Enduro and the Politics of Practice

Apr 24, 2013 at 7:10
by Matt Wragg  
Today, April 24, the trails for the first round of the Enduro World Series hosted by Superenduro in Punta Ala, Italy, were announced. The race isn't for nearly a month yet, but the race course is now marked out for riders to come and practice. This has reopened a debate among riders about how enduro races should be run and, more specifically, what practice should be allowed.

The first enduro races were run by Fred Glo in France in 2003. His rule on practice was clear: there was none. Riders faced the courses blind, putting the focus of the racing on your ability to read the terrain. In all of mountain biking there arguably isn't a purer, wilder or cleaner form of racing. Hurtling down a slope at full-gas, reacting to whatever the mountain throws at you is unlike anything else; it is all down to your bike handling and your connection to the trail beneath you. It is possibly the truest test of any mountain biker.

Dominant is the best word to describe Jeromo Clementz today. In a race where the next three riders were separated by just 17 seconds to put himself more than thirty seconds ahead of them over 22 minutes of racing is devastating form. If he can carry this form with him into the Enduro World Series then he s definitely going to be one of the top contenders.

Yet there is no question that this style of riding isn't for everyone. For many, it's a very intimidating prospect, not something to entice newcomers or inexperienced riders into the sport. Even Fred admits that maybe there is something special in southeastern France where this style of riding originated. In the same way that North Shore freeriding never really existed in quite the same way outside of the slopes overlooking Vancouver, the original enduro racing lives in the mountains, the culture and the people of that small corner of France.

As enduro began to spread there was an evolution, people took the format and adapted it to where they lived. The most noticeable one was to add pedal transfers, rather than using ski lifts like the early French races did. More quietly, alongside this, practice crept in. Most notably in Italy with their Superenduro series, who opened up the race courses well in advance of the races. Superenduro founders, Franco Monchiero and Enrico Guala, built their series on the business of tourism. Their races were a way for destinations to promote themselves as riding destinations. Opening up the courses before the race brought people into the towns, villages and resorts in the build up to the race and made the business model work.

There is another element to the argument for this kind of extended practice. It means more people have the chance to come and practice before the race. If you are unable to get the days running up to the race off work, you can come on the weekends before and fit your practice into the rest of your life. In a sport that is amateur at its heart, this is no small thing, in one sense it makes it more equitable.

However, this has created a debate about what enduro could and should be. While many of the discipline's top racers, like Jerome Clementz and Remy Absalon, have been pushing for practice, at the same time they do not want to see the sport become long-distance downhill races. Mountain biking already has downhill, the high-speed, total precision discipline. Enduro is supposed to be something more fun, mixing bike handling with endurance fitness and the discovery of new trails and riding locations. The idea of learning every root and rock for a small racing advantage is not one many within the sport are keen to embrace. Enduro is currently searching for the right balance between discovery and practice.

Professionalism sounded the death knell for high-level blind racing. Simple economics dictate as much. As money starts to come into the sport, people will begin to depend on it to do serious things like pay rent, turn on lights and even feed children. A good race result becomes a very big thing and the pressure to look for advantages, fair or unfair, becomes huge. If human history has taught us anything, it's that some people will eventually take the dishonest route, and blind racing, by its very nature, is open to abuse. Sooner or later chaos would follow.

So that brings us back to today, with the announcement of the Superenduro/Enduro World Series race course a month in advance. It's going to be the biggest enduro race anybody has ever seen, on many levels. The riders list is a who's who of mountain biking, packed with names like Nico Vouilloz, Steve Peat, Anne-Caroline Chausson, Fabien Barel, Greg Minnaar, Jerome Clementz, Remy Absalon... This is the first time all of these people will have been on a race track together. It will also be the biggest enduro race ever held as nearly 600 riders of all levels are signed up to compete - the pits are lining up to rival a World Cup. This is evidence of the growth of enduro as a real thing and not just a mythical creature lurking in internet forums and industry hype. Yet it comes at a cost, a literal cost: somebody needs to pay for all this to happen.

In this case, that somebody is Thomas Daddi, owner of the Punt Ala resort where the race will be held. He specifically requested that the courses be announced today. In the next month riders from across the world are booked to come and train on the trails that will become the race course on 18 and 19 May. It is that business coming into the resort that makes this race something real; it's a viable opportunity for him, not a vanity project. As much as most of us like the idea of doing things for the love, a solid financial base means it could happen again in the future.

None of this means we should lose the original, blind enduro that some of us still love so much. There are places you can find it. Slipping from the mainstream doesn't mean it's dead, it's just waiting for those of us who want to go looking for it. For enduro as a wider genre to grow we need big races; the Enduro World Series is pushing the sport on to a new level and that is nothing but a good thing. When riders come to Punt Ala, the trails will still be incredible, the area beautiful and the people welcoming, nothing will change that, and the racing looks set to be something very special indeed. If the price for all that is this kind of extended practice, it's one we should be willing to pay.

www.superenduromtb.com
www.enduroworldseries.com


157 Comments

  • + 137
 Enduro should be raced blind. There is no better way to level the playing field for those that don't have the time/money to spend an extra week at the venue to memorize the trails. It's as simple as that... and racing the course blind is the most fun you can have.
  • - 15
flag WAKIdesigns (Apr 24, 2013 at 8:37) (Below Threshold)
 Yea and the locals won't be allowed to race. Organizers will run lie-detector whether someone knows the tracks or not... if you know too much: DQ! And I think if you want to have fun racing blind, nobody can stop you can't they? You can have it regardless of the rules. Just don't train on the track before the race

