The Black&White behind the Enduro Sweden series
Like in most country's right now there is a big growth in Enduro races and riders, you could say this is the new downhill. Over the years the series has really expanded and we now have 300-500 riders in each race - something we never really saw in the Swedish downhill scene.
Sweden is Europe's fifth-largest country and the terrain differs quite a lot from the south to the north, with most of the population located in the southern parts of Sweden where the terrain is far more flat than in the northern parts of Sweden. One of the fantastic parts about Enduro is the possibility to ride pretty much anywhere, that's why we can host a race where no one even knew that you could find tricky mountain bike trails. I'm talking about Sölvesborg
, a small city located along Östersjön far south and is probably most famous for they're far-right politicians than the mountain bike scene.
The forrest for Sölvesborg's
Enduro was obviously not going to be a long steep one but it was special, it was very beautiful and the trails where technical. It rained all week and I don't think that was the organizers dream since the decided stages all had flat sections that did not really go well with the 10 centimetre deep puddles. At the end of the day, I think everyone was psyched about riding on a new place and the overall times were way above expected and were far longer than most races later on this season. I'm a bicycling dad - pretty much a regular dad but way cooler"
Every year we hope for new venues for the Enduro Sweden series and the question "why aren't they hosting a race" is very common in the series, well you're welcome to join us but you'll have to show us that your willing to put in the effort and that you got the spirit of Enduro. In other hands the riders can get tired of a venue if it's "the same old" every year you get back, then it might be time to mix things up. Göteborg has been hosting a race since the series started and the classic spot has always been Änggårdsbergen, but you can only race certain types of trails and one day you'll run out of new trails - that's when you move five kilometres to that other forrest that also has a bunch of awesome trails.
Since I'm from Gothenburg I have a hard time referring to it from an outside view and for me, this place is nothing ordinary. Although the technicality of the trails is very high and some trails have really inspiring ways down the hills. One thing's for sure, it's always wet. I can't remember that we had a race in Gothenburg the last three years without being soaked at least one time during race day. This year it rained all week except for that really sunny last hour that made the forrest very humid, also my camera got foggy every other second so unfortunately, you won't see anything from that sunny moment.
Let's leave these venues in the south for a bit and focus at the ones in the north, or in the middle to be more accurate. Sweden is a long country and most people haven't been above the middle of it, including me. Östersund
was the furthest north located venue this year and is a real treat. Since the first Enduro race here was two years ago this has become a favourite for many riders. The hill the race is held is called Frösöberget and is not really bigger than anything you can find in the southern parts but the trails are all time and have something extra to them. Östersund
is more famous for its cross country skiing rather than anything else, there has been a Swedish Nationals in cross country this summer and it really feels like this city is growing. Frösöberget is located in the middle of the city and the trails all have some character to them. No matter what way you go down this hill it will be fast and it will probably get really steep and technical at some parts, actually making it feel like you're not in that safe country of Sweden.
If there's one location that would be considered a classic it's Gesundaberget
, this place has hosted so many downhill races over the years and is a favourite for so many riders. Located next to a town called Mora that's also (like most small city's in Sweden I guess) known for its cross country skiing with the famous race "Vasaloppet
". Gesundaberget is both a ski resort and a bike park and uses a two-seated chair lift during the summers to give the riders and hikers access to the top. Since this place been around since basically the start of Downhill you can find some really difficult and fast tracks on this mountain.
A classic for this race is to also make it the National Championship in Sweden, somehow it just feels right and it also means that you get to see the pure top of the Swedish Enduro scene. Usually, you'll see Zakarias Johansen and Robin Wallner entering the race to get that yellow and blue jersey, this year Zakarias claimed the champion shirt for the second year in a row.
Somehow the weather never turns its back on us when we race Enduro in Gesunda, this could be the toughest venue to experience rain on since it's really loose and full of roots but I guess we have to wait another year to get that next level sketchy race going.
The trails have pretty much any type of riding - jump lines, downhill tracks, singletracks and even an old 4X track that's wicked fun. For being such a small resort, Gesunda delivers a lot of shred for the bucks.
Let's go back south! We had seven stops for this year's series which is quite a lot I must say myself but on the other hand, I gave the riders a lot of good riding weekends in very varied terrain. Another classic venue is Vallåsen
, located almost as south as the earlier Sölvesborg but on the west side of the country. Vallåsen
has been a bike park for over ten years hosting loads of downhill races, this year might be the first time they did not use the official downhill track for an Enduro stage. Vallåsen also teamed up with Kungsbygget
, another resort a couple of kilometres away with main focus on Zipline, climbing and velodrome carts.
This was the first time we had a two day race in the Enduro Sweden series with the first day in Vallåsen and the second day in Kungsbygget. This sure made the race a bit different and in my mind more interesting since the riders got less training and smart riding was beneficial. The riding was very different from each day since Kungsbygget trails were never ridden before the race and actually changed a lot during the race, in the end though, the result still looked like they used too.
