There's another Enduro World Series event this weekend in Val di Fassa
, Italy. It should be an exciting race - the level of talent is at an all-time high, the trails look challenging and fun, and it's anyone's guess as to who will end up on the podium by the end of the weekend. But you know what? I don't care as much as I probably should.
As fun as it is to compete
in an an enduro race – if you haven't tried one I highly recommend it – it's really hard to be a spectator, whether that's from an armchair or even at the race itself. Racers leave the start gate and return hours later, and if you've ever spent time with the EWS live results feed you'll know how frustrating that experience can be. It's nearly impossible to figure out who's actually leading the race, which is the whole point of trying to follow along in real time in the first place.
It seems like enduro racing gets put on a pedestal sometimes, as if it's some sort of magical race format. Maybe that's a holdover from the earlier days when the phrase 'the spirit of enduro' was continually bandied about, a term that still makes me cringe. That aura of mysticism needs to be left behind for good – enduro racing is a bunch of mountain bikers trying to go as fast as possible on technical trails that are mostly downhill, but not quite gnarly enough to warrant a full-on downhill bike. The concept makes a ton of sense, and there's a reason that the format has caught on around the world. There doesn't seem to be any issue attracting participants, but there's plenty of work to be done in order to make it an event that fans are actually excited about before, during, and after the race.
In 2021 the Enduro World Series added in a Pro Stage that takes place before the main event as a way to create at least one spectator-friendly portion of the race. The top five finishers in the men's category and the top three racers in the women's category are then reseeded to start last for the main race. I get what the organizers were trying to achieve, but why not take it a step further? Instead of a Pro Stage, how about implementing a qualifying run, where only the top 60 or so racers are able to compete in the big show. As it is, there are close to 150 men and 50 women zipping around on race day, a level of organized chaos that doesn't make it easy to figure out how the race is progressing.
The Enduro World Series races should be reserved for the absolute best of the best, and a smaller field would make it easier for fans to have favorite racers, and to track their progress over the course of a season. No offense to the riders battling it out for 86th place – you're still fast as hell – but most viewers only care about how the top 20 or so racers are doing - the level of interest declines significantly after that. Yes, this could potentially make it more difficult for riders with dreams of making it as a pro enduro racer, but the reality is that even with the current format unless you're really close to the front of the pack there simply isn't enough money in enduro racing to make it a viable full-time job.
Continuing on with my dream scenario, that smaller field would roll out of the start gate on race day with cameras in place to film the majority of each run. How many stages should there be? That's a tough one.
Imagine if there was only one single stage that was accessed via a chairlift. The track would be full of steep, natural sections leading into a higher speed portion with a few big jumps before the finish corral. Screaming fans would line the entire track, urging racers onwards. For the viewers at home, Freecaster-era Rob Warner would be the commentator for the live video feed, shouting out a profanity-laced blow-by-blow recap of the action... Just kidding. Mostly.
I don't actually want enduro racing to become downhill racing on little bikes – they're two distinct activities, and the big days and long, physical stages are part of what makes enduro interesting. Enduro racers don't put it all on the line for one run – they're forced to make smart choices in order to ensure they finish all of the stages with bike and body intact.
That doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned from the World Cup DH format. In continuing with this thought experiment, here's what I'd love to see implemented at EWS races. (I should also mention that I know it's incredibly difficult to organize and execute the EWS in its current form – this isn't meant to diminish the hard work that's gone into growing the series to where it is today).Reduce the number of racers.
I wasn't kidding about the idea of a qualifier instead of a Pro Stage. Trim the field significantly after one stage, and then focus the media attention on the riders who make the cut. For the riders who don't qualify, they can still race the EWS 100, gaining more race experience and the ability to ride the same course as the fastest riders.GPS trackers for all finalists.
The riders that do make the cut should be outfitted with GPS trackers that output the information to a website where fans can view the results in a format that makes sense. The overall leaderboard should be updated once all the racers have completed a stage, and the results site needs to make it easy to figure out who's doing well (and who's not) at a glance. GoPro livestreams from the top qualifiers.
Along with all of the racers having GPS trackers, giving the top 10 qualifiers GoPros that put out a livestream during their runs would make things even more engaging. It'll never be possible to have cameras on every inch of every track at an EWS, but being able to watch the POV of someone like Richie Rude or Isabeau Courdurier as they blast their way down a trail would would help make it more likely that fans will tune in during the even.
