|I don't think that we can find an answer that will suit everybody. Personally I chose Enduro because I like to ride new and different trails. I like to visit most of the singletrack a place can offer. My passion for MTB is not about doing the same trail 20 times to ride it perfectly and as fast as possible but more to ride something for the first time and making the most of it. I love to try to read the terrain and adapt my riding on the moment. Adventure and discovery are keys point for me. The feeling of hitting a section pinned on the first try is the most exciting thing on a MTB in my point of view. What motivated me to ride is to go and find new trails around the world, see some amazing place, meet people and riding something different as much as possible. Racing at the highest level is what allows me to travel, visit the world and realize my dreams.|
Regarding racing and EWS, it's a pipe dream to pretend that blind racing is an option. First the locals will have a big advantage and then you can't forbid people to ride open trail all year long just because a race is coming. So I definitely think that a limited amount of practice is the right way to do it. Now the problem is that with more demands on the riders (sponsors, fame, money, visibility, title...) everybody is trying to get advantage of the schedule and the rules. Nothing illegal as I don't believe racers are cheaters, they just maximize their chance regarding what the rules offer. The definition of Enduro is different depending from where you're coming from (DH/XC/Trail riding, North America, Europe,NZ,racing, adventure,pro,amateurs...) and between riders we have a lots of differents visions on what Enduro should be. My main concern with practice actually is not about how much you should get, but more how to keep the race fair for everybody. It should be clear and should respect a certain vision of equity between all the participants.
Personally I'm not interested in doing 8 races a year and spending my time between ,scouting the area of the next race to get advantage on the others, making sure I know perfectly all the trails of the area before the official practice start. This is not what motivates me to race, and to do my best I need to enjoy what I'm doing. I think personally that if we tend to this direction it will also remove the attention of a lot of people on the discipline as we will not be connected anymore on what most of the people are doing and this is one of the main reason of the actual success of enduro. What I would like to see, and I don't say that this is doable, is that the EWS rider arrives on the venue the day before the official practice start and race on the same line. So for this I like an option like announcing the trail 2 months in advance, you can leave them open for the local rider and tourist but the top rider (Top 30-50) should not be able to ride them, then you open the practice for 1-2 days or a week, so all the rider can do the same amount of run (no shuttle outside paved road off course). The rules will not be enough, as you can't control a trail for 2 months and this will engage the loyalty of the rider to respect this agreement set in the rule (You don't respect it, you get caught, you're officially a cheater, disqualified from the EWS).
Walking the course should be forbidden as we are rider not hiker and nobody like to walk down a sick trail anyway... In my opinion this will leave the opportunity to the riders to do more race and event for their partners, give a better vibes at the race and maintain the connection with the average rider. And if you come to a place before to ride, you can ride trails that are not in the race and enjoy your travel to discover something that you'll not race on. It's not the perfect solution as it leaves a grey area for cheaters, but this also mean that it's not only EMBA or the organiser that are involved by setting more rules. It also the time the rider take their responsibilities to protect their discipline and give it a chance to move forward. We spoke a lot about "the enduro spirit" and if we don't find a system that is the same for everybody that will mean we lost our mission to protect this "spirit"
Once again I don't say this is the only option we have, this is the way I would like to see the sport going, but I also accept that people may have a different vision. This is how I can see myself staying involved in racing at high level and enjoying doing it. If the sport is going in a different direction, I'll not blame anyone, but I may choose to step back from this kind of racing. Fun and pleasure is what always motivate me to give my best and ride my bike, so if I don't find myself into the sport, I'll not mind giving up EWS to keep riding my bike and enjoying it. Enduro is just a racing format of MTB, which can bring a lot of satisfaction and accomplishment but for me there is plenty of other ways to be happy on my bike.
