High school racers gear up for GoPro’s first-ever enduro
Special to the Daily
EAGLE — After Calvin Trudeau, 16, competed in his first enduro race, he was officially addicted.
“I’d been cross-country racing pretty seriously for about a year, and after trying enduro, I just wanted to do more,” said the Battle Mountain High School junior. “It tests your fitness, and really pushes your downhilling. There’s nothing like being in that zone for five to 10 minutes.”
It’s a sentiment shared by a handful of other young racers in the Vail Valley, and over the past year, several high school racers have been traveling together around Colorado and the surrounding states to compete in enduro races. Eagle will be hosting its first GoPro Mountain Games enduro on Friday, June 10, and these riders are eager to have a race in their own backyard.
“When I first heard about the GoPro enduro, I was surprised because I wasn’t sure what that might look like,” said Eagle rider Sam Brown, 16. “But then I thought about some of the trails we have in Eagle that have been improving for downhill riding, and I think it could be really fun. I like that we’re hosting more enduro-type races instead of just cross-country events. I think that could expand a lot more in Eagle.”
In defense of descents
So what is enduro? For many cross-country racers, it conjures up images of full-face helmets, body armor and burly downhill bikes. In reality, enduro races vary considerably race by race, but most have some key elements.
All feature non-competitive or lift-accessed climbs, and timed descents, which can vary from technical to flowy. An uphill and a descent constitutes a stage, and most races have several stages within a day. Some races are multiday, or in the case of the Eagle enduro, just one day. Even though climbs aren’t a “race,” the endurance part comes into play due to the sheer mileage riders cover over a day, which can be up to 30 miles when the race is over.
Enduro descents tend to be long — anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes, an attribute that also distinguishes enduro racing from downhill racing. Sam’s father, Mountain Pedaler owner Charlie Brown, said enduro is a nod to true downhill riding.
“Today, a typical downhill race is under 3 minutes long, and in enduro, some of the descents are up to 10 minutes. This isn’t a two-minute deal on a specialty bike,” he said.
That element was what drew Battle Mountain High School junior Michael Barrett, 17, to enduro racing. He’s raced cross-country since he was a tyke but discovered the sport’s gravity-loving cousin last year.
“It’s a bit less competitive, but still intense,” he said. “You pedal to the top of the hill. There’s no competition — you’re just chatting and meeting other riders — then you race downhill. Some people say it’s kind of like the heart of mountain biking. It’s what would happen if a group of friends went riding uphill and then raced on the way down.”
‘A good day out on the bike’
There’s one other thing: Many enduro races don’t reveal the courses until the day of or the day before the race. Eagle’s three-to-four stages will be a surprise, although that hasn’t stopped people from guessing.
Mac Garnsey, of the Vail Valley Foundation, promises that the courses won’t disappoint. The GoPro Mountain Games has partnered with Big Mountain Enduro, a company responsible for a number of other races around the country, to create the Eagle course, he said.
“The goal is to maximize the time in the saddle with the most riding. The beauty is, anybody can do it. People have been riding these trails every day for the past two months. It’s stuff people are comfortable with and will probably be excited to race,” he said.
In the Pro/Open category, the race is sure to draw some serious competition thanks to a prize purse of $3,700 each for the men’s and women’s categories. There will be plenty of great prizes for amateur racers as well, promised Garnsey.
Eagle County’s young racers point out that most riders can participate in an enduro race. You don’t need a special bike, or even special skills, to participate and enjoy the race.
“It’s not like you have to have a downhill bike — you can race on a hard tail,” said Barrett. “It’s just a good day out on the bike. “
Sam Brown said that even though downhill-focused events aren’t the norm in the Vail Valley, enduro racing could have broad appeal.
“It’s great if you don’t like to have to climb fast, but you do like to ride up. I think of it as somewhere in between downhill and cross-country,” he said.
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