Andreane Lanthier Nadeau & Haley Smith Draw Parallels Between Racing XC & Enduro at the Highest Level

Oct 11, 2019
by Sarah Moore  
Major milestone for Haley Smith today. She earned her first UCI World Cup podium in third and the fastest lap time in the Women s field. She s been climbing that ladder steady now.
Haley Smith earned her first UCI World Cup podium in third and the fastest lap time in the Women's field in Nove Mesto this year.

Andréane Lanthier Nadeau and Haley Smith have been racing mountain bikes for over a decade and used to race against each other on the World Cup and Canada Cup circuit. Since 2015, their paths have diverged, with Lanthier Nadeau now racing enduro while Smith continues to compete in Olympic cross-country.

Despite not competing in the same discipline anymore, they have both risen to the highest level of the sport. Lanthier Nadeau finished third overall in Enduro World Series standings this year while Smith started in the first row at the Mont-Sainte-Anne XC World Championships after a breakout season where she finished third in Nove Mesto.

The top three women in the Series standings. Isabeau Courdurier Noga Korem and Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau
Elite Women s podium.

Lanthier Nadeau was at Mont-Sainte-Anne during the 2019 World Championships where she helped some of the Canadian team in an unofficial role as a technical coach. Instead of being her competition, Haley Smith was one of the athletes that she gave pointers to on the technical XC course.

bigquotesRiding a lap with ALN at Mont Sainte Anne was really cool. It felt like returning to my beginnings. My first ever World Cup (as a junior in 2011) was at Mont-Sainte-Anne, and that was also around the time that I met ALN. So yeah, riding a lap with her was really cool. She had some real wisdom-nuggets to share, and I think that lap helped me to really chill-out and get the most of my (surprisingly squirrelly) self on race day.Haley Smith

Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team
Haley Smith

ALN s Rocky Mountain
Haley Smith
There's no denying that the tools are different.

Since she's competed on the world circuit in both enduro and XC, I asked Lanthier Nadeau what she thinks the main differences are between the two disciplines. She said it comes down to working with a different tool and a different type of trail, but it also requires a different kind of heart.

bigquotesIn XC you bury yourself and give your entire physical fitness in less than an hour and a half. It’s a very gruelling effort and so intense. In enduro, it’s hard, but you’re out there for six hours sometimes and there’s variation in the type of effort. It’s kind of assumed that the transitions in enduro are really easy but if I look at my numbers I’m pretty much at tempo, sometimes for an hour. Because you have to get there by a certain time. So you have to have the endurance to do that effort and you have to have the power to do the stages. In the beginning when I swapped from XC to enduro it was really hard for me to go on-off, on-off. I think that’s one of the main differences. Enduro has really evolved to be really technically demanding and I’ve kind of grew with the sport. So I don’t notice the difference as much but it’s actually really gnarly.

We really have to hand it to the XC riders. You come into the technical sections so tired. So tired. The uphills here are so steep and then you drop into the descents without a break. You just have to keep going. There’s not chilling at the top like in enduro. So there’s always that aspect that heightens the challenge of the technical parts. I was pretty dialled because I had raced this course for a long time.
Andréane Lanthier Nadeau

ALN nailing an awesome season with a step on the TON podium after finishing 3rd overall at the EWS last weekend.
Andréane Lanthier Nadeau leading Team Canada to a bronze medal at the Trophy of Nations this year.

The last time Lanthier Nadeau raced the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup was in 2015, before heading to Whistler to compete in her first-ever Enduro World Series event, skipping the Windham World Cup XC. A fourth place on the first stage on a borrowed enduro bike before a crash forced her to pull out of the race showed that she had raw talent. I asked why she thought she was such a strong technical rider despite still being an XC racer in 2015.

bigquotesBeing exposed to challenges helps you. If you’re exposed to challenges you rise up to the occasion. So I think that was part of it. I think I just was always inclined to search and go for these challenges. I think that shaped me into an enduro racer.Andréane Lanthier Nadeau

Haley Smith had her best World Cup result yet despite the heat and the dust. She carried her spark from Friday night s XCC finishing in eighth.
Haley Smith finished in 8th.
Haley Smith finished 8th in 2018 at Mont-Sainte-Anne.

Smith said that Lanthier Nadeau always had strong technical skills and that that helped her develop her own skills. The two spent many hours in Victoria, BC training together.

bigquotesWe used to push each other so hard on the race course and in training - her destroying me technically and me pushing the pace on climbs. I’m sure we forced each other to shed more than a few tears in training throughout our U23 years. She was a huge part of pushing my development. We had such opposing skillsets back in those early days, and I like to think that training together helped us both develop. I also know training with her helped me to learn how to appreciate and value others’ successes. Ego is a tough thing to deal with - and you kind of have to be a bit ego-centric sometimes to be an elite athlete - but it’s also really important to learn to be a good teammate and friend, both for sport performance and just to develop as good human beings.