|I don't think you are ever going to have consistency across events and that's perfectly fine. That's what has been so great about the Enduro World Series - it's a variety of different venues, formats, cultures held together with just enough common rules to make it the sport of Enduro Mountain Biking. Practice doesn't need consistency; it needs to be equal. It has to be a fair playing field for the professional riders in the race and it needs to be a fair playing field for those amateurs looking to compete. It's important to recognize the differences between pro-riders and amateurs, and that the race for these two groups isn't equal. Pro riders have coaching and managers and do this for a living. Amateurs are looking to come enjoy themselves and challenge themselves for a weekend. For me, it's as simple as providing equal opportunity to inspect, train and explore the tracks for all pro athletes. And subsequently, an equal opportunity should be made available to do the same for all of the amateur athletes. It's super important that the organizers are communicating the practice plans to the EWS and the teams/athletes, so everyone can be prepared.|
|A few of us riders talked about this in Samoens. At least for the top pros, I really like the idea of the race venues being off limits for the top riders for a month before the race, in that time the race promoters can go in and cut their fresh trails that usually get built specifically for the upcoming race. I'm not saying the venue should be off limits to all racers...just the top guys, and if they are seen practicing then you are DSQ from the race. The risk far outweighs the reward, and no top rider would go anywhere near the venue. That gets tricky though when some people live where the races are happening, it would be unfair to make them not ride, or have to travel somewhere else just to ride, so that's a tough one, maybe some exceptions need to be made for certain venues, and a well thought out specific practice schedule be made to make it as fair as possible for everyone. I think a huge thing that almost everyone overlooks is the style of trail that is used. when things are tight and technical with multiple lines, then that's awesome, but it provides a HUGE advantage to someone who has spent more time on the trails, and knows the lines, and that's when things really get unfair. When you are able to see a few corners ahead it creates two things, confidence to ride fast on a trail you have never ridden, and it makes the trail safe to be raced on when you don't know it. Sometimes (like in Samoens in my opinion) had too many sections that had blind drop ins/roll overs/corners/gaps that provided an advantage for anyone who rode the trails in the weeks before.|
I very strongly believe also that bike park trails should be used, as Enduro is meant to test the best all round rider, and bike parks are a huge part of Mountain Biking these days, and some guys that are awesome on natural trails, really struggle on fast flowy trails, and vice versa. If bikepark trails are used then we need an allocated practice day so everyone can get a couple runs in . And honestly, if you can't be up to speed on a bike park trail (they are usually quite basic and less technical) in 2 runs, then you aren't going to be at the pointy end at the end of the weekend anyway. I'll finish by saying that the whole debate that is currently going on is a bit overblown too. Here in Crested Butte for example, if you are serious about racing especially at EWS level (I only say this from a pro rider point of view, I understand it's not an option for many amateurs) then you would have made plans to get up to the altitude and get a feel for the terrain by now. If you aren't here now, then that's just bad planning and preparation on your behalf. If you were in Crested Butte right now you would understand how expansive and spread out the trail system is. If you happen to have gone out and ridden trails that they use for the race, then that's plain luck!
|That is not an easy question to answer as I have spent a lot of time over the last three years thinking about this and talking to people about it and I still don't know the answer. I know for me coming from a background of racing World Cup Downhill for 15 years, enduro appealed to me because it was different, it was the raw, unrehearsed version of mountain bike racing. There were no multiple practice laps and we were racing on a much wider array of trails in every area and not just one DH track, or one XC lap. |
I don't want to race multiple DH stages having shuttled to practice them as much as possible before race day and call that enduro racing. That's not what I think enduro racing should be about. I want an adventure, a test of physical and technical ability and a journey into nature and to share all that with a great group of people. As soon as the Enduro World Series began, right from the outset I was so overwhelmed with the efforts people had gone to practice the stages before the race! I arrived in Punta Ala, in a beautiful region of Italy, enjoying the mellow climbs up to the stages to pre-ride them just the once most likely, and found myself getting dusted out by shuttle vehicles driving like mad men getting riders to the stages to practice each stage multiple times... what was going on? Later that year I found myself riding around all the stages in Finale, the only person to not be shuttling. I still just did not get it. I don't think we should be hammering around the lovely places we visit in vans when we are there for a bike race. Where is the green, eco angle on that one?
Sadly since then I have found myself having to join in the madness if I want to be able to be competitive and to be able to race against people who haven't been pedalling around to practice! It's a big deal to win an EWS race and sponsorship and industry interest has pushed the riders to be taking all the opportunities they can to get an advantage. I'd love to see a rule where there is no shuttling allowed at anytime at an event, other than when we are somewhere with a gondola. It would reduce the environmental impact on the places we visit, it would make it a level playing field for everyone whether pro or amateur as you don't need access to a vehicle and driver, and it would bring back the social element of these races as everyone rides around the race loop and has a chat with each other. It would also reduce the impact to the trail in terms of erosion and overuse and we would leave the areas we go to in a better condition and without the need for loads of trail maintenance once we have gone. In order for that to happen people need to display sportsmanship and honesty and have a sense of fair play, as often it's impossible to marshal all of these things.