Sweden's mountain bike capital must be Falun
, a venue that hosted its first race 3 years ago which turned out to be a real success. Also, Falun might be more worldwide famous for their cross country skiing and is hosting a world cup in XC skiing in February next year. The mountain bike scene is huge in Falun though with a lot of educational programs for future Swedish bicycle talents and a bunch of world-class trails and indoor facility's. This year we had some new organisers for the Falun Enduro, Felix Beckeman and Tompa Johansson who truly have had some effect on the Swedish mountain bike scene.
The race was separated between two hills to give the riders the absolute best of what Falun got to show, this meant the riders had to ride across the city to connect the stages which always is appreciated. The most famous area for bicycling is Lugnet
, an area literally full of trails, mixing rhythm jump sections with technical singletracks back to an uphill trail with everything you can wish for. Källviken
is the other area for the Falun Enduro with the final 3 stages, a fantastic forrest with classic fun singletracks, finishing off with the schools downhill track that had most riders nervous. I guess all trails in Falun is this great.
Then it was the big newcomer, Isaberg
, a small ski resort in southern Sweden, close to the town Hestra, you might have heard about the Gloves. It seemed that nobody really knew what to expect from this venue, a couple of years ago they hosted a XC national race but other from that it was not much to it. It gave a great ending to this year's race season in the middle of October. Steep, wet and fast could sum up this race pretty good.
Some stages were the same that they used during the XC race and believe me if I say it was sketchy. During the season it feels like almost every race has ended with a nerve-racking last stage and along the way one venue after the other has pretty much stepped it up. Although it was the newcomer that stood out the most, where it felt like the stage was wild from start to finish with slippery roots, stones and a lot of mud. Overall this was another great venue and hopefully, we'll get back to Isaberg already next year.
With a fast new and growing sport, you get to see new faces every season and the number of times I've heard "next season I'll be racing" these last couple of years hints about an even bigger growth. Who's the guys and girls finishing in the top 5 almost every race, who is the fastest Enduro racer in Sweden and really, how fast are they? We'll focus on the Juniors and the Elite riders this time.
Hagströmska gymnaiset, the school that basically has mountain biking on schedule provides the Swedish bicycle scene with a lot of new talents and exciting riders that you previously haven't heard of. Simon Lundblad is one of these Juniors
, riding really solid and at the same time very wild. With a background from the West coast of Sweden with Göteborg as closest Enduro venue, although he claims he hasn't ridden a lot in the local forrest where the races are held. He then moved up to Falun for the studies and decided to stay there even after schools done.
A lot of racers turns up from the Swedish XC scene, with most races being kind of flat and requires some leg muscles it's no wonder why they see their advantage. Jacob Ekström
is one of those and obviously it seemed to give him enough bike skills to win two races this year and in the end earning the 2nd place in the Juniors.
Last years 15-16 class winner just showed the Swedish Enduro series that he will be someone to look out for, maybe a tighter gap to the number two Jacob than he had last year but Andreas Höglund
looks natural on his bike like not many people do. With top 5 finishes all season even though he's among the youngest in the U21 category I think we'll see Andreas up there the next upcoming since Andreas is also going to the Hagströmska Gymnasium.
The U21 Women's
class has been quite small this year, with the most attending riders of two. Miriam Holm
ended second this year with only attending two about half of the races this year, she's a real fighter and overcomes her fears every weekend and she truly does it with style. Hopefully, we'll get to see more of Miriam next year. Elina Davidsson
is another student on Hagströmska and won all races she attended to this series with good results touching the top 3 in the Elite women's field, so it's not going to be long until she'll claim the real top spot, although she has a couple of years left in the U21 category. Next year the U21 women will hopefully have a bit more racers since the two girls from the 15-16 category are moving up, which hopefully makes this class as exciting as the others. Elina was also the winner of the Swedish qualification for the Redbull Pumptrack championship in Järsvö and ended up being the fastest Swedish girls on the World final in Switzerland.
Newcomer Elin Eng
managed to hit the overall podium her first full race season in the Elite Women
class. Last year she gave the series a chance in Göteborg where she lived at the time and basically got stuck in the format, with a past in Enduro motocross, Elin felt that this is as close as it gets and I believe I've heard her say that this is why more fun. In the second race of the season in Sölvesborg, Elin managed to claim the top spot and showed the rest of the girls that she was one to look out for. Elin
now lives in Åre and she will most likely just become faster and faster.Josefine Björkman
has been racing bikes since her early teenage years, she started of racing the Swedish Downhill series back when the scene was bigger than it is now, 2010-isch?
. I remember Josefine being like most Downhill racers, claiming that Enduro was not for them and that they would stay loyal to the Downhill racing. Although she got stuck eventually and now I guess you can say that it was a very good decision, this year her second place in the Elite Women
got over shined by her overall win in the European Enduro series. The fight for the top spot this year was just as tight as the previous year, unfortunately, Josefine had to see the Swedish overall being taken by her friend Linn.