Riding with and racing against ALN taught me how to do that throughout U23. I remember our coach also telling each of us that, though it might feel like I was always second-best in training (as I’m sure we both simultaneously felt), we might be developing into numbers 1 and 2 in the world. While we’re not quite there yet, there’s no question that our highly competitive natures in training pushed us to reach new levels. It’s been really cool for me to watch her excel and develop in enduro. Even though we don’t see each other often anymore, I feel very proud of and happy for her.
Haley Smith

Adreanne Lanthier-Nadeau seems to have taken confidence from her eighth yesterday and ran with it today. A string of fourths and fifths today left her sitting in a very impressive fourth when the dust settled.
Andréane Lanthier Nadeau in Ainsa, Spain in 2015 in the first EWS race that she finished. When the dust settled, she was just off the podium in 4th.

Of course, I had to ask Lanthier Nadeau how she thinks her skills would compare to the top female XC racers on the circuit. Jolanda Neff is praised on every broadcast for her technical skills and it would be interesting to see how she would perform in an enduro event.

bigquotesIt’s like a different skill to be able to ride so technically well under fatigue. I think that’s the reason why a good XC rider is good technically is because they can maintain their skills when they’re fatigued and that’s key. It’s a different bike. I think Jolanda would probably do well if she came to an EWS but I don’t think she would win. As good as she is in XC, I don’t know if it just translates to beating someone like Isabeau. I think that there’s a learning curve that I’ve experienced. You can’t go all out, you have to be able to manage the mistakes and pace yourself into stages. It would be interesting to see. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a top XC rider go into the pro enduro field.Andréane Lanthier Nadeau

As Lanthier Nadeau knows, that learning curve from XC to enduro racer can be difficult and hers came with several injuries. This year was the first time she was able to race in every single round of the Enduro World Series.

bigquotesThe injuries I’ve had are me not knowing my limits, not knowing the limits of the bike. Or trying to push those limits. Which is kind of what we do because people are only getting faster and everyone’s pushing the limits. Injuries happen when you overreach and push the envelope a little too much. We have to always be pushing the envelope. People are only getting faster. Usually, injuries happen when you want it a little bit too much.Andréane Lanthier Nadeau

ALN found out the hard way just how touchy the dirt can be in Northstar
ALN finding the limits at the Northstar EWS this year.
Sadly Andreane Nadeau will be sitting out these first two rounds after breaking a bone n her hand on Thursday.
ALN sitting out two rounds in 2016 with a hand injury.

I asked Smith about why she thinks we've seen fewer injuries on the XC circuit compared to the EWS or DH circuit, despite the courses evolving at a rapid rate. Now, more than ever, being a strong technical rider is an important part of winning cross-country mountain bike races. It isn't enough to have a strong power to weight ratio, you have to be able to jump, do drops, and navigate tricky technical climbs and descents.

bigquotesI think some of it is that our speed is sometimes limited by the effort level we’re required to maintain for 90 minutes of racing. Features and technical elements of World Cup tracks have really evolved over the last five years, but you just aren’t hitting them at truly maximum pace in racing all that often; a one-time, full-gas descent is different than having to hit that same feature seven laps in a row when your heart rate and power output have been close to maximum for over an hour. In-race attacks aside, of course.

We also get to do so many repeats of each feature before race day, where you can gradually build up your confidence and speed, so by the time you get to the race each feature is almost second nature. Of course, there are injuries in racing (and I would say more in training, which is where limits really get pushed to force improvement), but thankfully not that frequently.
Haley Smith

Great result today by Haley Smith placing ninth. She s been climbing up the ladder slowly but surely.
Haley Smith finished 9th in Albstadt, Germany this year.

As for Smith, she no longer feels that her technical skills are a weakness for her on the race course thanks to those winters in Victoria, BC alongside Lanthier Nadeau and a mindfulness practice.

bigquotesMy technical skills have drastically improved over the last couple of years, and I think a large part of that has come from spending a good chunk of the winter in Victoria. A significant portion of that improvement also has to be credited to a mindfulness practice. I’ve learned how to better exist with and breathe through the fear I feel, which helps me to push my boundaries more. On many race courses, I actually consider my technical riding to be a strength now (which was not the case when I started, ALN will tell you that for free!). Towards the end of this season, I struggled technically, but again it was tied to the mental fatigue: I was just emotionally pooched, which made taking risks and having confidence in my riding quite challenging.Haley Smith

With three top-ten results on the XC World Cup circuit and a bronze medal in Nove Mesto, I had to ask Haley Smith what she thinks it comes down to. What makes a good cross-country racer? She's been improving gradually year after year, how did she win the medal?

bigquotesWhat does it take to be a high-level XC racer… to be honest, I don’t think I can reduce the requirements down to a single-paragraph answer. In short… you have to be “all-in”. It’s everything from nutrition, to sleep, to training, to mental work. You even have to be “all-in” when it comes to the balance portion and taking rest: you have to truly learn how to check-out and recover, which is something that North Americans as a whole, across all industries, seem to struggle with.