Si prega di rilassarsi il mio amico - relax┬┤ - capire?
  • + 59
 thats like, your opinion....man
  • + 20
 WAKI- you've gone a little too far there, my simple-minded fellow rider. And to those saying the loc-dogs would have an advantage of knowing the trails better than anyone, yeah well that's going to happen no matter where you race or what format. Also these are race SERIES which means not one local rider is going to know every venue like the back of his hand.
  • + 12
 I think his point was that there is really no way to ensure nobody knows the trails. In fact, it's quite likely that even if the "course" is fresh the local guys do know them. So some level of prctice levels the playing field. A month of practice? Not quite sure that's fair... seeing as unless you really are a PRO meaning all you do is race bikes, you can't just drop everything and practice for weeks. It's an infant sport right now, let's just see how it plays out.
  • + 3
 Totally agree with Scott. It'd be really funny and interesting to watch routers riders choose... What a challenge!
  • + 19
 Pretty sure that was sarcasm. But we all know that dosent resonate too well across the pond...
  • + 8
 Maybe announce the spot but not mark the particular tracks? Locals will always have the home court advantage but unless you commit every trail to memory it will even out the odds abit?
  • + 8
 In most cases, I think a day or two of practice is practical for Enduro because, at any particular location, the locals will already have a huge advantage simply due to their trail knowledge. Giving the course routing a month in advance only favors the locals that much more - which on long courses, can be a massive advantage.
  • + 2
 Nice. I agree 100% with Scott. Thats how it should be. And its way more fun that way, hands down.
  • + 4
 Riding blind is the way to go, however, worst case, riders should be allowed to pre-ride the course 1 time, and not on race day. The course shouldn't actually be marked out so far ahead of time either. Actually, if possible, they should wait as close to race time as possible to mark out the course.
  • + 8
 In motorbike enduros the tracks are ridden blind but you get several laps with the first being an easier time to get round and the special test not counting for the first lap, this gives riders a chance to figure out what's coming ahead and apply the entirety of their skill rather than having to guess what's ahead (maybe those who like having no knowledge of the track ahead should try adventure racing). For mtb enduro I think if we went straight into racing there would be a much higher chance of riders being injured unless the tracks were made relatively simple, so having practise makes sense almost like the slow lap in a motorbike enduro but in the day/weeks before.
  • - 2
 It's gonna be what it's gonna be. We can bla blah our opinions, nobody cares. You can't prevent people from training the stages a lot, and force others to train to even out the field. Nice ideas, little reality. It's gonna sort itself out, just sit back and enjoy it.
  • + 4
 Yeah you can't keep the riders from training on the course so that's why you don't tell the riders what trails you're going to be racing on until race day... it's fairly simple to do.
  • + 7
 I'm all for keeping it quiet until a day or two before the races. Way more fun/challenging/random. Hell, even announce one track and run another!! Long live adventure!!
  • + 1
 def. agree with scott!!
  • + 2
 Scott - this is a small world this top worldie cupie environment, it's easy to find out whatever you want, then lots of those top guys train since years in those resorts in preparation for XC or DH season... I perfectly understand your points, and of all of you guys here - yes, it would be cool, romantic whatever, that's how we like to ride our bikes. But this ain't no hugs&kissing on such level of racing. In first years the sport will be experimenting to see which formula is the best for the racers, and how to make it spectacular to watch, how to finance etc.

Please watch that great interview with Chris Ball on DirtTV on Enduro series - one of very few people who actualy know what they are talking about. It will give you a lot of perspective and you might understand that it is not as bad as many think it will be. You will get the idea about the amount of work and consideration that went into all this.

dirt.mpora.com/news/chris-ball-interview-enduro-world-series-uncut.html

There's a bit of cheap drama in those articles on Enduro no matter how hard Matt tries. Troll snacks
  • + 3
 Practice allowed for top flight races where it's full of pros that ride for a living anyway. These are the events that bring in the bigger munnies I assume. Blind races for lower key amateur events to avoid giving advantage to the minority that are able to commit loads of time to practicing. Simples....maybe.
  • + 1
 I don't understand the problem, walk the course like a trials rider would? that way you aren't blind, you know what is coming up, but you also haven't practised. Also, in regards to the funding, it can be just as useful to ride a similar terrain, doesn't have to be that specific trail. So keep the rest of the park open for training and just shut off that trail until competition day? I'm sure this venue will have other trails, I am aware that enduro covers ALOT of ground.

Another way to differentiate the groups would to be have a practised group, and a blind group. then maybe some weird super final on a single blind trail no one has ridden to prove a real winner?
  • + 3
 I think we should forget the fuss and let enduro run with the current rules and see how it pans out. Chris ball and the others involved in the world enduro series have far more experience than anyone on here, they most definitely know how it should work.
  • + 1
 Even if you don't announce the courses in till the day of the race the locals will still know the trails alot better and have an advantage. Like waki says there is no way to ensure a level playing field so why bother trying.

