Is Enduro the Future of MTB Racing?

An upstart race format picks up steam with events in Colorado and Utah
Staff Writer

The all-new Yeti Cycles Big Mountain Enduro race series debuting this summer will pull together some of the most epic trails in Colorado and Utah—pitting riders against each other in a true test of trail-riding strength, skill and fitness.

While still new in this country the Enduro race format has been gaining steam in Europe for years. Races like the Trans-Provence, which extends for seven days and several hundred miles across remote, technical Mediterranean single-track from Gap, France, to Monaco have elevated the racing format in the media. (See highlight reel video below for a 2011 race wrap-up.)

The new Yeti Enduro series is comprised of three separate multi-stage races, held on second-to-none trails in Colorado and Utah that should be on any mountain biker’s bucket list. The key to the Enduro format is that only certain sections—usually long sections of singletrack—are timed. For the most part big, pointless fire road or double-track climbs are mandatory, but not timed. For example, the winner of the 2011 Trans-Provence, Cannondale Enduro star Jerome Clementz, tallied the fastest cumulative time after 26 individual times stages.

Craig Gant/Yeti Cycles

It’s not that mountain bike race fans haven’t had something to cheer about, though. Downhill racing is still the most exciting format going, and California-based Aaron Gwinn recently brought the U.S. back to the podium in convincing fashion last year after he dominated the World Cup standings and clinched the overall World Championship title while becoming the first rider ever to take first place five times in a single season.

The beauty of Enduro racing is that it combines the same technical handling aspects of downhill with the reality of everyday riding—namely, that it’s still very much necessary for riders to earn their turns. True, while some of the Yeti Enduro races start with a shuttle, there are plenty of mandatory climbs to separate the weak from the strong.

The challenge will be if promoters can capture just a fraction of the action for spectators to sit in on, as RedBull TV is doing this year with the UCI World Cup schedule. Registration opened April 16, and is capped at 200 riders for the Buff Pass and Kennebec Pass held in July and August, respectively. The Whole Enchilada race, hosted in Moab in September, will be capped at 150.

"We are excited to bring some of the best venues in the country to the enduro racing circuit," said Keith Darner, Bigfoot Productions race director. “[This] will provide a sustained backcountry experience with races between 1.5 and two hours for the winning pro times."

Each course will be approximately 30 miles long, and best suited for a trail or all-mountain style bike.

"We expect the events to sell out quickly based on the response we have already received," said Sarah Rawley, also of Bigfoot Productions. "The Big Mountain Enduro Series brings racing to a new plane in the mountain bike arena, universally accessible by every mountain-biker, and takes no special equipment other than your favorite trail bike, which at the same time is challenging enough for the pros. The Big Mountain Enduro Series is nothing like the stress and tension usually associated with competition, but more similar to going out on an epic ride with your friends to enjoy the incredible scenery and trails Colorado has to offer. This is something for all mountain bikers to enjoy."

For more information go to See below for series details.

Buff Pass Enduro
July 20-22
Steamboat Springs, CO

The Buff Pass Enduro will begin with a mass start by category at 10,180 feet, and have three miles to spread out the field on undulating climbs and descents before it hits singletrack and rolls along alpine meadows, lush forests and lakes to the junction of Fish Creek Falls and Mountain View. The significant climb on Mountain View will be neutralized (not timed) to the top of Steamboat Ski Area where it will descend for 3000' to the base of the ski area, for a total of 6,500' of descending. Riders will need to ride a shuttled provided by the race to the start on Buffalo Pass.

Kennebec Pass Enduro
August 31 - September 2

Durango, CO
The race will begin from the top of Kennebec Pass on the Colorado Trail and travel to the bottom of Dry Fork Trail, just west of Durango, Colo. The race will be an individual time trial start with one-minute intervals. The race descends for eight miles on some of the most spectacular singletrack in the state of Colorado. There is a 100-foot waterfall to grab your attention as you make your way through nine technical sections and creek crossings. At the bridge crossing on Junction Creek, the race will be neutralized (not timed) for three miles towards High Point. From where the clock starts again, the race will descend down to Dry Fork Trail, a wide open, fast, rocky trail with bermed singletrack turns. Racers will descend 6,800' over the course. Riders will be required to ride from the mandatory shuttle drop at 8,800-feet to 11,200-feet, more than five miles away. There, the race will start. This is not a part of the race, but a requirement due to the lack of parking at the start near the top of Kennebec Pass. Although surely the gas needed to make that five-mile transfer will affect racers, favoring the fittest.

The Whole Enchilada
September 28-30

Moab, UT
The series finale will race down the most acclaimed trail in Moab, a Top Five in the U.S. and perhaps one of the most distinguishable trails in the world. At 30-miles-long and with more than 7,000 feet of descending, The Whole Enchilada Enduro turns an epic all-day ride into a test of fitness and technical skills as riders race from the top of the La Sal Mountains down through four different climate zones to  Porcupine Rim, where they finish just above the Colorado River. The race begins at Geiser Pass in mass start categories untimed to Burro Pass where upon order of arrival the will be released in one minute intervals. From Burro Pass the race will descend to Kokopelli, Hazard county, UPS, LPS and Porcupine Rim trails, excluding the final 2 miles of the technical singletrack of Porcupine Rim due to its classification as a Wilderness Study Area which prohibits competitions through there.

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