The challenges of making EWS racing more spectator and fan-friendly aren't impossible to overcome, and I know that there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes to figure it all out. Still, as someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes mountain biking it seems like something is a little amiss if the prospect of another race this weekend makes me shrug instead of smile with anticipation. That doesn't mean I won't look at the race results and peruse the post-race pictorial, it's just that the experience will be more of a footnote rather than the highlight that it could be.
Will you be trying to decipher the live results feed this weekend, or will you wait until the dust has settled to see who wins? What would your ideal EWS courses & coverage look like? Jumps over alligator pits? Stages comprised entirely of elevated skinnies? Mass starts, Mega Avalanche style? A drone following every rider? Let us know in the comments below.
In today s world, everything needs to be accessible to watch or interact on the Internet. Maybe Enduro is just not supposed to be a professional sport?! and instead what rider should look forward to do with their everyday bike out in the mountains!
Personally I am very glad for this testing ground to stay funded.
People mountain bike and racing sells.
Create a racing format to market the bikes most people buy (rather than specific xc/dh)
Enduro racing validates market- people buy into it. More 'enduro' bikes sold.
Are we so naive
What has happened is that the sport has recognised how people want to ride (given the amazing difference between bikes now and a decade ago) and has leaned into it - and yes, absolutely the marketing has leaned into it too.
Marketing reflects and then amplifies demand, it doesn't completely create it. People have always wanted DH bikes they could easily pedal to the top instead of pushing them. Now we have that, and so we have enduro which is a format which utilises that.
The racing doesn't validate the market, we would be buying these bikes regardless of whether there was a sport because they're f*cking brilliant, and the demand completely predates the sport.
Professional Enduro racing has given rise to increasingly better bikes in the all-mountain category, the bikes that are the most popular segment in the industry. Having a professional series gives brands the opportunity to test and showcase the latest and greatest only benefits us, consumers. I've said this before but the fact that most EWS racers make less than a living wage is a sham, especially when this segment has easily the most marketing potential. The reason there is so little money in Enduro is that we haven't worked out how to create good media coverage around it. WRC has created a profitable business making stage racing viewable, as has road racing. There are unique challenges covering Enduro but if they are overcome it is my belief Enduro could easily become the premier competitive format for mountain biking.
I was thinking about it earlier today, the longest clip I've ever seen of Richie Rude riding is the video of when he cut the course last year.
Either way, most of those pro riders are merely familiar faces, a models for the bike brands. Someone to put on the billboard next to a brand new bike or pair of pedals.
But if you're an amateur, it is what it is. Like in all amateur sports
In gravel cycling, the draw is that it's a spectator sport, a type of event that anyone can line up and race against and with the pros or local heroes. Obviously, enduro is different, as the local joe's aren't racing the pro's, but it does have a similar type of 'anti-spectator' nature. A local joe can't ride down many World Cup DH tracks due to venue restrictions, but I've yet to see why they couldn't hit a World Cup Enduro line. I don't think that's a bad thing. If we try to make the sport more media-friendly, then we won't get to enjoy media from some insanely exotic locations. In some of these locations yes, it's a lot harder to set-up timing, have reliable internet, or effectively organize for an influx of high-level athletes. But that's not a bad thing! Keep the exotic, raw, and hard-to-reach locations on the calendar. If we want to see blown-out tracks and tons of people we can watch World Cup DH.
My vote is to keep the "spirit of enduro" alive and well. Race down remote mountains on goat trails with a dash of organized chaos. Figure it out at the end. Get us some acceptable, not great, media while providing some small local economies a boost. I want to see Bob Jones filming with his rented camera and producing raw content, not Discovery setting up platforms to throw up their $15k 4k rigs. Fin. Thanks for the thought-provoking opinion piece, Mike.
Oh and get rid of pro/queen stages coz its just confusing for everyone
I don't mind watching someone gunning for 100th when seconds earlier I was watching Richie Rude, it gives a sense of the level of competition. Like I know Richie is top tier, but when I can compare him to that guy who's 50+ positions back, I understand exactly how good everyone involved in the race is.
It would be a big challenge for the "switcher" though in live format. You would need a lot of feeds fed in from remote areas. I think it would need to be a post race edit.
