Hailed as the discipline that best highlights the all-around rider, enduro racing is exploding in the Rocky Mountain region, and race promoters are responding by adding the format to their race season offerings or starting new enduro series altogether. Riders are accepting the challenge as evidenced by this weekend’s sold-out Enchilada Enduro in Moab, Utah.
This summer, Bigfoot Productions—which organizes the prestigious Mountain States Cup gravity series—is among the race promoters expanding their offerings to include more enduro-style events. It launched the Big Mountain Enduro Series with three backcountry events: the Buffalo Pass Enduro in Steamboat Springs, Colo; the Kennebec Pass Enduro in Durango, Colo.; and the Enchilada Enduro.
Bigfoot representative Sarah Rawley said the promoter wanted to offer events that speak to all types of racing.
“This opens the door to people who just love to ride their bike, fast and hard, and still wear their baggies and race on their everyday trail bike,” Rawley says.
The number of entrants for the Big Mountain races is capped (200 for the Colorado races and 150 for the Utah race, which is full). But Rawley says the caps will increase in the future with the success of the 2012 events.
Other races, such as the Trestle All-Mountain Enduro in Winter Park, Colo., also had successful first-year runs. The three-day all-mountain race began in 2011 and required racers to choose a single bike and suspension set-up for five stages and a variety of terrain and distances.
Pro mountain biker and Trestle mastermind Ross Schnell said feedback after the race was incredible.
“We had a great turnout, and the riders were genuinely stoked on the racing. After the final stage of this year’s event, Mark Weir told me that it was the most fun he’s had at an enduro race. Period. That’s saying something from a guy who has done these events all over the world,” Schnell says.
With long-distance courses (such as the Fears, Tears & Beers in Ely, Nev., at 34 miles long) and tough climbs (such as the Kennebec race that requires a 2,000-foot climb in five miles to get to the start), physical fitness is still a factor in enduro racing. But according to Schnell—who has raced numerous enduros across the globe, including the famous Megavlanche in Alpe D'Huez—what really makes or breaks an enduro-style event are the terrain and course.
“People want to have legit race courses to test their skills on,” Schnell says. “After all, these races are for the all-around rider.”
In the past, Super D race organizers had a lot of freedom to fudge the race courses in the name of adding numbers and revenue, and the race courses were an afterthought, he added.
“At this point, most race promoters get it and understand what makes a quality event. In addition to proper race course design, you have to have timing and logistics dialed in to make the racer feel like they got their money’s worth. That’s how it should be. Bike racing, after all, should be about the racer and not the promoter.”
Prior to enduro-style events, the mountain biker could compete in cross country and downhill, which requires two completely different rigs. Now, however, with the advent of trail bikes, gone are the days in which a rider has to sacrifice stability to save weight and vice versa. All-mountain and cross-country trail bikes with 4 to 7 inches of suspension are widespread and are light, nimble and durable.
“Racing in the U.S. has gone through lots of different changes, partly due to influences from the industry and technology, and part to racers who are looking for new and different challenges,” Rawley explains.
Organizers of the new Master of the Mass in Snowmass Village, Colo., created the multi-day, enduro-style stage race this year to appeal to a range of cyclists. It was modeled after the successful Trestle race.
“This type of racing is far less intimidating than rolling up to the start line with uber athletes who are watching their caloric intake every day,” says Master of the Mass race director Dave Elkan. “Enduro is the type of race for the average guy and girl that likes to just ride their bike. You don’t have to train 30 hours a week; you just have to like to ride.”