State of the Enduro Nation: Chris Ball replies

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After chatting to racers at the Finale Enduro World Series we thought we’d get Chris Ball’s thoughts on where it’s all heading…

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ST: We asked racers so we thought we’d better ask you. What do you think makes enduro so special as a race format?

CB: I think it’s got a low barrier to entry which is really important and it’s relatively welcoming and we hope it stays that way. Some of the stuff, like in Italian Superenduro with their full face rule maybe makes it seem more extreme but in reality it’s more about racing for normal people and what normal people have. You don’t need to have to buy a £200 Rapha chamois bib shorts or a downhill bike worth £6000. You can do it to a fun level with what you’ve got. A lot of people say they don’t want to race but why does Strava exist? Strava exists because people want to compete in some way and enduro just formalises that to some extent. It’s like formalised Strava. It’s about more natural trails and away from the tendency towards more manicured courses that most mountain bike racing was heading. It’s as close to normality as possible I guess.

ST: And that’s reflected in the variety of race venues and formats I guess?

CB: A lot comes down to the logistics of where the race is held, and that’s what nice because unlike downhill where you have to have a carpark of X size and a finish within so many metres of whatever, with enduro you find the best trails and make the race fit around that. If it means no assistance then there’s no assistance, if it means you can drop back into the pits at lunch then that’s what happens. It’s nice to have that freedom which neither cross country or downhill give I think.

Mark it and they will come - Photo Matt Wragg
Mark it and they will come – Photo Matt Wragg

ST: So a common theme to discussions in Finale was that there had been a ramping up this year. Do you feel like there’s been a balance found now?

CB: I think we went too far a couple of times, so I think there’s definitely been a balance found. You’ve got to go too far to find where the limit is, and I think a few of the stages were too tough. And within some events I think some individual liaison times were too tight, but I think we’ve found a pretty good level, and we know how hard we can push people and they still find it an achievement and how hard you can push and they find it hell on earth. We’ve already sat down and looked at 2015 events, and we’re going to relax some stuff, keep it challenging but not have this exponential toughening up because it doesn’t have to be Ironman.

ST: Which will help keeping the grassroots racer involvement.

CB: I think it helps keep everyone a bit grounded, it stops the Pro’s being able to run off with their masseurs, soigneurs and lose sight of what most people do on their bikes. I think it’s really important to keep that amateur involvement. Just normalise it.

Here’s the previous instalment if you missed it…

Enduro has been going through a  phenomenal growing phase; it’s caught the attention of grassroots racers, manufacturers and race organisers alike.

We’re now two years into the World Enduro Series, so it seemed like a good time to dip a litmus paper and find out why it means so much to racers, both professional and privateer alike and hear where they think it’s heading…

Hannah Jonsson, privateer racer

Hannah
Hanna Jonsson

ST: So what do you think are the strengths of enduro as a racing format?

HJ: I like it because it’s very social and you get to ride in so many different terrains, so many different countries. It’s just a really cool community.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

HJ: Well I think this year it’s really stepped up a level. I have a full time job at home, so getting the miles in to actually survive something like this is really hard. With the liason times being a lot shorter, the stages are getting longer, so they’ve definitely stepped it up. I hope they keep it like this so that people like me, with a full time job can keep on doing enduro seasons.

Anka Martin, Juliana sponsored racer

Anka Martin
Anka Martin

ST: For you what are the best aspects of enduro?

AM: What got me into enduro was the fact you get to go to all these new places and ride new tracks and it’s a way to go to all these places and ride the best tracks without a guide company, or pulling out your map every five minutes and trying to find your way. So it’s an easy way, no not easy, it’s actually a hard way to figure out and ride some new places. Obviously I love that racing does push you, but enduro pushes you to progress very quickly, and I like that you keep pushing yourself and your personal limits. To me that’s great, I’m not pushing it out for the top spot but every year of doing these races is pushing my riding up a notch. And that’s a good personal goal.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

AM: It’s been an amazing two years of what they’ve achieved. I definitely think that the Enduro World Series will cater towards the more serious athlete, and it’s great that the series is there for those people, who want to make it a profession and be serious about it. There are just so many stand alone events that are equally amazing for people who don’t want to take it to this level. I think it’s just going to keep growing, it’s wonderful to get women involved. There’s so many events now to get girls started and then when they’re ready this will be waiting.

 Joe Barnes, Canyon sponsored racer

Joe Barnes
Joe Barnes

ST: For you what are the best aspects of enduro?

JB: It’s mostly how sociable the sport is, so when you go away to a race weekend it’s more of a social event, and seeing as we do this sport for fun that’s the huge appeal to me. You can do a downhill race that is pretty sociable, a cross country one that is slightly less so, but an enduro race is basically riding round the woods with your mates and you get races within races between friends. Yeah, I think the fun that can be had out on the bike is why it’s booming and getting everyone interested at the moment.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

JB: It’s definitely going to get more professional as the value of sponsorship happens, which I don’t think’s a problem at all. It just drips down through professional riders and seriousness. I think the World Series will stay the same, same format, same style of racing; I think they’ve got it pretty sorted at the moment. The balance between how technical it is and how physical it is perfect. For racing at home probably stick with the slightly different format where you don’t have liaison times, it keeps it slightly more fun and less professional but the result at the end is the same. Almost have a mix of World Series and regional rounds, it’d be good to keep them slightly separate. As long as it stays like it is because I really like it.

Jamie Nicoll, Polygon UR sponsored racer

Jamie Nicoll
Jamie Nicoll

ST: For you what are the best aspects of enduro?

