Words by Dustin and Natalie Randall
Images by Caleb Weaver and Tim DaCosta
The Abajo Enduro takes place in a small mountain range (the Abajo Mountains) at its foothills sits the town of Monticello, Utah. Abajo has several meanings in Spanish, including below, down, and under. The name was given to this secluded range when Spanish explorers came through the area in the early 1500’s. After seeing the larger San Juan mountains in Colorado, they referred to the little range to the west as being below and/or under the larger range to the east. Later in the 1800’s settlers named their town at the foot of the Abajos Monticello, in honor of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson’s home of the same name in Virginia. Though pronounced MON-tih-SEL-oh rather than Virginia’s MontiCHELLo. Monticello is an Italian word meaning ‘little mountain’. Essentially, you have a mountain named Little (Lower) Mountain with a town at its base named Little Mountain. Whether settlers made this connection or not is unknown to us.
Onward to the race! Meccas like Moab, Utah and alcoves like Durango, Colorado are located faraway from pretty much anywhere, and we in Monticello are an hour or two past that. Some might refer to it as “the frontier,” and our trails certainly reflect that. There are no manicured bike trails and no consistent maintenance aside from a few local moto and mountain bike enthusiasts who keep the trails clear of deadfall. The starting elevation is around 10,000 feet, with stout pedaling in between long stages that keep the race true to the enduro ethos.
Over the years a solid group of riders has developed, though in the early days, we were not sure if they were simply chasing an easy podium spot. In fact, we as the race organizers wondered why they kept coming back. Yeah, the trails are fun, raw, and fast, but come on, it’s a long drive and a significant time commitment to get here for our dinky race.
Ultimately, friendships have been built, and we couldn’t imagine holding the event without these individuals (talking to you Carlson). We have told several riders that whenever they stop coming, the race won’t be worth the stress and time. This core group returns year after year, adding new riders every year, but why? As event organizers, we are running around keeping things going, and we miss out on a lot of the rider-to-rider interaction.
Caleb and Tim realized this race needed to be documented beyond our lacking iPhone images and have returned year after year providing amazing imagery and rider stoke.
Elizabeth and Dylan are there rooting on any new to enduro riders. Elizabeth’s parents have evolved and grown our spectator cowbell crew.
We asked one new returning participant why he came, and though we don’t remember what he said verbatim, we do recall that it wasn’t for the trails. He had asked Dustin for some beta about a trail he didn’t have time to pre-ride. Dustin in a rush and without thinking told him to talk to a guy named Chad who had taken first place the previous year. He could tell the rider was somewhat intimidated and uncomfortable about walking up to an intense, competitive first-place finisher and asking about tips for a trail. Chad must have overheard Dustin and sensed the guy’s hesitation. He came over and bridged the gap, enthusiastically giving away every bit of knowledge he had to this competitor. After that we started to pay attention to more interactions between the core group of riders and the new riders.
Yeah, it’s a race. Yeah, it’s competitive. Everyone wants to ride their best, and test their mettle against other talent. But the vibe created here is that the tribe-and-ride come first. Compete with yourself, the terrain and elevation, survive the ride, and celebrate with the tribe! As Alex, a two-time first place racer said, “This event feels more like a 2-day group ride, where everyone cheers each other and shares the stoke to ride true mountain trails as fast as possible”.
We love this race because of the riders. Thank you from the core to the CORE who make this race rad.
Now to tie the Spanish and Italian names to our nine-year-old mountain bike race. That’s easy. The Abajo Enduro is a little race happening on a little mountain, based out of a little town and we have kept it on the low-down. The progression of this race has been by word of mouth, from rider to rider, over the past seven years. Could we go bigger? More people, more money, more impact? Maybe, possibly, probably – but we’ll go with probably not. We like our little mountain, our little town, and keeping our race on the low-down.
Be sure to register for the 10th year before it is sold out once again!
About Dustin & Natalie
Dustin and Natalie Randall spend their time on the Utah frontier with their son Roman. Together they own and operate Roam Industry, a guide and outfitter out of Monticello Utah. They enjoy small town living and all things human powered adventure.