To further answer the question surrounding practice leading up to an event, this has got crazy. People are arriving earlier and earlier at each race to try and get some sneaky practice in! It is making it so expensive for teams to be at each race for weeks before and once again it becomes out of reach of any non-pro rider. Can we not have the race stages announced one month before the race and then from that day onwards no one is allowed on those trails. You could still go an get a feel for an area if you need to, but the stages are out of bounds. Again this requires honesty and for every rider to buy into the rules and play by those rules... I think I may be wanting a dream world, but I really hope in time all of this will find its way and we will have a fair, fun and testing adventure known as enduro racing.
|We need practice for equity, no question. We must forget our dream of racing blind as we have just one planet and not another one with virgin tracks and venues. To race blind, wow, I love it, I love the idea, I have been a big fan since the beginning. But it cannot feed our need for the EWS level - there are no venues for it. There are always local riders or racers who have competed there for years at national level. It is totally impossible to open four or five new tracks or stages just for one race. So for the equity we need practice, also for safety. All the big crashes we have had are during practice runs, it may sound strange but that is the case. Imagine if they were on a blind racing run... carnage. Our goal in France is to try to find the right balance. Too much practice and you kill the fun, you kill the bodies of the riders and so the spirit of this sport. We allow only one practice run and it is enough to learn the stage in my opinion. Guys like Greg Minnaar getting 3th in 2013 at Val d'Allos and Richie Rude winning in Samoens proved this. From what I know they had never ridden those place before, so it's working.|
Then to be pragmatic, don't ask the pros not come two or three weeks before or six months earlier to ride in the Whistler or Samoens bike park. In France for the french round we just close the bikepark to racers for one week when we are building the stages. So it probably is a plus to come before, but not enough to win a race. We cannot close any bike park or area for one month just because we're going to organize an EWS! The track builder must be innovative if he wants to use well-known trails, this is what we do with Alex Balaud and sometimes the guys who know the trail are in trouble because we change many things! Anyway, the other pros will not have reason to complain in this case, you can do the job or not it's your choice, but don't speak about fair play in this case. For amateurs to ride at an EWS-level race and expect some good results it will be a big investment of time and money. If you're not ready for that you can ride at a national level or be happy enough to share a racing EWS day or weekend with the best riders of the planet on crazy trails. I think you cannot complain that rules are made for the pros only in this case, it's part of the game at this level. So as a conclusion, I think that it's not so difficult to all agree on practice rules, if we're looking at the complete workbook and to the benefit of everybody and not our each particular case. Those who say "you just have to..." are wrong ."
|A clear answer to this question only creates more. How do you cage a style of racing that was born from freedom and non-conformity? Back when Fred Glo introduced this style of riding to me I never felt such a strong bond with fellow competitors. With no track practice or prior knowledge of these tracks the only comfort was knowing you were not alone. This was a feeling that in my opinion would not last, mostly because of numbers and the underlining want to win. Back then the problem still existed. Riders were coming to race venues weeks before riding every track these venues had just to be more at home with unfamiliar terrain. I think now it's called vacation practice and done months before instead of weeks. To think why I loved this style of mountain biking, after all that's all it really is. You could work all week spend time at home with family or what have you. Then get in your car and drive Friday afternoon and race knowing it's a fair fight. Of course you will always have the local contingent, but this is unavoidable. The perfect fix is private land with no access until race day and taped tracks never touched by tires. This is my favorite style. This is Fred's vision and I find the most fun. Another option is the Italian style like Enrico Guala does. Epic loops with segments that are raced. This could be done more easily by just not exposing the loop till race day. No reason to go when you don't have a clue where to. This could work in the States, there would be common trails but at least they would not take the abuse from tape raping. Then I think the last way that could work but never will... A class judged by its peers. The on-sight class. To prove you have not been there in a year is something of course that would cause controversy, which at times can be fun in its own right. The class would have a hefty prize/cash pay out and be looked as the purest class. If you have been there within a year you're out. If you live there you're out. It's the working class hero that needs this. Hell, they have classes for everything over-weight class, even a legend class for Christ's sake. What's the difference? Judged by fellow racers means you better be honest, cause if you do get caught it's a huge loss of respect and class. This I know would be hard to do. Being straight up and truthful seems to be a struggle for some. Cheating in some people's eyes will always be justifiable.Last is the issue of land use and local economy. Practice brings revenue. Land issues and permitting bring almost impossible on-sight solutions. In the end it could be a split group. Some want practice some don't. But one thing will always be a constant. Time. How much do you have and how much do you want to give away just to race between the tape? Your family and friends are waiting and time stops for no one.|
