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Cooper Dendel takes overall Enduro title

James Bivens places second in final standings

by Than Acuff

The Big Mountain Enduro race series came to a climactic close this past weekend in Crested Butte with the series finals. Rains wreaked havoc on the final event of the series, with one day cancelled due to inclement weather, but in the end a couple of local riders slid their way through the weekend to post podium results. James Bivens took third in the youth men 12-16 years old, Evan Ross won the vet men 30+ class and CB Devo coach and Bontrager/Honey Stinger rider Cooper Dendel placed second on the weekend and finished the race season on top, taking the series’ overall title in the women’s pro class.

Dendel came to Crested Butte a year ago after cutting her teeth on the racing scene competing in cross-country races in the Midwest. After testing the waters of cross-country racing in the Rocky Mountains, she realized that while she didn’t mind the uphills, she preferred the downhills.

“Coming out here and racing cross-country made me realize I just really like going downhill fast,” says Dendel.

Dendel jumped into the Big Mountain Enduro series for the first time this summer and saw immediate success in the opening race in Santa Fe, placing second in the women’s pro class. Once on the podium she never left, finishing in either first or second in the next three races, coming into the Crested Butte event on fire.

The event got off to an auspicious start as rains forced organizers to cancel day one, but things ramped up on day two taking competitors on a massive tour of the trails in the Cement Creek drainage. The stages included going up Block and Tackle before descending Waterfall Creek, then heading back up to ride 409.5, a section of Double Top and then a descent down the Caves trail.

Dendel had limited experience on the trails but made the best of the situation to finish the first day in second place.

“It was definitely a long day on the bike,” says Dendel. “I wasn’t super happy with the way I rode but I was happy that I finished and didn’t crash because everything was super wet and nasty.”

Dendel rested and recovered, along with the throngs of other competitors, and woke up the third and final day to early rains, which quickly subsided as riders headed out for the first stage of the day on trail 403 at the top of Washington Gulch.

Dendel got a scare on the first stage as she crashed hard during her descent but recovered to remain intact and finish the stage.

“I took a little tumble over my handlebars so I had to shut it down a little bit,” says Dendel.

The next two stages were then held on Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) in the Evolution Bike Park. Dendel has been tearing up the trails on CBMR all summer and found the stage on Avery and Boulder Mountain in near-perfect conditions.

“Those were just rippin’,” says Dendel. “Not too wet at all.”

Things got squirrely on Captain Jack though as the rocky section and off-camber turn in the woods were nearly unrideable due to recent rains.

“Captain Jack was a little messy and terrifying,” says Dendel. “I rolled up to the rock section and saw all of the rocks were covered in mud so I just went with it. You just kind of had to ‘ski’ down it and go with the flow.”

Dendel kept things in check on the final day to stay out of harm’s way, finishing the weekend in second place and sealing the overall series title.

“I had no idea it would go that well,” says Dendel. “I wanted to be top 10 so I was pretty excited when I started winning and focused on maintaining throughout the whole season.”

Having raced in every event of the series, Dendel explains that the Crested Butte event is a beast onto itself.

“It has a higher degree of suffering, has the most beautiful views and the most backcountry style terrain,” says Dendel.

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