I don’t know if I could pinpoint what it took to win my first World Cup medal. To be honest, that still doesn’t feel like it was something I did, you know? It kind of feels like it happened to someone else! In large part, I know it was a result of the accumulation of thousands of hours (and probably close to 10 years) of cultivating fitness, skill, and belief in myself. I think that “next level” becomes accessible when you truly believe, and I just felt that I could do it on that day.
Haley Smith

Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau trying to find some elusive traction on the polished rocks of Stage 4
Andréane Lanthier Nadeau on the EWS Whistler course.
Haley Hunter Smith edges out Anne Terpstra on Mitas Choice.
Haley Hunter Smith edges out Anne Terpstra on Mitas Choice.

For both riders, doing a lap of the Mont-Sainte-Anne World Championships course was a special moment. Haley Smith came off a tough second half of the season where she felt the fatigue of an insane year of travel after not being in the same place for more than two weeks at a time since October of last year, to finish 12th.

bigquotesWhen Haley and I did a lap together it felt like it was very much full circle. She is now competing at the top in XC and I’m competing at the top in enduro. We still had that dynamic before of me wanting to help her technically, but we were still competitors so that added some layers. But now it was us just fully and completely helping each other. I was helping her on course and I really wanted her to succeed. So it was a very heartfelt and super cool moment after being a bit distant for a couple years when the switch happened.

It was pretty cool to see coming from the same place but now being in such different places, having gone through so much and achieved so much on both sides. And then to be brought back together on a course.
Andréane Lanthier Nadeau

ALN currently sits in third can she put it to Noga tomorrow
Andréane Lanthier Nadeau in Northstar this year.

To conclude, I asked Smith what her goals are for the next season.

bigquotesI haven’t set any specific goals for next year, as I’m just beginning to turn the page on the 2019 season. But I do know a few things that I’ll really be aiming for. Front and centre is to just continue improving. Technically, physically, mentally, and with respect to maturity. In terms of an absolute goal, I want to make the Olympic team for Tokyo, 2020. I want that so bad that I tear up every time I think about it. I’d love to return to the World Cup podium. I want to see some more cool places, and handle the travel better than I did this year. I also just want to have fun, keep learning to be more present, and to appreciate what a wild thing it is that I race bikes for a living, ya know?Haley Smith

We wish Haley Smith and Andréane Lanthier Nadeau all the best in the coming year.


  • 18 0
 It's crazy how we can all put on spandex and line up together week after week but still keep each other at arm's length. This is a super cool story.
  • 4 2
 Full face and spandex?
  • 7 0
 @endlessblockades: Yes, it was a thing before the UCI officially banned skinsuits. Take a look at what Sam Hill was wearing at that infamous last corner crash

And here is the picture you've always dreamed of but didn't know existed: Ben Cathro in skin-tight pants:
  • 3 0
 @showmethemountains: Yikes! I was referring fullfacemike's username and spandex remark. Yes I remember the plum-smuggling era. Not a fan. Seems like we are heading back that way with Loris' Fox trousers
  • 5 0
 @endlessblockades @showmethemountains I wish I was as cool as Ben Cathro or raced DH at all. No, long story short I did race XC in a full face my first season and ended up with this sweet nickname. It was the only helmet I had and the budget was tight. So tight that I didn't even actually have spandex, I raced in our team t-shirt.
  • 11 0
 Great article. Just on Alan's comment on there hasn't yet been a top XC racer transition to Pro Enduro, I would have thought Cecile Ravanel was an XC Elite rider? But yes now I am curious as ever at how Nino Schurter, Jolanda Neff & the likes would do on the EWS circuit.
  • 6 1
 I think Nino would be in the top-tier. Just watch him shred with the top DH racers... The guy has technical skills many of us would dream of. And he can also hold his own on top level pro road races. I would be curious to see him on an EWS.
  • 2 0
 If EWS paid better and/or had more secondary benefits, some XCers and even some roadies would go "all in" for Enduro and do well. But, at this point in their careers, anyone at the top level of their chosen sport, would have to sacrifice time/results transitioning to a different sport. Basically most racers at a top level of any sport could probably have chosen a different sport when they were still developing, and still have done equally well (with some exceptions for those with extreme body types/abilities).
  • 3 0
 Cécile Ravanel is an elite XC rider, full stop.
  • 1 0
 @cool3: Nino raced EWS Finale Ligure some years ago. As I remember He was doing ok, but not top 10 and dropped out of the Event after two or three stages.
  • 1 0
 In all seriousness I believe Jolanda would dominate after a taster season. She has incredible skills on her bike beyond XC.
  • 5 0
 Great article - I really liked the insight. New fan of those ladies. Great job PB
  • 3 0
 How about the other way around; pro enduro racer on WC XC..? I think Grubby has done quite well on some Australian national XC races, but are there some others maybe too..?
  • 4 0
 Great article! Thanks PB!
  • 4 0
 Nice article.
  • 1 0
 One of the reasons why xc is harder is the level of competition is more intense.
  • 1 0

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