Enduro-style mountain bike racing gaining traction in United States
Sunday event schedule
9 a.m. — Summit Express opens early for loading
10 a.m. — Race starts
1 p.m. to close — Food, festivities and Oskar Blues
It’s not quite downhill; it’s not cross country. It’s enduro-class mountain bike racing, and, “We’ll see more of (it) pop up” in Colorado and around the country, said Tim Moore, a pro-level Oskar Blues-sponsored rider.
“It’s a perfect gateway to racing,” said Joe Lawwill, a former downhill world champion mountain biker and current Shimano bike marketing specialist.
For Lawwill, enduro has been a way to get back into racing. And he said, “It’s bringing a lot of people back.”
Not as technically aggressive as pure downhill, and not as physically demanding as XC racing, enduro-class racing is a blend of the two.
“It favors someone that has trail skills and fitness, too,” Moore said.
It essentially removes most of the climbing involved in XC, and has less of the technical aspect of pure downhill.
“In downhill, you really have to put it on the line,” Moore said. Enduro, however, focuses more on the riding experience than on extremely technical features.
“I’m doing exactly what I would do as a trail ride,” said Lawwill. “It’s not an all-out sprint like downhill”
That said, courses do still incorporate some technical features like rock gardens, tabletops and small drops. But there might also be go-around options.
Lawwill sees enduro as a perfect fit for an amateur racer. “Anybody’s challenged but it’s not too intimidating.”
Already popular in Europe, enduro racing is a multi-stage version of Super D, which combines some technical aspects of downhill with more flowy, momentum-driven trail elements. Enduro courses often incorporate lift-accessed terrain, or stages that are linked by untimed uphill transitions.
Enduro events have gained momentum in the United States in the last few years, starting in the northwest.
Keystone gets enduro fever
The Big Mountain Enduro Series (BME) and North American Enduro Tour (NAET) both made inaugural stops at the Keystone Bike Park this weekend with a combined, two-day, six-stage event.
This marks the third stop for the BME, only in its second year, and the second stop for the NAET, in its third year. Both series culminate in Moab on Sept. 28 and 29.
Overnight showers set up prime course conditions to open the event at Keystone Saturday. Close to 300 professional and amateur competitors participated in the first three stages.
Each stage started near the top of the River Run Gondola and incorporated different descending lines on the bike park’s extensive trail network.
Racers started each stage at 30 seconds intervals, beginning with pros and then various open classes. Participants had time between stages and rode the Summit Express chair back up to the top.
Keystone was “just as rugged if not more rugged than other stops” on the BME tour, Moore said.
Lawwill considered Keystone more technical and somewhat more downhill focused than enduros in the Northwest. But unique course designs and course variation are signatures of the racing class.
Others said European courses are still more aggressive and technical than those in the Rockies.
This weekend’s events could be a sign of things to come in bike racing, both at Keystone and around Colorado. BME director Brandon Ontivero and others described enduro as a growing discipline in the states.
Keystone officials were excited to host the event and hope to bring more to the park in the future.
The Big Mountain Enduro Series and North American Enduro Tour continue today with stages four through six.
Keystone Bike Park has a number of designated viewing areas for spectators. There will be live music and other attractions in Keystone Village. While the bike park is closed to the public, visitors can still ride the lift or hike to watch the race. Sunday’s stages incorporate a number of Keystone’s advanced trails.
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