I've only done a couple of enduro races but I had just as much fun in practice the day before as I did on race day. Why limit the amount of fun people can have at the races?
  • + 1
 Waki. You nailed it in your first post. Why not limited practice? Its in the enduro world series rules. Just enough practice so you have seen the trails but haven't memorized them. Of coarse locals have an advantage but they always have and always will. Announce the track day before the race and give a very short practice period. Make since?
  • + 2
 I have been organising races and racing MTB Enduro myself for 5 years now. In my experience announcing the route month in advance doesn't effect nearly as much as people think. If it's not taped yet, one can't learn the lines accurately enough and track will wear so much with those 600 racers that it will be very different during the race than what it is when practising one week before the race. But it would be nice to give everyone roughly same time to practise special stages after the taping.
  • + 27
 There does not always have to be drama or conflict in our sport. This style of "news" reminds me of Fox News, where it is opinion based non sense trying to get a rise out of people....shame on you!
  • + 3
 My name is Matthew Tilley, and I approve this message
  • + 4
 Welcome to pinkbike! Wink
  • + 6
 Who is concerned about the level of Enduro practice? Is there a lobby of racers desperately unhappy? The Enduro World series has to be economical to run and getting people in the area in advance is a great model. This is one series not every single Enduro event- I'm sure many "blind events" will continue to exist and thrive on a smaller scale...
  • + 8
 Agree. The article title is dramatic.
  • + 2
 And what news org doesnt have a bias, lol? That said, Hannity(conservative) doesnt claim to be neutral, the factor(oreilly-republican), is opinion based, ...those shows are talk radio on tv.
Same thing on cnn/msnbc.. youve got the folks pushn agenda, and then u have the desk reporters whom just say what the script reads.
  • + 5
 TrailSnob, ALL the news is opinion based if you want to go there. Just as jrocksdh points...lets not bring political garbage onto this bike/riding site.
  • + 3
 Yeah we ride bikes for fun, we come on pinkbike to sling mud at each other Wink
  • + 1
 kidding folks, relax.
  • + 1
 All major news stations are biased so pick a better comparison.
  • + 15
 what people aren't thinking about are the local riders, or rider who've already ridden those trails before. Making a race blind gives them an advantage, so you could argue that practice runs do, in fact, level the playing field.
  • + 12
 Well, there's nothing like getting spanked on your local trail by racers that have maybe only raced it the previous year or haven't seen it at all. The "series" aspect levels the playing field. And mostly everyone gets to be a local at least once throughout the season.

Aside from racing, I'll never turn down the opportunity to follow someone the first time they ride a new trail, it's awesome to see them interpret it through fresh eyes.
  • + 5
 As a local rider at this event I am going to say clearly I have ridden ps3 the hardest stage at least 40 times, however I'm not doing the race so there is no worries about me wining it unfairly.... Haha Seriously though I still forget and make mistakes, they are too long with too many features to remember.... Seriously. My advantage would give me a middle of pack finishing time with little to no training, or fitness. In my experience pros are fast anyway and even in enduro finish seconds apart...
  • + 4
 I really like the idea of either riding blind or very limited practice (one day before etc). Yes, local riders do have an advantage, but as it is a series, they would only have the advantage that one time, so ultimately the playing field would be levelled as the series progresses and they don't know the next Enduro's trails. I think it would be hilarious to see locals win each round and the pro's maybe slightly down the list, but then the pros would be way better consistent riders and it would mean that the 'series' leader podium would be the one to watch, not necessarily that particular race's podium.
  • + 1
 Jdigdog... well said!
  • + 13
 "The idea of learning every root and rock for a small racing advantage is not one many within the sport are keen to embrace"

Neither do I. No practice adds a fun dimension, levels the playing field, and is another level of separation from DH.
  • + 2
 Except you gotta know how much energy to save and when to use it all up. One or two brief runs of the course lets you sort that out without letting people come in weeks in advance.
  • + 13
 Judging how much energy to use should, i think, be part of the skill of racing enduro.
  • - 5
flag dirtjumper771 (Apr 24, 2013 at 9:25) (Below Threshold)
 To sort out the energy problem chug a red bull right before you head down the course
  • + 2
 There is nothing to stop a race profile being issued so you can know that there is a big uphill section coming at mile 7 or whatever.
  • + 6
 taletotell... to play devils advocate, why do you need to know that? Just send it, go as fast as you can and when you get tired keep pushing. It's not like it's a 24 hour race, if you blow your load in an enduro race and get too tired to ride hard to the end then get in better shape.

But ya I think a practice run or two isn't a terrible idea the day before a race. Anything before that is too much practice though in my opinion. Locals should have an advantage at their race, that's normal.
  • + 3
 The route for big road races like the Tour De France is announced nearly a year in advance! It doesn't necessarily take anything away from the racing but forces you to make the most of the areas you know play to your strengths and limit your losses in areas of weakness. It is just a different dimension on strategy. If you want the fun dimension of doing an Enduro with no practice go for it! The fast guys will still beat us all Smile
  • + 1
 true ironxcross, but I also think you need to know when to go full out on the descent. When you know you can link up a double the riding is more fun than when you don't know if you are coming up on a launch into a tree. You can go harder when you know where you are going.
  • + 4
 Hey dirtjumper771, well recognized in the Sports Medicine literature that drinks like Red Bull decrease performance.
  • + 1
 yeah, that stuff is crap. I always thought it was odd that they are so popular with extreme sports. It would be like marlboro sponsoring a marathon.
  • + 1
 @ taletotell. It is called enduro man... I am not knocking your statement, as it is your opinion, but I think the idea of enduro is to push your body to its threshold and possibly beyond. I say expend away... everyone gets to rest when the race is over. Beer
  • + 1
 Knowing how much to give at what points makes the difference between winners and not winners. You spend it all and still another hard drive til the end you are going to fail.
  • + 0
 alrite... I have to give it to you. I went out for my first ride on the local trails last nite and took one of the more technical paths, giving it a nice push the whole way... not my full on pace, but I did have the seat up in xc position the whole way so it was more comfortable to stay in the saddle and just go. The trails where slick and, in alot of spots, torn up and mud pit-ish... I also am still running my road friendly tires(Geax Mezcal)... needless to say, I was very done for the last of it which is a straight stretch above most of the pitting... and that was just a 13 minute stretch of trail... I feel soooo out of shape this year, lol. I'll be posting a vid... it will be 13 minutes... and likely kinda boring, but give you an idea of what we have locally... pretty fun, but you REALLY gotta work for your downhills, lol.
  • + 2
 Haha, I meant it more as a joke than anything. I could never drink an energy drink before doing sports. I'm not used to them at all and they just end up making my brain feel kinda cloudy, but give me a lot of really jittery energy. None of that would ever help me when riding a bike
  • + 9
 Yeah you've got a month to practice- but the track is the track on race day- 400 riders all riding it are going to change a track a hell of a lot from the previous week, especially if it rains.

