The third installment of the Arkansas Enduro Series took place this last Sunday at the Back 40 mountain bike trails in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Much like the previous race held at Mt. Kessler, this race was hot and sweaty, but not quite so humid.
Dave and I got to Base Camp around 7:30, where there was a sleepy feel in the air. Voices were hushed as riders and friends and well wishers gathered together in small groups to discuss bikes, the upcoming stages and Life in general. I ran into old friends, hugs and quiet laughter were exchanged, finishing up with “good luck” fist bumps. I wandered over to the food tent, where the cooks were slinging eggs and bacon and setting out fresh pots of coffee. I’m telling you, the smell of scrambled eggs mixed with freshly cooked bacon hot off an outside grill is one of the best smells in the world.
Dave and I wrapped up at Base Camp and climbed in his car to head to the first stage we wanted to cover. It was one of those trails that was only big enough for a bike, meaning that once we picked out our spots, we were pretty much stuck there until that stage was over. He took a spot near the start of the stage, whereas I hiked a little further down to a pretty severe switchback and settled in for the duration.
Within minutes of setting up, my shirt was drenched and my camera was slippery to hold. I had a small hand towel with me that I used to wipe my hands off and my camera, but by the time the first stage was over, that towel wasn't much use anymore, seeing that it was just as drenched as I was. But I was having fun, using my wide angle lenses and my fish eye lens, a lens that I don’t utilize enough, and shooting in full on sunlight was a real treat, seeing that nearly every other race we’ve shot had been in heavy shade.
But something that I really loved during this particular stretch of the race was getting up close portraits of the riders as they emerged from the woods and into the sun. Seeing the looks of concentration, a little fear, trepidation, tongues clinched between teeth and even a few grins, made me feel like I was a part of the team.
After the first stage was over, I walked down to where Dave was and we trudged back to the car, both of us overflowing with talk about the riders, the heat and the call outs we received from our friends as they whizzed past us, the whole time slurping water from our quart-sized water bottles.
We decided to break for lunch and have a bit of an A.C. break before heading to our final stage, Stage 6, which people back at Base Camp had told us was full of rock gardens and berms and was fast and flow-y.
And it was. The stage was rather short, but it was very flow-y, very shady (which was a welcomed relief by now) and very “berm-y”.
In short, it was very fun to shoot.
I walked up to where David was shooting just in time to see a couple young men that mean a lot to us, @brycewatson.9 and @turtle_boss (a.k.a. Bryce and Austin) come ripping down the trail.
Bryce finished fifteenth and Austin finished third in the Junior Men 17 & Under division. We met the boys during last year’s season, and our friendship with them and their families have gotten closer this summer. In fact, this Saturday, Dave and I are headed to Montana to shoot the Big Sky Enduro where the boys will be racing. We wanted to cheer them on and take their photographs as they come flying down the trails. We’re all excited, to say the least!
Next up in the Arkansas Enduro Series is Red Star!