As a sport Enduro has shook up the long established order of Mountain Biking. Previously our sport suffered from a polarisation of Cross Country and Downhill, with Dirt Jumping/ 4X being admired but largely ignored by the vast majority of riders. Brief fads, such as All Mountain Riding, existed as interesting concepts but never seemed to have the momentum to really catch on. Enduro, which has capitalised on the increasing popularity of Trail Centre riding, has allowed the vast majority of riders to find a style of riding that suits them.
Cross Country and Downhill racing both require very specialised equipment and skill sets to be proficient, and, furthermore, can only really be enjoyed to their full potential when racing between the tapes against a clock. Everything else is just training, no doubt fun, but lacking the pedal to the metal edge that they really need to attain the biggest rush. For everyone else, those who enjoyed riding trail centres, and perhaps even knew their local trails well enough to link up their favourite descents with relaxed fire road climbs (sound familiar?) there was no way to compete with other riders, beyond Strava, which itself is not without fault. Enduro was born to meet the demand of these riders and it shows in the relaxed competition formats aimed to encourage riders of all abilities and with a vast variety of equipment.
Enduro as a format did not have an easy birth but is now a competition that is emerging on par with the other well established disciplines. Original detractors argued that it was simply a graveyard for Downhillers with a lack of ability and Cross Country riders with a lack of stamina. These arguments have been quashed by dedicated Enduro athletes consistently outperforming riders from other disciplines.
What I find interesting is that through the dedication of Chris Ball and co, other disciplines of Mountain Biking can now benefit. Firstly, on the organisation front, the renegade Enduro World Series has taken just a year to flourish where formats such as DH1 were unable to. Through sheer bloody mindedness and hard work Enduro has managed to escape the bureaucratic shackles of the UCI, it has shown that Mountain Biking does not need an institution, that massively favours Road Cycling, to attract big name sponsors and venues.
Secondly, it allows for a better definition of Downhill and Cross Country, the massive gulf between the two polar opposites of the sport meant for many downhill tracks that were flat and featureless, and Cross Country circuits that led to a majority of riders walking sections. Downhill tracks which are not up to standard can now be described as 'too Enduro' in a way that was simply not expressable until recently. Tracks are now put under more scrutiny, which will lead to harder technical trails and a higher standard of grassroots racing, leading to higher standards of competition and riders in the future.
Finally, trail centres can now be used more widely. No longer will they turn more and more towards the family market and consistently sanitised trails. A market will emerge for technical, Enduro style tracks. Furthermore, as race events sweep the length and breadth of the country new race lines will appear, and the chance to watch and compete with top riders on one's local trails will help to push the standards of trail centre users.
|Hully Gully, Trail Centre Perfection (PMBA.org)|
As I mentioned at the start of this blog, 2013 looks like a positive year for the sport of Mountain Biking, the potential displayed in the first three rounds of the Enduro World Series seems to show that the Enduro Evolution has just begun, although hopefully the Euro fashions won't be following along with it!