Crew of Aspen locals eye expert men’s podium at Big Mountain Enduro finals | AspenTimes.com

Crew of Aspen locals eye expert men’s podium at Big Mountain Enduro finals

For a group of Aspen locals, this weekend's Big Mountain Enduro mountain bike races won't be anything too out of the norm. From the pace of the event to the trails they will be riding, it'll be plenty familiar.

"It will be just like a fun, weekend group ride for us, just a little more competitive," said Aspen's Matt Boughton, who works at Radio Boardshop. "There is some camaraderie and we can all push each other and we are all really the same speed and pretty close. I think we'll have some tight racing. It will be fun to cheer each other on."

Boughton is one of a handful of Roaring Fork Valley residents competing in the BME Finals, which get underway Saturday on Aspen Mountain and conclude with three stages Sunday in Snowmass Village. Boughton's particular crew this weekend includes Whit Boucher, Patrick Lynch and Victor Major, all of whom will compete in the expert men's open division, a newly created category that provides a buffer between the pros and amateurs.

Riders were able to practice the first two stages — Ajax and the Sunnyside Trail — on Thursday, and were supposed to be able to test the Snowmass trails on Friday before the rain, and an apparent malfunction with the Snowmass gondola, shut down training. But for the local crew, this might be an advantage, as they already know the trails as well as anyone.

"It's good for us. I spend a lot of time going uphill to get down," Boucher said. "I'm really excited for Sunnyside. I think it will be really fun. Living here you have to pedal quite a bit, so I think that will be an advantage for all of us."

In Enduro racing, athletes are timed on the downhills, with the fastest to the bottom being your winner. The catch, and what separates the discipline from straightforward downhill mountain biking, is that riders have to get to the start of each stage under their own power. For instance, the transfer from Stage 1 (Aspen Mountain) to Stage 2 (Sunnyside Trail) on Saturday is quite the jaunt and includes a few thousand feet of climbing.

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While the transfers don't factor into the overall time, it does use up energy and can slow riders down on the descents. All the better for the local crew that is used to Aspen's uphills.

"What is so fun about Enduro is it's kind of like doing a big weekend ride with your friends," Boughton said. "Enduro has always suited my riding style, because I grew up racing a lot of cross country and as I got older I got more into free ride and downhill. I kind of like being able to put those two skills together. Enduro is really a good way to showcase who the best mountain biker is."

Both Boughton and Boucher, barely into their 30s, have raced at the pro level before, but have taken a step back in recent years. Neither competed in any of the three prior BME races this summer, which included stops in Sante Fe (May 26), Crested Butte (June 23-24) and Keystone (July 7). The overall BME season champions for the 11 divisions will be recognized during Sunday's 5 p.m. awards ceremony in Snowmass Village.

Ask Boucher, and he'll say he expects a few of his crew to be on the expert podium come Sunday. He said Major is the frontrunner, but any of the four could factor into the mix.

"He is insanely fast and super fit right now," Boucher said of Major. "If we all ride well, I think there is the potential for an Aspen podium sweep. I'm right there with all those guys. It's going to be a real battle between the four of us. So it will be fun."

acolbert@aspentimes.com