Monday, October 26, 2009

Estrella Mountain Practice Run

Just got back from a really nice weekend spent in Goodyear. Stayed at a friend's house close to the Estrella Mountain competitive loops. I miss living there, it's very spread out, and scenic, and way less ghetto than Mesa. The Estrella Mtn competitive loops are located right behind Phoenix International Raceway.

There were only a few people staging, maybe 8-10 cars tops. I was warned ahead of time about the trail conditions and technicality, they apparently do not maintain these loops very well, and they receive quite a bit of horse traffic. So I need to update the bike specs in the side bar, since I swapped out a whole bunch of parts between the bikes to make the full suspension bike race ready. This course would be hell on a hardtail.

I decided to practice the entire race course, which consists of one long loop, and one short loop. Starting out on the long loop, it's a short climb over the east end lower saddle of the mountain, somewhat fast, swoopy, though somewhat rocky. Once you get behind the mountain comes the motherload of chunky rocks and deep washes. This part of the trail I did not like very much, it doesn't flow very well, because there really isn't a line through the rockiness that won't bog you down as much as another one. The deep sand makes it really hard to commit to a line climbing out of the sandwash, and I can see this becoming a major deal in next weekend's race. With all the traffic that would be out there, these areas will most certainly be trashed.

Once you are done with the rockgardens, there are a few steep and loose dips into more sandwashes, with steep, loose and rocky climbs out of them (comparable to the front side of Pass Mtn). One of these I can't seem to clean, I gave it a few tries, and tried different lines, but no luck. After this part there is a fairly steep climb over the next saddle with some moderately tight switchbacks, and this is where the fun starts. On the back side of the climb there is a gnarly descent with rocks and boulders where there really isn't much room for error.

It gradually flattens out, but the big rocks stay, and there's a few more dips into washes with steep climbs out, then it becomes a little 'smoother'. The dips become shallower, and you actually gain some speed here, all the way to the foot of the climb up to the last saddle, where there is one more very large descent into a sandwash. This descent is a sandwash in itself, and once again I can see this area getting completely trashed after receiving some traffic from a race. From here on you start a steady gravelly climb up to the last saddle, this part is mostly doubletrack.

On top of the saddle you get a really good view of PIR:

From this point on it's an absolutely awesome downhill all the way back to the parking lot. Extremely fast with some spots to catch some big air.

There was some sort of practice going on at PIR as well, throughout the whole course I was accompanied by the sound of roaring V8's, which I don't really mind. I know there's some environmentalist mountainbikers out there who would probably bitch about the race cars, but they're just a bunch of hipsters who really are no better than anybody else. The kind that gives you stinkeye for driving a normal car, deep down inside they know how ridiculous they look in those weird style hybrids. I am convinced that those things really are not the answer, and in the end pollute as much as any other car. End of rant.

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