Sounds nothing like trying to cover an enduro race.
I was not implying that the two sports are similar in any way.
We can't even expect that kind of coverage. However, by mixing golf's jump-around format with roughly the proportion of stage coverage you could expect from WRC racing I think we would have a relatively entertaining live coverage.
And please don't just show the top 3 in your race recap videos. The rest deserves some attention as well
The EWS racing coverage was much better in previous years... beause they actually showed more racing.
They need to make the racing relatable to the viewer. Tell the story of the stages and help people to know their character better.
Pick key sections and show the different approaches that riders are taking.
The split screen comparisons they used to show were brilliant, but they've almost completely dissapeared from the coverage!?
I like some of the new angles that the show is taking, but personally I want to see more racing and more focus on that racing.
Make a live timing that actually works and real TV reviews. It would be a good step.
EWS needs to improve the highlight shows, make the Pro Stage a live stream, and make that stage the final stage with live streaming coverage.
I anticipate the development of the enduro spatula for pancake flipping. Maybe a titanium handle and carbon blade with precisely tuned flex.
Currently everyone watches a hodge-podge of all of these things on YouTube from various channels. The market demands instant coverage of a live race, or the "market" seems to think the fans demand it. The enduro format doesn't really lend itself towards that. DH does. XC short track does. Do we really need to figure it out for enduro? Nah. Plenty of successful long-format sporting events have already figured this out. Enduro can be different.
1. As per @mikekazimer, narrow the field. You can have a series that allows riders to qualify for spots in the PRO series, say 10 spots. Almost like a promotion/relegation scenario that is done twice per year.
2. Focus audience on one of the segments that are more camera saturated. This would be either mid-event or the final run.
3. Incorporate drones and go-pros for better coverage.
4. Use trackers on all riders that would allow fans / commentators to overlay competitors to show real-time results.
Seriously, RedBull already has the good coverage for downhill, they just got cut-out of it by Discovery, and they have a legit gravity-oriented series already. Add two or three more events, make them all week-long affairs, with Enduro starting early in the week, then maybe a few days of rest, and finishing on the downhill track with small bikes...maybe after downhill qualifying on Friday / Saturday (build some suspense through the week). Have ALL gravity riding, from pumptrack to downhill in like 7 events (maybe a few separate, dedicated to each), and call it good.
In other words: "F" the UCI.
I think some sort of live filming with modern phones by dedicated fans/ race officials could be the solution for enduro. Like some sort of app that taps into the potential of smartphones.
With 80 riders, local associations could justify opening up more trails to these events and help them get out of the bike park. It is easier to quantify a trail fee and use for a more tightly controlled event. Stages would wrap-up sooner and re-open to the public faster. Trails would need less post-race remediation. The EWS shouldn't be an event "for all", it should be a qualified pro event to inspire local people and fans to try enduro racing and support their local race scene, not a large organization based abroad that has no long-standing community impact.
If you want EWS to be a blue ribbon event you have to limit the field to only the best riders who have to pre-qualify with something akin to UCI DH points. This makes coverage easier and concentrates sponsorship $'s to the point where riders can earn a decent crust. The 'spirit of enduro' will live on in the great local events out there.
There are so many aspects to that. Are the bikeparks putting in a bigger share? The participants (some fees even in regional Enduro racing are really high already)? The sponsors? The online spectators (say Outside)?
You can’t have it both ways. Either give up on making it a spectator sport or trim the field way down and sell out to the fans. Either one is fine, they’re just different. The original spirit of the sport is lost when it becomes less about the racers and more about the fans. EWS as well as other large Enduro comps all seem to struggle with trying to make it both.
It doesn’t seem possible to make it more fan friendly and keep the free spirit it was started on alive?! Part of the original point seems to be the chaos, at least on the few small ones I’ve done.
Just my two cents.
The name "enduro" was stolen from the motorcycle world and I thought the intention of the format was to serve as a test of both rider and machine. The event's "felt" that way at first, now they just look like a multi-stage DH race.
Make the riders climb and race blind sections. It's not an issue of "stage racing" look at coverage for TDF or Dakar, two examples of extremely long stage races that are covered well.
It's the format itself.