I guess its etiquette a bit, not all the pros are up at fort william training now are they? This whole practice debate might be true for the first round, but a lot of the top guys where positions count are engaged in different things every weekend.

If its Amateurs complaining about practice time then you shouldn't be too bothered- racing's for fun at the level after all right?
  • + 10
 Yeah - that's a good point. Most pros probably don't have free weekends anyway due to other events. And for ameteurs, who cares? Besides, I kind of like the idea of the locals having the advantage at a race by way of familiarity. It's their home turf - and the best of the best show up to see if they can beat the locals on their home turf. Kinda cool I think. Of course, if all the races are held in one place or one region, that's a different story...
  • + 5
 You guys sum it up best Smile
  • + 4
 There is also the thorny issue of racers hurtling down trails at high speed practice runs on open courses in the weeks leading up to the event where they may clash or crash with other non-race users. That is what I thought this was going to be about based on the title.
  • + 2
 Thats what i thought as well... but who am i kidding racers dont care about non racers , or fun lol
  • + 1
 I was thinking this as well. This happens at my local as it is a mix of XC and AM with a broad range of rider skills, including noobs. in the lead up to an event it can get a bit crazy.
  • + 4
 I like the no practice angle of Enduro. Having practice actually tips advantage to those riders who can afford to travel to the location in advance to practice (i.e. sponsored riders) and the privateers generally cannot afford this unless they're lucky to have a race held nearby. It also makes it more difficult for multi-discpline racers to participate, now needing to juggle enduro practice and other race schedules to compete and contend. Having DH and XC folks compete in Enduro in addition to their primary discipline is truly awesome for the Enduro and cycling in general!

No practice does pose some challenges for course design, though. No blind hits, etc that could pose danger to riders running the track for the first time. But those features belong in DH anyway.
  • + 2
 I like this angle: if you make the courses run-able blind, practice isn't necessary.
  • + 2
 Wouldn't that kind of become the limiting factor of enduro though?
  • + 2
 My question is to level the playing field, are you going to build these courses from scratch on private land and then keep them on lock down until the race? otherwise, like mentioned before, how do the locals not have a huge advantage if the people traveling can't see the course. They probably know the trail like the back of their hand.... I know I would if I was riding a local trail..... Have to think about that. I like the concept of blind racing, it's a ton of fun! Its like riding any trail for the first time but realistically not sure it is the fairest way to run it
  • - 1
 jumps are not for DH only.
  • - 1
 Ya local might know the trails but whose to say a stronger more skilled rider will not win. I have race trail I have never ridden against guys that ride them all the time and have won several times. It all comes down to skill and fitness.
  • + 5
 The 'local advantage' is something that exists everywhere in all disciplines would it not? Unless every track is built from scratch someone who rides those trails is going to have an advantage.
  • + 4
 The point I was making is that it is not true blind racing if locals are racing on an established trail. So what is the harm in having practice, all that is doing is leveling the playing field so people have a slight clue what to expect
  • + 0
 maybe it comes down to what level of difficulty is involved for each leg, maybe only legs of a certain difficulty have organized practice? Personally, I'm really of two minds about this, i see lots of advantages and disadvantages to both ideas.
  • + 1
 local advantage is always going ot exist in any discipline. I just don't buy the argument that practice "levels the playing field", it seems to skew the advantage to Enduro-focused sponsored riders who can get to the venue to practice.
  • + 1
 Are we talking pros now? Because I was referring to people like myself, I am an AM riders that show up a day or two before the event and pre ride a few times, get the general feel and then race, I'm not racing pros, and by letting me at least have a feel for the course gives me a chance against equal skill level locals.
Pro's are a different story. They get paid to ride there bike, maybe don't allow them to pre ride or really who cares, the same handful win most of the races anyways and most of the pros are so busy with other events they wont have much time to come and practice prior to the event, maybe a day or so. Most of these guys race every weekend
  • + 3
 "at the same time they do not want to see the sport become long-distance downhill races"

I admittedly don't know that much about the format but from my perspective (as somewhat of an outsider) that's exactly what Enduro looks like. It was defined in a pinkbike article last years as "The most basic definition is timed downhills and untimed uphills". I mean to me if you are going to time only the downhills, than its basically a downhill race IMO, or essentially a long distance downhill race.