JN: I guess it’s the community it creates between riders and that you can make a mistake on a stage but still win the weekend, for example. It’s not down to every precision step and learning exact lines. It’s about the fluidity of riding, just being on your bike and riding and finding flow.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

JN: You can see changes already, with the increase of liaisons and that. It’s hard to know but I guess keep trying to create that sense of adventure in the sport and I guess there’ll probably be times it swings too far one way and then hopefully comes back the other.

Ben Cruz, Cannondale sponsored racer

Ben Cruz
Ben Cruz

ST: For you what are the best aspects of enduro?

BC: For me it’s pretty cool, it’s not like a standard form of racing. You can go out all day and be with your buddies and be racing, but at the same time it’s not a full-on racing vibe. You’re going out for a ride, for the experience of the trails and the area. Unlike other forms of racing you get to see a lot more of the area, unlike a downhill race where you just repeat the same track or a cross country race where you’re just going round in circles with enduro you can get a feel for all the cool places to you go to.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

BC: Right now I feel it’s growing so rapidly and everything is getting so serious that I think within a few more years it’s going to hit a level point. Right now we’re sitting in a big team truck and every team is here and that’s really good for some events, but hopefully for enduro it can keep that grass roots vibe so it won’t be like sitting at a World Cup where there’s so much pressure. The sport’s just exploded in a crazy way, but hopefully we can keep it to its roots and it doesn’t become something where all the fun is lost.

 Mark Fitzsimmons, Race Program Manager at FOX Racing

Mark
Mark Fitzsimmons

ST: For you what are the best aspects of enduro?

MF: The way I see it before enduro we had Megavalanche that we could use for doing testing of 160/170mm bikes but now that there’s actual racing going on it’s really allowing us to capture a bigger perspective of performance and that’s allowing us to push our products to the next level. Especially when we tie in what we learn in downhill and it goes really well with the development between gravity and single crown hardcore product.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

MF: I think it’s happening two ways. In a lot of places they’re holding enduro races, California for example, you don’t need a bike like is being used in world enduro so I see there being two differnet bikes needed a 140/150mm trail bike and a heavier duty 160/170 bike.

 Jon Cancellier,  BlackBox Program Manager at SRAM

John Cancellier
Jon Cancellier

ST: For you what are the best aspects of enduro?

JC: I feel it has a couple of key strengths; first it’s a more encompassing sport that the everyman can come on the weekend and race enduro on the bike they have in their garage. It’s not as specialised as cross country or downhill so it kind of relates to what everyone is riding. It’s also the more fun aspect of racing you can race it with a friend or group of people you ride with at the weekend and you can all do it together.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

JC: I think it’s inevitable as the level raises it’s going to become more professional, it’s going to get a ‘worldcupesque’ feel to it but I hope it doesn’t get to where we are in the world cup right now. Having this grass roots feel, having 500 people all racing with Jerome and Jared and all those guys and be able to do the same course the same day, that’s what everybody enjoys. So yes it will get more professional but I think it’s going ot be able to keep that feeling that we all want. And I know that Enrico and Chris Ball and those guys want ot keep it because that’s why it’s so popular and so successful.

Rich Norgate, privateer racer

Rich Norgate
Rich Norgate

ST: For you what are the best aspects of enduro?

RN: The first thing would be because it’s a bit like a car rally, so during the liaisons you can ride with people and chat in between the intense focus of the stages. In the stages you click in to racing mode but over the five hours you’ve got times to relax. It allows a lot of different levels of riders to come together, xc racers, downhillers, enduro specific but they can all ride together. You don’t need a special bike or to look after it too much, just lube it up and go racing.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

RN: I think the fact it’s grass roots, the fact there are 500 riders here, allows the series to be as big a it is. And that creates a really good vibe. The fact it’s spread out over the day allows the pro’s to have their runs without having the trouble of catching people or being caught. It’s quite a hard spectator sport that’s for sure. Where it shouldn’t go is like some races in the UK where guys are going out without backpacks, pushing up and then racing down. I think it should stay that you’re with your bike, you’re carrying your support with you, you can look after yourself and you can go out and ride for four or five hours. That’s why I enjoy it because I come from a riding background of going out for big days.

Seb Ramsey, privateer racer

Seb Ramsey
Seb Ramsey

ST: For you what are the best aspects of enduro?

SR: It’s totally a middle ground that didn’t really exist in racing before. There was cross country that was super gruelling and not everyone wanted to invest in a hyper light hardtail. A super specialised bike for that. Downhill was at the other end of the spectrum and getting more gnarly, jumps getting bigger and equipment getting more specialised and you end up with a bike you can’t use at any other time. So this is the middle ground, the middle way, the massive void that needed to be filled. Enduro is perfect, people had these bikes anyway and it’s pretty much what everybody has been doing at the weekend for ages anyway. You ride up hills and then you race your mates down them.

ST: So after two years of the Enduro World Series where do you feel it should go?

SR: It will change, it is getting more professional. The grass roots will level and that’s inevitable. But you don’t need to do the World Series and come absolutely last out of 500 riders you can do a local one and do better. It’s much more relaxed and it’s more fun but having said that it’s quite relaxed here and it’s such a nice format. I imagine there will come a time when for the World Series you have to qualify for it, and I guess the UCI will try to get involved in this; there’ll be doping tests and stuff like that. I don’t think it needs to change but I’m sure it will.

Comments (1)

    “I think it’s really important to keep that amateur involvement. Just normalise it.”

    Absolutely.

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