Truckee riders vie for top finishes in California Enduro Series
September 14, 2018
Racing downhill at speeds close to 40 mph, darting past exposed rocks and flying around berms in a calculated dance between risk and the reward of the day's fastest time, riders on the California Enduro Series push their bikes and themselves to the limit.
The seven-part series recently touched down at Northstar California Resort where two local riders continued their push toward the top of the series standings.
Truckee's Syra Fillat, 19, and Shane Swigard, 17, have both been traveling across California to compete, and with two races left, both are in position to finish on the podium at the conclusion of this year's enduro series.
In the championship hunt
“I crash almost every time I ride. It’s part of pushing the limits. All you want to do is get back on your bike and go again.”
— Shane Swigard
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As a youngster growing up with parents who rode bicycles, Fillat grew up riding the area's trails.
"I've been riding since I was really tiny," she said. "My dad used to have a rope off the back of his camelback and he would pull me up hard climbs so we could go on longer and hider rides."
Fillet went on to win the inaugural state title in the girls' division of the Nevada Interscholastic Cycling Association as a senior in 2016 at Truckee High School. She then jumped into enduro racing last year, but found little success, finishing eighth overall in the Expert Women division.
"Last year it was definitely a shock to see how hard the courses were, but this year I was ready for it and stoked," she said.
This season, Fillat got a new Ibis HD4, which has made a huge difference during races. Coming into this year's series, Fillat said she had no goals of competing for the overall title, and was just looking to land on the podium a few times during the season.
"I was just planning on racing the whole series and seeing what I could do, and hoping for a top five, since I only got that once last season," she said. "I definitely was not expecting that I'd be in the lead for the series going into the last races."
After placing fourth to open the year in Salinas, Fillat captured her first-ever win, taking first place in Auburn. She'd then finish third and second in the next two races, before returning to Northstar for a home competition during the final weekend of August.
On her local course, Fillat was able take her second win of the series, topping second place by more than a minute through six stages of riding.
"I absolutely loved it," she said on competing at Northstar. "It had a good combination of pedaling stages, with some really techy hard stuff. I feel more confident with technical stuff versus pedaling, so Northstar helped me with that, since we had a lot of hard trails, and knowing the lines really helped a lot."
While Fillat said the technical sections of races are her favorite, they're also cause for much of the nervousness that consumes her ahead of each event.
"I get really, really nervous before races," she said. "So, before each start I give myself a little pep talk … and then as I'm going up to the start, I try not to think about it, just clear my head. I sing a song in my head, just to try and not over think it — that's when I start to make mistakes and things go wrong."
So far the mindset has worked out with Fillat holding a 60-point edge over second place Courtney Short, of Mammoth, with two races remaining. The riders' two worst performances of the seven-part series are dropped.
The next competition will be at Mammoth on Sept. 23, and the finale will be in Ashland, Oregon, on Oct. 6, where Fillat will look up to wrap up this year's series championship.
"I would be so happy. I like winning, and I didn't think it would be a possibility so it'd be pretty crazy," she said.
"It's a lot of pressure. I'm pretty nervous. (Short) is from Mammoth, so I'm definitely nervous for that, and of course, she's crazy fast too."
Aside from the enduro series, Fillat also won this year's Downieville Classic all-mountain award, taking first in downhill and third in cross-country.
Moving into next season, Fillat, who is largely self taught, said she plans on moving to the Pro Women class and will be seeking additional coaching as she enters the series' highest division and a chance to earn cash prizes for climbing the podium.
'Part of pushing the limits'
Willing his bike and himself faster and faster down a trail early in the season, Swigard lost control, flipped end over end and came to a rest just off the trail.
The sensation of not being able to suck in his next breath caused momentary panic, but soon subsided. The feeling of having his wind knocked out was nothing new to Swigard.
"I crash almost every time I ride," he said. "It's part of pushing the limits. All you want to do is get back on your bike and go again."
After riding bicycles for a handful of years, Swigard jumped into the Expert Men 18-29 division for this season, and after missing the opener has found success in a number of races.
He took third in the third race of the year, and at his home course at Northstar, Swigard avoided any spills to finish in fourth place.
"It was a good race," he said. "I like the steeper more technical stuff, so it was more my kind of riding."
With two races remaining Swigard sits in fifth place overall with 112 points, trailing the leader Devin Thompson, by 70 points.
Before competing in enduro, Swigard said he began riding around 2014, using bicycles as a means of learning new motorcycle tricks. His other passion at the time was something far different than a set of wheels, and involved taking trips to the range to compete in trap shooting competitions. While trapshooting has taken a backseat to enduro, Swigard said there's plenty he takes from the sport and instills into his own riding.
"The mindset during competition," he said on the similarities between the sports. "They're super different, but the mindset of really wanting it and having to keep it together the whole time is the same."
With the season winding down, Swigard said he plans on continuing pursuing enduro competitions.
"It's always a challenge, and I can always push myself to learn knew things. It's the accomplishment side of it and completing goals."
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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