To me the idea that this encompasses a true "all mountain" discipline is a bit misleading because while you do have to pedal the uphills, there is clearly a heavy emphasis on the downhills.
  • + 1
 Agree. I would imagine the guys with a DH background will do significantly better than the guys with an XC race background. Enduro seems to be definitely more slanted towards "gravity racing" rather than XC of monstrous proportions which is what is should really be to be an all round test.
  • + 0
 Yea I have no problem with the format, I think its cool. I'm just saying that from my perspective (which is admittedly and outsider) Enduro is definitely a gravity oriented discipline as opposed to a true middle ground as some people suggest. I think you can see it in some of the results too, alot of ex-downhill pros are jumping into this and having success right away. I think it def favors that skill set.
  • + 3
 What a hot topic ! To me blind riding is the essence of enduro. IMO races should be blind and the track announced on the day of the race. But it's true that there will be a real advantage for local riders who, even if they don't know every single root, will have the track memorized or part of the trails in mind. It's also a good thing for local economy to have people comming before the race to practice, it will certainly lead to better infrastructures in the future. So maybe in practice to have practices is a good thing for equity and developement. But practices should be controlled. There should be official practice days, maybe on weekends, with a maximum number of runs and a surveillance of the track when there are no official trainnings so it doesn't turn into a long distance downhill. Moreover for the sponsors it will allow an easier access to visibility as it will be an event before the event. Spontaneity and terrain reading must remain in the qualities of a good enduro racer !
  • + 3
 Tuff call. I know my local ride group is pondering the idea of having random speed testing.
You show up for the weekly ride and bam, todays the race down xyz trail, and/or combined times from 3 trails.
Although everyones ridden those trails, your not overly prepped and u run what ya brung.
I guess its kinda like surf contests..
The waves are always different so the best skilled adapt quickest.
  • + 2
 Enduro is just another form of racing that is being modified from its natural roots into something lots of people can make lots of money on. Enduro racing would have been better left in the dark and not in the mainstream. Too bad. Blind runs are what make it unique. Month worth of training a course is flatout lame sauce. I hope everyone makes lots of money though!
  • + 5
 Steve peat? Interesting...

(Neatly side steps whole debate, take it away fellas)
  • + 2
 "it's that some people will eventually take the dishonest route, and blind racing, by its very nature, is open to abuse. Sooner or later chaos would follow." Not sure I understand that bit. How is blind racing open to abuse? If you don't know the track how can you cut corners?
  • + 1
 cause some people would try to get the race course out of the organizers, and practice covertly.
  • + 1
 Money talks and bribes take place.
  • + 1
 Really? Is that what Matt was saying?
  • + 2
 It's kind of ironic to see the amateur argument popping up here. When rules were disclosed I had said I didn't like it (the training side) because it's denaturing the sport and unfair to ams. I'd been laughed at by a few, so it's quite a nice surprise to read those reaction now!
Anyway the amateur argument makes even less sense. If some guys try to do it seriously they'll compete what's "around" them, as for an am racing the whole series will be impossible. So some will make all european races for instance. I doubt those guys will have the budget to come, travel across Europe to ride the track one month ahead if they happen to be unable to come a few days before the race. So that makes it even less fair as I always said.

Yes the sport needs money to grow, yes those top riders deserve to be able to make a good living out of it. But what we see is a very strong influence from the industry as a whole (not just the bike industry), somehow against the sport. If they want to change the sport, then they should just take another name. Just call it long distance DH (as marathon DH already exist, being Megavalanche race style). Now I kind of regret a bit having taken a licence of the EMBA, just to support the sport.
  • + 2
 Experienced "blind racing" at a french enduro for the first time last year and whilst not the fastest ( fitness, ie stamina ) the format was way more challenging and interesting than any similar event here. As one of the stages was repeated 3 times you kind of got to practice but the other stages, including a 13km 1700m descent was too long for anyone to remember every single detail.
All mountain events here in Oz are limited to local clubs mashing together their XC trails for the lower section and DH track for the top section with fire trails in between to link it together. If only we had the terrain / trails so organisers could just bunt out a new course every time then it would be a real test for all and not just a longer DH race - one of the reasons why DH racing got boring was limited actual riding waiting for a shuttle bus.
I say keep the unseen element to spice things up and make this style of racing standout, so amazing how the enduro scene will look in 12 months time though. It's great to see it growing but it needs to stay how it has been.
  • + 2
 A limit in training is a key difference between Enduro and DH racing. DH is full knowledge of the track and full force and following a perfect plan of a perfect line. Enduro is mor about anticipation, adaptation and experience. Highest increase is riding blind - you start with a empty mind and fill it up with a track. Positiv emotions. DH is starting full of plans and trying to get the line, rhythm and speed you planed, often ends up in negativ emotions if this doesnt work.
  • + 1
 That's deep, bro.
  • + 2
 Enduro should not be a long distance Downhill race with some pedaling between legs.

Enduro should be raced blind, or maximum, allowing to train the day before the race to avoid too risky situations. But being able to train 1 month before? Why? Only because of business?. If so, Enduro in in the Wrong path.

The riders who are there for winning, pro-riders and wannabe pro-riders are still able to ride in the zone 1, 2, 3 months before, but without knowing the exact race tracks
  • + 2
 Matt,

After reading this article, I just wanted to say this is one of the first articles that truly was a joy to read. It seemed observational (more objectivity than subjectivity), well written, and overall one of my favorite articles of all time. Looking forward to more of your work.
  • + 1
 I have raced enduro quite a lot, also in France (It seems like the Meca for Pink Bike) and most of the times blind or with one simple run. Why? There are no lifts, I have to work from moday to friday, I am married and I pay for every single piece of my bike. This is how enduro competition works, tracks are too long and holidays and budget too short. I don't think this is going to change, but for the 50 best in the planet. And yes, they are incredibly fast, no mention about it.
See you in Punta Ala. My little bike holidays for this year!!!
  • + 1
 Simple fact is - it's impossible to run an Enduro on "new" trails every time. Wherever the race takes place, there will be local riders with local knowledge, and they'll have an advantage over everyone else. Allowing people to practice levels that advantage somewhat. A shiny new course that nobody's ever ridden is a nice idea, but it's just not a practical one.