The coverage is very good,although certainly very expensive, but it hasn't changed much the 50+ year old format besides shortening the overall lenght of the race (more due to costs than coverage).
Making enduro more like DH will only hurt both disciplines, it's happening already.
These events seem more like amazing backdrops for teams, participants, and organizers to create content…tons of content…which I love watching at my leisure. Head to head race coverage could be better, but it’s not a priority (for me). In terms of content, I get stoked to see the top guys as well as the lower tier riders. They’re all amazing bike handlers and it’s just fun to watch and learn from.
The qualifier makes sense in some ways, but then I could see it creating risk for teams in terms of getting the most time on track / exposure / coverage (going to my first point). An interesting variation might be to have each stage have fewer and fewer riders. That would create some drama, maintain a good amount of track time, and provide some incremental progression to the event.
Getting back to content, I’d love to hear more about the bikes, the riders, the teams, and the places. Again, this is just one man’s opinion, but I do love all things mountain bike and more is more!
The EWS is responsible to show the personalities of the most important riders in a way, a sumarized version, but not the fans, following the Grams, the myspaces and such only dilutes the content.
And Redbull is gone too.. and we will all have to subscribe to watch DH, XC and EWS as of 2023.
The existential question is what should Enduro racing be? Having qualifying stages, fewer EWS races, etc. would indeed make the racing more telegenic (netgenic??). Upsides would be more eyeballs watching and maybe more sponsor money.
Downsides would be fewer riders getting that money, an emphasis on courses/race format that prioritizes eyes on screens over quality racing.
Would I watch a more slick, easy to follow EWS series? Yeah, I probably would. Does that mean it should happen? Maybe not.
Enduro might be the best testing ground for actual mountain biking technology out there right now-the bikes have to climb efficiently yet descend almost as well as full-on DH bikes. That's meant that everything from frame geometry to tire casing construction has been influenced by enduro, in a good way.
Because riders like the format AND bike companies get to have their stuff thrashed and thoroughly tested, I don't think enduro racing will go away. If it stays low-key, that might just be okay.
Besides that: the highlights as they were a couple years ago with those 35-40min highlights about one race and the interviews between stages etc. were great and one could see the struggle. With the current format, this sense of how hard it is, is completely missing. Also, enduro lends it's self perfectly to creating epic footage. In this regard, Trans Madeira probably did the best job. Their highlights are always a pleasure to watch.
If the fields in the pro series are too big, which i don't think, then a system like e.g. the Freeride World Tour has would work good. With feeding series from events for everybody to events that are just shy off the pro category. But in this case, there need to be races for all those categories. And i guess on this, it would fail.
or we just keep it a mountain sport, where the fun of riding ist the most important thing.
Well that's just not true. Many many EWS pros will state that the tracks are just as gnarly, maybe more so in some ways, they just have to ride them on not-a-DH bike because of the transfer stages.
but for enduro you would just have to divide the total rider ride time by their course progress (time elapsed / % completed) and essentially compare their "rate" of completing - this would allow instantaneous comparisons of riders even if one is a few stages ahead.
think about this: back in 2013 when streaming took off, it was possible to livestream from a Mobile phone... A MOBILE PHONE!! for god sakes, With a few gopros and basic software i could easily stream What DH racing shows us already, obviously reduced angles and movement etc
Live streaming Video is not a dark art...
Stream/transmit via data connections to a central Data hub, Then via a PC we were able to combine the links and Run and chose what got "broadcasted" proof of concept to the Pit and audience area.
You can work in Film industry all you like... But The film industry on a film bases isnt hugely high tech compared to whats available...
and for goodness sake i can remotely connect to my House cameras and move them around and view all at once... via my Mobile phone...
so, again, easily done with the correct people, have you seen the quality of films these days? From film structure to CGI its all gotten poor.
1) to make it 4x
2) to make it DH
Enduro racing resembles DH racing from 25 years ago!
And an unpopular thought; more stages that require climbing....far too much about downhill skills.
@fullendurbro: Petzen Jamnica is in Slovenia.
North America and Europe Enduro Series. Happy?
The point is, make it global, or at the very very least, do some enduro 100 globally. Organize these other epics in another continents, use this series to showcase other locations in the world.
Make it go every continent every year. 100 countries every 5 years. More EWS100 between EWS world cups.
Updates are a quarter of PB at best