By Jessica Kunzer
Calling all riders! Grab your bike and prepare to have some fun with mountain biking’s hottest race.
Somewhere between grueling cross-country and rowdy downhill mountain bike racing, Enduro racing has emerged as one of the sport’s most popular race disciplines. To many unfamiliar with the sport, its format and requirements may seem a bit ambiguous. Enduro is a multi-stage race format, which combines descending timed stages and untimed transfer stages. Racers enjoy the camaraderie of their peers while pedaling the transfer sections, but switch to competitive mode on the timed sections where they aim to beat the clock and the earn the fastest time.
Originating in Europe, the format migrated to the United States over a decade ago and has continued to escalate in popularity. Enduro is similar in many ways to Super-D, but takes place on a much larger scale. The racing portions of both formats are gravity-fed, however, racers should be prepared to complete significant transfer stages, which may include vertical ascents in Enduro between each timed stage.
“Enduro racing is the most fun format of racing and doesn’t require you to kill yourself on the climbs,” said Enduro Cup Competition Director Ali Goulet. “People actually get to enjoy the race.”
In 2012, Goulet noticed an absence of Enduros in Utah and founded the Wasatch Enduro at Canyons Resort. Since then, Goulet has partnered with Salt Lake City based Mountain Sports International to create the three-stop Scott Enduro Cup presented by GoPro series. A champion for the sport, Goulet claims Enduro racing is the most welcoming format for mountain bikers of all disciplines and abilities.
“The appeal of the Enduro format is that it utilizes riders’ fitness and technical skills providing a level playing field for both super technical and fit athletes,” remarked Goulet. “Ultimately, the best Enduro riders will have a good balance of both.”
While males make up the majority of the sport's participation, it is also an excellent format for both elite and amateur female racers. Elite female riders participating in the 2013 Enduro Cup season noted how much they enjoyed getting to know their fellow competitors as opposed to more cutthroat cross-country races where social opportunities are limited. Similarly, amateur riders appreciated the opportunity to gain advice and support from more experienced female colleagues throughout the duration of the event.
There are no set guidelines dictating the parameters of an Enduro course. Race organizers can be creative with the distance, number of timed vertical descents and untimed transfer stages. However, the North American Enduro Tour (NAET), the North American sanctioning body of the sport, encourages timed stages to be primarily downhill with minimal climbing. Climbs on timed stages are generally discouraged to avoid race advantages, which may be gained from having lighter equipment or superior climbing ability. Again, when it comes to the race sections of Enduro the emphasis is on downhill riding.
Goulet explained a typical Enduro race would start with a transfer stage to the first timed stage. Racers will casually ride together to the first timed stage. Combined timed stages are taken into consideration for overall rankings and the race win. On average, the total combined timed stages for an amateur racer should be around a total of 30 minutes.
RACE READY TIPS
Looking forward to your first Enduro race ever or simply of the season? Here are a few tips to get you #RaceReady. Have tips you might like share? Join the conversation by sharing your #RaceReady tips on Twitter and Instagram.
• The best bike for Enduro racing is the one you already own. There is a misconception races require high clearance bikes, but course terrain can greatly vary throughout the duration of a race. Racers are advised to bring the bike they would normally ride.
• Helmets are required, but full-face helmets may or may not be required depending on the race. Be sure to touch base with the race organizer on helmet requirements.
• During the race, carry a light layer to wear when waiting at timed stage starts. This is especially pertinent during spring and fall races when temperatures may be cooler. Racers should also carry equipment to fix basic mechanical failures such as flat tires.
• It is also a good idea to carry sunscreen or be prepared to make friends with someone who has it.
• Cell phones may come in handy to Strava your race, take photos or selfies.
• In the months and weeks leading up to an Enduro Race, Ali Goulet recommends at least one 2-hour-plus ride a week to build endurance. It is key to build up endurance leading up to a race to withstand the long day of racing and potentially long course.
• Goulet also suggests getting out on your bike to work on your technical skills. “Try to ride fast on the downhill sections of your rides, but remember to be mindful and respectful of other trail users,” cautioned Goulet.
• More serious riders may also want to incorporate interval work into their training. Work on pedaling whenever you have an opportunity and focus on solid technical skills to maintain speed in the difficult downhill sections. Timed stages can be incredibly anaerobic depending on how the course is laid out.
• If possible, get out and ride the course trails in advance of the race. Some organizers, however, may choose not to release course details or restrict advance course access. In that case, try to ride similar trails to the course and get pedaling.
• Shorter rides the days leading up to the race will get your system ready for the race.
• Get plenty of rest, fluid and fuel in the days leading up to the race. The more your system is primed for racing, the better you will do!
Day of Preparation
• Many race organizers will provide water on the course, but it is a good idea to be informed on what will be provided and prepare to be self-sufficient.
• Goulet recommends consuming 150 calories per hour you will be on the course. Proper nutrition will enhance your mental clarity throughout the race and will help to sustain energy.
• Goulet also suggests that riders remember an Enduro race will likely take longer to complete than it might if they were just riding the course recreationally as waiting periods at the start of timed sections can occur.
WHERE TO RACE
There are several Enduro race options in the Intermountain West. The Fears, Tears and Beers Enduro in Ely, NV claims to be the longest running mountain bike Enduro race in North America, and also the toughest. In total, the pro racecourse is 40 miles and 6,000-plus feet of climbing with no chairlift transfers. A popular idiosyncrasy, the race crosses THROUGH casinos shortly after the start before progressing to beautiful single track and Great Basin scenery. A variety of distances are offered for races in different race categories.
Big Mountain Enduro (BME) and the Scott Enduro Cup presented by GoPro both offer several race options throughout the spring and summer. Sarah Rawley, Big Mountain Enduro spokesperson explained that, “The Whole Enchilada set the precedence of racing down epic trails and big descents in the Rocky Mountain region.” Rawley also noted that when the series first started in 2012, Big Mountain Enduro was capped at 150 riders. Since then, the U.S. Forest Service extended the race capacity, and on average 250 racers attended each of BME’s five events.
In its second season as a series, the Scott Enduro Cup presented by GoPro offers three races with two these in Utah: Moab, at the Magnificent 7 trail area and at the Canyons Resort. The third stop of the series, the Sun Valley Super Enduro in Idaho, is part of the Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival, which includes many activities and recreational races. The race series recently acquired a new Jaguar timing system and is currently extending a $100 discount on a GoPro purchase to all registered riders.
Regional Enduro Races
5/10/2014 Gunny Enduro Grand Junction CO ltrevents.com
6/14/2014 Fears, Tears & Beers Enduro Ely NV greatbasintrails.org
6/21/2014 Snowmass Big Mountain Enduro Snowmass CO bigmountainenduro.com
6/21/2014 Jug Mountain Ranch XC and State Championship Enduro McCall ID wildrockiesracing.com
6/27/2014 Sun Valley Super Enduro Sun Valley ID ridesunvalley.com
6/28/2014 Durango Big Mountain Enduro Durango CO bigmountainenduro.com
7/12/2014 Keystone Big Mountain Enduro Keystone CO bigmountainenduro.com
7/19/2014 Park City Enduro Cup Park City UT endurocupmtb.com
7/26/2014 Laramie Enduro Laramie WY laramieenduro.org
8/2/2014 Targhee Enduro Alta WY grandtarghee.com
8/2/2014 Tamarack Resort SUPER Enduro Tamarack ID wildrockiesracing.com
9/3/2014 Crested Butte Ultra Enduro Crested Butte CO bigmountainenduro.com