The economic point is important too - for a lot of small resorts in Italy and similar places that don't have the big money chairlift/ski infrastructure, the cash that goes into local businesses from riders coming to stay for a week to practice and race is vital, and many of them support and sponsor the races and trailbuilding in turn because of that - There'd be fewer races, fewer trails and generally less fun to be had in those places without that cash.
  • + 1
 Over the years I have raced the Megavalanche as well as a number of different enduro races here in England, and as the article says, all of them have been formatted differently. The Mega you can (and I have) practice; and while you may learn the course, the trails themselves evolve over the days to something completely different come race day. The enduro events here in the UK: some allow you to practice a specific stage (descent) the day before; others are all blind descents; some of the transitions (climbs) are timed; others are not. Of all the different formats, for me, the most fun I have had is attacking them blind. You push your limits as a rider mentally and technically, while being timed in a competitive event, and for me, that is the ultimate buzz. My two pence: no practice and ride/race blind.
  • + 1
 Maybe it is naif from me, but i don't care what others do, I will run the enduro without previous practice, because as many said, it is more fun to -not know- what is next. But there is a lot of people like me, arriving just the day before of the event, thinking that there were no practices before, and who were looking up to get a good position that are in full right to complain, as the advantage is on the ones living near the circuit.
  • + 1
 I would think the fairest the thing to do in keeping with the spirit of Enduro and in helping the local business' out, is to allow pre-riding of the trails. That is to say: keep the exact course unmarked until race day, but let the racers know that the course will be made up of ten different trails that can be practiced on beforehand.
  • + 1
 I think... People say that local riders will always have an advantage and that's true. But the difference between 0 practice runs and 1 practice run is absolutely immense. The difference between 1 practice run and 5, less so. I love riding blind but practice is a great leveller and just makes racing better and fairer, unless you can somehow manage an unridden secret route.
  • + 1
 Replies to self, what a div. Anyway. Look at No Fuss, the Tour De Ben Nevis and Highland Perthshire Enduro are no-practice,and it works because they're in the middle of nowhere and nobody really knows where they're going. And even if you did, the routes are too long to easily practice. But with UKGE, there's no such thing as a secret at innerleithen...
  • + 1
 What about just being able to walk the course before the race! I think it would be a good mix between knowing exactly how to ride the course or going blind without knowing any details which give a huge advantage to the local. IMO it would be the best solution.
  • + 1
 i feel it should be a blind race to all, but maybe under circumstance be allowed the day before the race to walk the course just to be aware of any obstacles that could be potentially dangerous & then given your plate # @ the end of the course walked that day. otherwise be given your # the day of & not knowing shit.
  • + 1
 Well, Matt, is the racing for the 600 riders for free? You say, that somebody, that pays all, is Thomas Daddi. :-)
I agree, he has to invest a lot, but the riders pay back also by a lower or higher entrance fee because of the costs of a race. So the riders wishes should also have a weigth. (could be 21000 to 24000 Euro) I am sure you do not forget that, but the article seems not precise in that formulation to me.
This is just to be complete your report.
A payback will not come in one month by pre race explorers or tourists. It need years to establish as a Enduro destination like Finale Ligure. And Punta Ala has much potential. I would like to ride there! Sometimes I keep destinations in mind for years! Punta Ala will stay beside Sedona or many great places, if the riders report positive about the tracks and the race.
  • + 1
 Another question - Is it fair to argue this bend of spirit of Enduro racing with the speculative amount of slightly higher revenue through that riders, that need full knowlegde of trials to jump into a plane/car to spend a weekend in Punta Ala? How much will this be? This question can lead in a fictional debatte to another questions, kind of maximum increase is a not to fictional example:: How much is the rate to integrate a 4Cross as a stage? If I wish this as a investor to have more spectacular action for TV or spectators...

Finally all this questions lead to the core of Enduro racing, that makes it different from Downhill racing?
It is not only the less step and more pedal stroking trails. It is the same what makes Rallye (WRC) different from Track Racing, the same that makes FIM Enduro different from Motocross. Find the maximum (or optimum - ask Fabien Barel for this) speed without the possibility of gradual increase in training. Not trial and error, just experience of reading terrain in limited time. One month is not such limitation. One day is okay to me. Blind is also an option.

WRC or FIM Enduro on motobikes (like Six Days since 1913) have a long tradition and they show high professional racing. And they are able to limit training to better show the special performance of those kind of riders. I was speaker at Red Bull ISDE (Six Days Enduro) in Germany. I tell you, riders are not allowed to ride on the stages. But they can walk them. They walked and filmed many kilometers.
  • + 1
 Here in Germany we have another big problem. At some venues we have to fight hard to get permission to ride one weekend on some trails. If EMBA wants to push Enduro into the direction of racing mainly at preopened or on permanent tracks the growing of Enduro is limited here.
Here we need to care about how much a track wear, because we need to repair deep ruts. Water management is different then in Italy. MTB is not popular by land owners and hunters here. But were we offer enduro race we easy reach 400 riders. At #1 in one day they hit the limit of riders. 440 riders are in the list now. But it is impossible to offer tracks a month before, this is like opening a bike park.
On the other hand its hard to limit training, but I think it work in moto Enduro and so it should in MTB Enduro.