|First as a definition we do not call it Training or Practice and instead it is Course Recognition giving the riders the option to check the special stages and be aware of the technical part of them. Then we; Nacho, Eduardo and Myself are fully agreed that course recognition must be limited and controlled. Today's mountain bike enduro must respond on what the venue and facilities can give and the race concept that the local organiser want to present. For example a format I like a lot is the French concept where riders get to re-con the stage just before they race it. Other places in well-known bike destinations running the recon the day or two days before the race should be just enough. Something that is clear is that all venues are different and so the race concept to be present, saying that mountain bike enduro must adapt to each location having well-regulated matters like organisation, trails, timing system and last but not less important, a high standard on security and rescue plan. Events should last only three to four days as it keeps it more affordable to all, for both amateur and pro riders, keeping the budget down to earth. In those days the riders must plan the best way to minimise their energy consumption and get as much info as possible about the stages.|
|Since the birth of Superenduro back in 2007 the practice topic has been a hot topic. The discipline is still pretty young and for its nature and the infinite possibilities for organiser to play with the ingredients. It is and will remain the most interesting, fun and accessible discipline of MTB. With this in mind and the fact that, because if it's accessibility, it combines pro and amateurs, the practice topic need to be cleverly treated and not messed up. I do not think there is a unique answer to the question. Here is why. If I look back at the beginning of the Superenduro in 2007 there was a lot of pioneering, no pros or amateurs, just riders who wanted to spend some 5-6 hours on the bike, riding amazing trails with their friends riding together and racing against the clock to decide who was paying beers at the end of the day. But as the industry started to evolve product and release faster enduro machines and the organizers started to multiply all over the globe the discipline suddenly became the hottest topic. And gained a lot of coverage, bringing professionalism into the sport. The other big step was the birth of The Enduro World Series that rewarded for the very first time in 2013 the World title. With pro riders who are paid to win races, every little advantage counts, it's the sport. In any discipline it's the same. |
Practice became suddenly the hottest topic. And since the beginning of EWS we worked to "trim" the format, experimenting very different solutions. From 3 weeks open practice in Punta Ala to blind racing in Crested Butte. And all in between. When you think about the nature of the sport, land access, venues, the extension of the territory where stages can be in the same race, lift access or rally format, pro and amateurs, you easily understand that there is not a single solution for practice. Today I think that each organizer need to take into consideration the nature of his event and set practice accordingly. Keeping in mind that the local riders advantage will always be there but that, at the same time, it is important to guarantee all riders at least 1-2 runs per stage to be able to race it safely and comfortably. There are a few key points I think we, as organizers, need to take into consideration when setting practice: tier of the event (regional, national, international), riders target (level and provenience), land permission and trail access, number and technicality of the stages. But at the end we must not forget that enduro is the most difficult discipline to organize, at any level, and that requires a lot of knowledge and commitment from the organizer to provide riders and racers a good experience.
|I have to be honest and tell you I still feel very new in the Enduro discipline. This is my third year racing and Im still learning and figuring stuff out. It's fair to say that Enduro does take some experience. Coming from BMX, downhill and 4X I've always been used to getting heaps of practice in and getting to know every single inch of the track. So having to learn a 15 minute enduro track in one run was scaring the sh*t out of me. But I went in open minded and was doing surprisingly well in the French enduro races were we only get one run in. I also noticed that my body struggles if I have two or three days of practice before racing even starts, you need a totally different game plan for these events. I've been thinking about what I would like to see as the future of enduro practice, but to be honest I kinda like the variety of different kind of styles we have now. On the level and speed that we are racing at, at the moment I think it would be safer if we make sure we get enough practice in. It's crazy to think that we throw ourselves down multiple long downhill stages with sometimes no idea where I am going or what's coming up! Some people might remember my huck to flat at the final stage in Rotorua... this was just because I only rode this stage once and I had no idea were I was going (and being a little tired after six hours on the bike). Luckily I rode it out, but for the safety of the riders the organization will need to calculate how much practice we will need and how much they can give us. At the end of the day we are all willing to take some risks, but safety is on top of my list and having more than one practice run will be the solution.|
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