The backwheel queen or Linn Olstam
which is her actual name is the overall winner of the series 2019 in the Elite Women
, yet another year where Linn took home the win on the last race of the season. Overall her results showed only second and first finishes and I have to say that this is some impressive stats for a full season. Linn now joined the Falun "mafia" and I guess this means that she will only become faster and faster, with the young age of 23 I guess we can see a bright future ahead. Hopefully you'll get to see some of Linn internationally as well since that natural bike handling is something you don't see every day.
The Elite mens
was as exciting as ever this year, the sport is truly growing and we get to see so many new faces, especially in the Elite classes, this is what takes Enduro forward. Johan Geschwind
has been in the game for a long time, mostly racing Downhill when that scene was bigger, although he claimed the first place at Swedish Downhill champion 2018. His season seems to be very consistent with only top 10 this year, finishing with 2280 points in the overall.
Sharing the third spot with Johan's 2280 points is Anton Karlsson
, a young gun from Ulricehamn, now living in Falun. Anton took the victory in Falun which ended up being really important for his overall performance this year. Anton takes his training very serious but also claims that having fun is the most important thing of racing, although good results probably are more fun. He's a part of the results of what Hagströmska Gymnaiset makes of a rider and I'm sure he'll be in the top of the leaderboards pretty soon.
At the end of last season something clicked for Daniel Swanbeck
with a mixed result in his previous season Daniel showed that he knows how to ride fast, ending the season with a third in Falun and a 7th in Gesunda. This year things have gone Daniels way pretty much all season, starting of with solid podiums in the first four races and ending the last two with a double 5th gave him enough points to sit safely in second place in the overall. Daniel has a background in XC racing and is also a pretty good freestyle skier so going into Enduro racing seems like just another thing that Daniels is good at, we'll see where this journey ends.
The winner of the Elite Men
this year is just as last year, Simon Carlsson
, last year was a tight battle with Felix Beckeman but this year Simon has been the winner of five out of the seven races this year when he doesn't win you'll still see him on the podium. And this year it seemed like the only thing that could beat him was a "bad" race day and a top 10 EWS racer. Simon is still very young and seems to enter every race with a big smile and even though he takes his riding very serious you can still see that he enjoys every minute of it. Hopefully, Simon will get the change do prove himself to a bigger competition internationally because from that it looks like right now, this is our next big name in the Enduro scene.
The series is slowly growing and so is everything around it as well. The crowd is obviously a big part of racing and certainly ad that extra spice to a race that otherwise would go unheard of deep in the forrest. Usually, the crowds show up on the first stage for the people starting first and of course on the last stage where also the racers go when they've finished of their race. This year it seemed like having the toughest stage as the last one was a trend, having the biggest audience in the parts that scared the riders the most would seem to give that extra edge of courage to many riders that wouldn't normally stay on two wheels down a slope that probably was above their level.
Something I've noticed this year is that we get more and more regular people coming up to watch the race, usually, the races are not hosted in the most crowded areas and a race like this can really make someones Sunday a good day. A poster at the local market seems to be just enough to get an amount of new "fans" to the races and hopefully they've enjoyed it so much that next time we're there they'll bring their friends as well.
The most common spectator though is your racing friends, for every rider to finish the races adds a new spectator. This seems to be the "spirit of Enduro", to cheer on your friends and see who's riding that section, that you struggled with, like a boss. Screams and shouts for everyone no matter how fast or slow things are going, at the end of the day everyone's goal is sort of the same, to have a great day filled with laughs and to end the day in one piece and hopefully and a big scoop of new experiences.
Sometimes our international superstars join us during weekends. The Swedish names of mountain bike is a few strong ones - Jenny Rissved, Ida Jonsson, Emil Johansson, Robin Wallner, Mattias Wengelin etc. Riders that usually spend all season focusing on world cups sometimes finds time and joins the Swedish Enduro series for a race or two, usually this occurs during the National championships and that's where we 2018 saw Jenny Rissved show up and riding unstoppable like the champ that she is. This is also the occasion where the Mens Elite gets a bit tougher, with two Swedish riders from the Top 15 in the EWS the Swedish riders certainly has to step it up to claim the National shirt for the end of the year.
More and more companies come by to support the sport, "Racing bike Sweden" has been around for a while and they're supporting a couple of riders for the brand Niner and also helps any riders with suspension tuning or overall services for issues that might happen during a race week. Also, the clothing brand Void has been seen a lot this year, providing the riders with Swedish quality and design that really seems to be among the top of the industries.
For 2020 season we won't have any new venues, we added Isaberg for a second year after this years success and this year we will finally have a race in Sweden's biggest bike park - Åre. That race will also be an EWS qualifier and I can guarantee that this one will be just as good as earlier years with total race times of 30 + minutes. Hopefully, we'll see you on all races next year, have a great offseason. Göteborg: - May 2-3 Östersund: June 27-28 Åre: July 1-2 Falun: September Isaberg: October 3-4 For more information, visit www.enduroswedenseries.se