Please EMBA, start to think more international and talk to other countries Enduro providers until you push the italien way to be the worlds Enduro rule book. I listen Chris Ball at Dirt.tv and I am in hope that share our minds will help enduro. World Series should include German speaking countries soon

I am sorry if my English is not at the point sometimes. It is hard to find right words and terms to be fair and friendly and pointing at things you see a need to discuss in one formulation.
  • + 1
 Enduro Needs a top level, let the pros race and practice as much as they want, it gives the rest of us something to aspire to. It will also ensure technology filters down to us and the resorts make the money and build more trails and tailor their business toward mountain bikers. Its win-win, please dont hold back progression its how awesome shit evolves... look at supercross, Outdoor MX, Downhill, Superbikes, F1 they all have top level racing with massive industries behind them and everyone of those sports still has FUN local events and competitive local events... its just how this works... Mountain biking needs Enduro to have a top level race scene... just imagine how wicked your All Mountain bikes will be in 5 years time. Top level race scene progress does not stop local fun it will only enhance it.
  • + 1
 "It is possibly the truest test of any mountain biker." I don't think thats true at all, downhill racing is a better test of bike skill than your ability to guess what's coming next surely? I'm not saying its a bad thing though, it's just a different dimension
  • + 1
 Doing both is an option....

Have an area that is open to the practice runs, say 50 - 70% of the coarse and a portion that is not set to throw a kink into the racers that need to know every rock & root.

There is always some one who will bitch but this way it gives an opportunity for all to have a good time at the races as well as the business to profit from the event.

We all need to support the locals!
  • + 4
 Blind WC DH and slopestyle events!!
  • + 0
 Here we go again, once it becomes an event, always it becomes an issue of intimidation for less skilled riders crying about the trails, Enduro definitely should not be announced or marked prior to a race or event, total BS! Im sick and tired of pandering to pussys in this sport, finally I thought Enduro would focus on riders, if you want practice, go DH if you want to practice ride in tight lycra so you can feel like a girl then ride XC, this really pisses me off, Ive had a gutsful of once a week warriors, HTFU or sit on the couch where you belong, organisers stop this BS now, its killing mtb doh every other next big event system has died because of this BS, learn or it will die before it gets going, geezus! Ive just got back from a day of digging trails, building jumps and building em big so muppets can go ride theyre own trails and stay off mine as Im sick of them complaining about its too hard Im so over these pussys, hence the rant!
  • + 0
 Just let it be whatever it is Matt... racing will sort it out. A potential winner will always do everything he can to win - even if it means training for three weeks and learning every stone of every stage. Average people should just take it as it is, come to race to have a good fun and probably learn something. Leave the tension to the top spot contenders. Rally Monte Carlo is raced on same stages every year... drivers know them very well.
  • + 0
 Basically the top get riders get pushed by their sponsors to push for practice, practice meaning racing advantage, perhaps meaning more spotlight on the riders (if they win) and for the products these guys are sponsored by. No doubt these riders are sick but just like every other extreme sport, big companies like the likes of Monster and Red Bull are moulding things to benefit themselves. Ask any Enduro/Motocross/Pro BMX rider worth their salt if they drink that shit and they will say no, the bastards fill the cans with water and make us pretend that we drink their shit. Why would you peak your energy with sugar and caffeine? Anyway I digress, enjoy Enduro for what it is, all out bonkers fun.
  • + 2
 The sponsors don't push the riders to practice, the riders and their trainers push them to practice. They don't have to practice if they don't want to, haha. You make it sound like they're controlling the lives of the riders completely when in fact those riders are so committed to being the best that they would be doing the same stuff regardless of who sponsors them. There should be zero hate for the guys who give riders money so they can make a living riding their bike.
  • + 3
 ive seen a certain american dh team manager pouring the shit away and filling the cans with water for the podium ..no one who knows anything about food would drink this shite and ive been saying this for years although one of em goes well with vodka every now and again .It makes me sick watching all the kids guzzling monster like its some kind of magic potion for making them instantly coo,l but advertising works on children ,even more so when you attach it to mx ,dh ,moto gp, formula one,bmx etc etc .laughing all the way to the bank
  • + 1
 unleash- If you had a sliver of common sense, you'd know that energy drinks in no way improve your performance or should be touched when you compete at a high level. I feel like it's an obvious statement to make along with saying they're not really drinking monster or red bull on the podium. There's a reason why you'll see a lot of them with water bottles dressed up as energy drinks or just holding the can and either not drinking from it or only taking a small/pretend swig. That crap is poison but who cares? They're pumping money into the sport and they're not forcing anyone to ingest their stuff... they're smarter than that.
  • + 2
 I'm fully aware of the money they pump into the sport I'm not some nieve child ,my issue is that some younger people are and drink this crap like its going out of fashion.These kids are duped into thinking this sugary shit is part of their sport and its not ,this could open up a debate about the food industry in general but let's not go there aye.my comment was aimed at some of the younger pb members not someone as wise and all knowing as yourself.
  • + 1
 Yeah well that's why kids tend to have parents. If a kid is so unsupervised that energy drink companies are changing their diets, then the parents are to blame, not the companies. Kids have always been impressionable and energy drinks are doing what has been happening in organized sports for decades now... nothing new, nothing to get worked up aboot. It's the same argument as saying violent video games leads to kids killing people.
  • + 2
 This is becoming a drag , your ethics are obviously very different to mine so there's not point arguing .ride or die good buy.
  • + 1
 Ethics? You're really over thinking this whole thing, haha.
  • + 1
 Actually caffeine is a banned substance (at ________ cutoff blood concentration) in many high level sports. It is a stimulant and can increase alertness and perfomance in a lesser but similar way to amphetamines. At high enough levels it can also cause many of the same negative side effects associated with amphetamines. And yes energy drinks are poison.
  • + 1
 I can see that the resort's man has an interest. But for race purposes I'd favor to allow practice on a few days only prior to the race only. This long practicing window gives sponsored pro riders an even more advantage.
  • + 0
 could you do it like fim superenduros? one timed practice run? run it like erzberg where you have more specific practice rules. you can't have an "open" practice course for the event. that would be an xc race & not the spirit of enduro. you could hold one timed practice that is part of the race for riders that are registered. All riders have one look. It's as blind and as safe as you can get...me thinks.

