By Lia Westermann – My first enduro race was actually a year ago, at USA Cycling Mountain Bike nationals in 2015. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I went there to only race cross country, but then I heard about enduro and thought I’d give it a go.
[Editor’s Note: this article was originally written in 2016, and appeared in the September 2016 issue. All references to time should take that into consideration. Lia Westerman is currently a 2-time National Champion racing for Pivot Cycles.]
It ended up being one of the most fun races I had done, in the beginning. About ¾ of the way through the third stage I pinched my tire and got a flat, and rode it down the rest of the way. I put a tube in my tire for the last stage, and started on the stage, hoping for the best. About 10 seconds after the start of the stage, I got another flat, but decided to ride it all the way down.
Afterwards I was absolutely devastated. Yes, I got third place and it was my first ever enduro, but I was ahead after the second stage by about 40 seconds. I thought I had it. Lesson learned, the race is not over until it’s over.
After the race, I cried. A lot. I was so close and then I lost it, I kept thinking to myself.
A couple of days later, I contemplated what had happened. It’s bike racing and it wasn’t in my control that I got a flat. It’s bike racing and it happens. It’s bike racing and anything can happen.
That next fall, winter, and spring, I trained the hardest I’ve ever trained. I went to different gyms, rode in the freezing snow up in Park City during the winter, and did specific weekly workouts. I could never stop thinking of what had happened at Nationals, and I pushed myself harder and harder, saying I’m gonna get it next year. I have to.
Flashing forward about six months, I started to race in the Scott Enduro Cup series and I qualified to race in an Enduro World Series Race in Aspen, Colorado. I had no idea that I would’ve progressed this far in only a year. All the races were so exciting and fun! All of them had such an amazing atmosphere with such interesting people. I decided I would race pro in the Scott Enduro Cup to push myself.
At the first Enduro Cup race in Moab, I had a blast! It was my first ever pro race, so I just wanted to have fun with it and push myself a little bit out of my comfort zone, but not enough that I crashed. However, in the first stage on the very first turn, I decided to do exactly the opposite and go as hard as I could, which did not turn out well. I crashed. It was just a stupid little thing, but afterwards I picked myself up and kept on going, thinking Wow that was dumb, let’s not do that again.
The next three stages (there were four total) went extremely better. Mostly because I took it back a notch and decided to go with my first idea of not going 100%. This way I could remember stages as I went down them, and I could focus on my technique.
The last stage of the race, which was a pro only stage, was my favorite by far. It was the stage that had the most vertical descent in the shortest amount of time, so the trail was very straight with some technical sections of slickrock.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted. I was waiting anxiously for the results to find out how I placed. I hoped to get at least top five. When the results came, I found out that I had gotten fourth place! I was stoked, and I knew this was a great start to the rest of my racing season.
The rest of the races went extremely well except for the final race at Deer Valley. The second and third stops in the Enduro Cup series were at Angel Fire and Sun Valley, some of the prettiest places I’ve ever ridden my bike. Angel Fire had all kinds of riding in the backcountry and at the bike park. Rocky, rooty, loamy, steep trails, you name it. At this race I just tried to keep it smooth and controlled, which I ended up doing, and getting 5th at that race.
Sun Valley was absolutely breathtaking: the views were spectacular and the trails were in prime condition. This enduro was split into two days: lift day and backcountry day. The first day could not have gone better. I kept it smooth and safe, which ended up being the right thing to do. However, the second day, I hit a tree and went off the course – twice. Nevertheless, I was stoked to still have taken the third spot in the pro category in Idaho.
The rest of the year went pretty solid: racing in enduros in Whistler, California, and my home state. There weren’t any major problems in any of the races- no big crashes, mechanicals, or any other issues; except for the last stop in the Scott Enduro Cup series at Deer Valley. Being the first pro woman to start, I went off, and within about 10 seconds from the beginning of the first stage, I got a pinch flat. I kept thinking No this can’t be happening. But, unfortunately, learning from previous experiences, it was happening. I chose to keep racing that stage with a flat and got down safely. That was the end of my season, which I was proud of overall.
I ended up racing internationally, getting second overall in the Enduro Cup series, and increasing my skillset and meeting new people all along the way. I was happy with how it turned out, and I am excited to continue on next year.