Sorting out the winning game-changer came down to determining the defining moment when an event, a decision, or an action took place that turned a page and launched us into a new chapter, yet to be played out in the history of mountain biking. The sport of enduro came into sharp focus after the Enduro World Series' second successful season captured the imaginations of both rank-and-file riders and the media. Enduro was no longer an enigmatic concept being carelessly lobbed about by marketing departments and media hacks. The EWS gave the sport of enduro shape and substance and put it in front of a truly global audience. The EWS had all of the basic ingredients in place: a groundswell of popularity, pro teams in attendance, key media coverage, and venues on three continents. Mid-way through the 2014 EWS season, almost everyone could tell you that that enduro was here to stay, but nobody, even the EWS, knew for certain what the series was going to evolve into in the foreseeable future. That defining moment was provided by the people who put together the EWS stop at Whistler's Crankworx festival. Game-Changer of the Year
Enduro World Series at Whistler, BC
The Enduro World Series at Whistler, BC, handily won our Game-Changer of the Year award for setting a high bar for future enduro venues - for its diversity of terrain and trails, for the intensity of its sometimes monstrously technical descents, and for pushing the top EWS athletes up to and sometimes beyond their athletic and bike-handling skillsets. Red Bull Specialized racer Curtis Keene remarked at the finish of the five-stage, single-day event, that it was the hardest enduro he had experienced, and then tipped his hat to the working-class competitors who managed to finish a race that put the hurt to the pros.
For Whistler, the 2014 EWS
brought recognition to the ski-mountain and its nearby slopes for its stellar singletrack network rather than revisit its now-stereotypical flow and DH trails. For the EWS, Whistler demonstrated to the series organizers as well as to competitors, that professional enduro racers can handle a lot more fire than any of us believed they could. Admittedly, the small group of men who laid out the course and who put in massive amounts of shovel time to prepare it for competition did so because they wanted to showcase Whistler's lesser known gems. But, the outcome of their efforts exceeded all ambitions. Before the last competitor crossed the line - almost nine hours after the early morning start - the writing was on the wall for the EWS.
If the Enduro World Series wants to maintain its leadership position as the
international series for enduro competition, then its venues must be upgraded to challenge the pros and to progress their skills. To make that happen, however, promoters must be willing to accept that many amateur racers will not be able to make the transfers - or in some cases, even ride down the courses. Enduro will always have venues for rank-and-file racers, but not the EWS. All signs point to a day when we will realize that the 2014 EWS at Whistler marked the decision point where the EWS was set on course to become a professional-only competition venue and eventually achieve status similar to that of the World Cups.
See the complete 2014 EWS