you can't get away from the liability of safety issues for a promoter/sponsor and the costs of the event regardless of size which means maybe higher entry fees for one. racing is/needs money and lots of it.
  • + 0
 Everyone has to wear their number plate on their bike during practice. You get 3 runs a day. If you go more, you DQ. People can still show up to practice a few days early, yet don't know the course tremendously better than someone who has 1 day of practice. If you're caught without a number plate, you DQ. Could you take advantage of this? Sure... but there is no system that can't be taken advantage of.

Just and idea that hopes to find balance.
  • + 0
 I'm for the couple of practices then race it idea. You can hit it faster when you've ridden it once or twice, but the people who can afford to visit the courses in advance don't get an unfair advantage.
  • + 2
 Who cares, I'm entered into finale, I don't care where I come, just finishing will be an achievement!
  • + 1
 I am gutted to even see the word 'politics' on a page for the mountain biking community. Let's not forget what riding your bike is all about..
  • + 0
 A days practice before the race, takes the edge of riding it blind the next day while still being able to maintain flow and speed.
  • + 1
 I'm cool with this, but to make it work a new track or significantly rebuilt track has to be made for every race.
  • + 1
 I'm interested to know how many of the commenters on this post have actually RACED a true blind enduro event before?
  • + 1
 "blind racing, by its very nature, is open to abuse. Sooner or later chaos would follow."

Please support your argument.
  • + 1
 should be as it is in Enduro moto, no practice, but well walking allowed to know the track
  • + 0
 I think you're over-thinking it....people still have to pedal their asses out to the trails, it's not like smashing off 10 laps in a bike park, generally.
  • + 1
 Some races will have lift assists anyway. And I can imagine the bigger teams organizing shuttles for their riders. Only one ride per track would be an acceptable compromise. No helmet cam filming the trails and stuffs.
  • + 1
 riders MUST practice the trails... or they will die! they push really hard, it would be dangerous for everyone!
  • + 0
 No, they'll ride a little slower. If practice are allowed then the level of difficulty of the trails will once rise and what will then be the difference with DH? Well ams could take part, without having time for training, and then they will die.
  • + 1
 EnduroManiac, they will die on two of the trails if they dont practice ...... you have no idea you havent seen the trails yet.... All the top pros coming here i have spoken to at one point or another and you know all of them are going to get on and race, they are not going to moan and complain, they are professional all of them are looking for an advantage it is the nature of racing, everyone will enjoy race day anyway, and who is to stop the organisers modifiying a part of the track a few days before the race for safety concerns or speed issues or other factors.
  • + 1
 Fort William World Cup 2017 announced, 4 years of practice before the event??
  • + 1
 The Oregon Enduro Series allows limited practice...the courses are announced a week prior to the race. www.oregonenduro.com
  • + 1
 i like to race the track blind. i race one time this kind of race and it was really more fun as an track wich u ride before
  • + 2
 so it's going to be just a flatter more boring DH then?
  • + 1
 Keep it pure, you fuckin' pussies! If you can't ride an unknown trail..... Go buy a skateboard!
  • + 1
 You are right on the money! I race some local downhill and prefer to just show up and see what I can do on a timed run. I think facing what is thrown at you is all the thrill. No I am not a pro rider but running any new trail at full tilt and paying for your mistakes is what it is about. If you want to memorize a coarse try BMX!
  • + 1
 perhaps one 'blind' stage per event?
  • + 3
 Yes! The Highland Enduro had two stages that could be practiced and one that could be walked, but not pre-ridden. This was enough to know if a drop or jump had a transition that you could over or undershoot, etc. It worked well and was a nice blend of the two options. I would imagine that it also kept injury to a minimum.
  • + 1
 Too bad I caught all the pros at that race scoping out the "blind" section. Cheaters.
  • + 1
 This should be considered as a viable solution. 1 in 3 stages blind minimum. That would give the resort and the area the income needed to put on such a fine event and still keep the riders guessing.
  • + 1
 blind is fair... but dangerous
  • + 0
 The track should be released a day before the race... Just to decide where inexperienced riders will ride... This is fair!
  • + 1
 Did not read. Like the kit though. Dialed.
  • + 1
 No practice is crazy! But fun!
  • + 1
 Ohh goody more drama, just what the world needs.
  • + 1
 hoooo I like this angle
  • + 1
 mtb>politics
  • + 2
 politics=money

hence the mention of local businesses doing well at superenduro.
  • + 1
 Shop online!
  • + 1
 local businesses other than bikes shops is what he meant. cafes, hotels, taxis, etc. boosting local economies that normally wouldn't have that amount of tourism.
  • + 1
 I know
  • - 1
 Politics ruin everything.
  • + 5
 Correction, Racing ruins everything.
  • + 0
 Agreed.
  • + 0
 whatever
  • - 2
 Racing is lame. FR
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