it up and out of the way or break it off, no such luck. A spectator that ran to me to see if I was alright offered a quick punch to the helmet… I could see. I was back on the bike and smoothed out the rest of the run, however, by the end my rear tire was flat and the crash coast me a good 40ish seconds, placing me in 18th spot.
Dan helped me with the tire, but my wheel was in bad shape, 2 big dents in the rim and a big flat spot, but there was little time to dwell on this as Stage 2 started exactly 1 hour after Stage 1 with time penalties if you were late. So back up for Stage 2, which I was really looking forward to, as It was a mix of flow trails, a few short but intense pedaling bursts, a long jump section, and a nice DH ending. Immediately as I started the stage my derailleur was funky, constantly ghost shifting. I had been so worried about the tire, and just pedaling around easy that I had not realized it was such a problem, and now there was nothing I could do but finish the stage.
I had a clean run, but could not put power into the bike on the pedaling phases, and again took 18th. I was frustrated but there was no time to rest as the next stages had been posted and it was time to practice for Stages 3 and 4. Both stages started about 700+ feet above the lift, and climbing in the 10-11,000 ft plus altitude was wearing on me. Stage 3 was long, pedaly, with a long techy rock section that was causing many mechanical issues for fellow riders…note to self. 3 B was a nice DH section “No Quarter” with the biggest drops we would see and four wooden doubles into the same ending that we had the on Stage 2. Stage 4 was a nice single track short course that reminded me of riding in Burke. With my derailleur cable fixed I was in good spirits despite the day’s misfortune.
Race Day 2 – Saturday 7/27
Start time 10:30 am, however the lifts were broken so we waited a long time until we could get to the top and pedal to the start of Stage 3A. It started well, I was feeling good, then a small slide on a root changed it all. My immediate reaction was “no big deal,” and I was instantly on my bike again, but pulled over as my bars were totally twisted and unable to be ridden. I tried slamming the bars back, kicking them, not budging. I took off my pack and grabbed the multitool, and began working, but in my flury loosened the wrong part first, fixed that, then fixed the bars. 6 riders had already passed me, I was getting more and more devastated, that was it.
My heart sank, this I can not come back from. I hopped back on, committed to finishing the run, and my seat post dropper was stuck, high. Riding on, it was initially ok, but once in the steep tech I was caught off guard and posted over the bars after catching the seat in my stomach. Totally devastated now I struggled to find the finish line, loosing a good 10 minutes and taking last in the stage. Fellow riders offered what they could for help with my seat post as we transfered up to 3B, but to no avail, it was not moving. At a loss of what to do and nervous my seat would throw me off the bike again I set off to do the best I could.
The seat didn’t hinder me as much as I expected and I cleared all the drops and jumps, this time earning 11th overall, that was more like it, but with my complete failure on 3A any shot of making top 10 or mid-field was over. Section 4 would have been a nice way to make up some time, however was cancelled due to the lifts breaking down again, and storms rolling in, which was bittersweet. Stage 5 was released. After SRAM traded me a new reverb seat post dropper (while Dan, Hannah and I watched the sick slopestyle event!) it was time to practice. This course was also one you had to climb to from the top of the lift, and started on a nice trail “The Roof of the Rockies,” which reminded me of riding at home, then there was a hard pedal into a steep downhill “Search and Seizure,” back on the “Trestle DH Trail,” and into a final trail with fast jumps and tech. The lifts didn’t allow access to ride until late in the day so I only had the chance to ride the lower section once, and the mid to lower section once. Exhaustion was setting in.
Final Race Day – Sunday 7/28
Due to lift failure we were allowed a hour of practice time in the morning. The altitude was really getting to me, and my body was nauseated and shaky with fatigue. I took a mello first practice run and felt totally off my game, put what I could into my body for fuel and went to do one full practice run, which went ok. But mental and physical exhaustion coupled with frustration of the past 2 days had the best of me. I took the run mello but smooth, had a clean run, but nothing great. It was fun and long, however it wasn’t the time to push myself and risk injury.
In the end I was 26th overall. The 10 minutes alone in Section 3A cost me 12-15 places. Upon reflection I feel that had I been able to perform to the best of my ability, getting a top 10 spot would have been well within my grasp, although not close to touching Moseley, Chausson and the other amazing top riders, my skills were worthy of standing with the best although it may not look that way in the results. I learned so much along the way, and am reminded that I am still quite a novice in the whole racing scene. Thanks so much to all who helped me accomplish the goal of getting there and completing my first EWS, and thanks to my amazing husband and daughter whose support and faith in me kept me going when things were tough. With this experience under my belt my fingers are crossed that I get the chance to go after another EWS, for this was the most complete mountain bike experience and competition I have yet encountered.
What’s next for Ali? In less than a week’s time she’s headed to Mont St. Anne, Quebec to compete in the World Cup DH aboard a brand new Xprezo Cycles Furax!
Click image to enlargePhoto: Dan Zimmer