Haiden Jorgenson (sophomore Los Alamos High School) crushing the technical rock garden at the conclusion of May Day. Courtesy/Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team
Diego Hinojosa, left, and Nikolai Nelson (sophomores Los Alamos High School) geared up for a day of fast descents. Courtesy/Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team
By PAULA KNEPPER
Coach Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team
Pajarito Mountain celebrated Labor Day by hosting a forearm fatiguing enduro style mountain bike race Sunday. Over 130 cyclists descended on Pajarito Mountain for a long weekend of adrenaline-fueled mountain bike riding down gnarly steep terrain with both natural and manmade features.
The parking lot was packed with vehicles from Texas, Colorado and Arizona. Athletes were humbled by the ample technical features and steep terrain provided by Pajarito mountain for the competition.
During enduro mountain bike races, athletes are timed on the downhill stages with neutral transfers between stages. The stage times are summed to determine the placement of race finishers. The athlete with the lowest time for the combined stages earns the coveted top spot on the podium. During the Party at Pajarito, which is part of the Gravity Stage Racing Series (GSRS), athletes are assisted with transfers by lift service.
Competitors enjoyed a panoramic view during the ascents provided by the Aspen lift. Athletes were not discouraged by missing out on gut busting uphill climbs. Instead, athletes use all of their energy to pin every timed downhill stage. Athletes displayed all of their technical and endurance skills as they rocketed down Pajarito trails including Aspenola, Half Aspen, Sidewinder, JR to Chupa to May Day, and Dog Patch Downhill.
The lift supported format offered by Team Trail Party started in 2019 and has opened up enduro racing to youth competitors and beginner athletes. Team trail party has seen a dramatic shift in participation since they began the GSRS in 2019. According to Janna Renfro, of Team Trail Party, prior to offering up venues with lift service athletes were primarily professional mountain bike racers. Today, competitors include youth athletes in the 9-17 years of age categories as well as beginner women and men competing in various age categories. The lift service enduro format has created an inclusive racing opportunity far more attractive to beginner and youth competitors.
Los Alamos youth cyclists came out in force Sunday. In the under 17 age category, Diego Hinojosa (sophomore Los Alamos High School), Haiden Jorgenson (sophomore Los Alamos High School), and Nikolai Nelson (sophomore Los Alamos High School) geared up for a thrilling day of racing. Despite a major mechanical, Haiden Jorgenson put down smoking fast times for each of the four race stages. Haiden earned the 2nd place spot on the podium in a highly competitive field of athletes from several states.
Ian McLean (7th grader at Los Alamos Middle School) took the 1st place spot on the podium for the 9-12 years of age category. His younger brother, Cullen McLean (5th grader at Mountain Elementary School) finished in 3rd place. The McLean brothers battled one another as well as a field of fierce competitors for the top spots on the podium.
During the award ceremony, race organizers expressed appreciation to the volunteer team of trail builders that maintain the extensive trail network at Pajarito mountain. The volunteers that support the Pajarito trail builders include Neal Pederson, Alex Adams, Travis Baugher, Scott Newman, Earl Middlebrook, James Wernicke, and Evan Ferguson. Most mountains offering lift service mountain biking have a full-time paid crew of professional trail builders. Trail building is a labor of love for this group of volunteers. The professional level of trail building provided by the Pajarito trail builders attracts cyclists to visit Los Alamos and Pajarito mountain every year.
The next GSRS event provided by Team Trail Party is Oct. 2 at Angel Fire bike park. For more information about the GSRS and results from the Party at Pajarito please see https://www.trailparty.com/2021-gsr-pajarito
Neal Pederson, left, and Alex Adams (Pajarito Trail Builders) wait in line at Aspen lift. 130 racers put some additional pressure on mountain operations. Courtesy/Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team
Nikolai Nelson (sophomore Los Alamos High School) sending the final drop on May Day. Courtesy/Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team
Cullen McLean (Mountain Elementary School) rolling through the rock drop on Aspenola. Courtesy/Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team
Los Alamos athletes take the podium spots for male 9-12 years of age with Ian McLean and Cullen McLean finishing 1st place and 3rd place, respectively. Courtesy/Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team
Haiden Jorgenson earns the 2nd place podium finish for the male 13-17 age category. Courtesy/Los Alamos Mountain Bike Team