From Dirt Issue 111 - May 2011

during  the 2010 MegaAvalanche, Alp De Huez.
during the 2010 MegaAvalanche, Alp De Huez.

Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Various.

There is a revealing hive of activity amongst the universal collective – the everyday riders that are similar in ways and thoughts to the lads that hacked around the hills north of the Golden Gate in the mid 80’s.

The mountainbiker has almost become re–invented – the mindset? Non–competitive up to the point where the ground tilts away. The equipment? One bike for all occasions. The look? Characterized by designer and hand–me–downs is similar to the places they ride – a mixed bag of well groomed and ragged threads over rock, root, the odd banked up turn. The ordinary rider has cut loose, working a multitude of lines interlinked by a selection of climbs, and always a race to the bottom. The modern off–roader has simplified a cluttered pursuit. Normal stuff really.

Liberated of the preconceptions of what the XC or downhillers are up to (hanging about in queues, standing in cattle trucks, facing uncomfortable silence in the back of a transit van or a life of toil) ‘the mountainbiker’, having fully re–emerged from the undergrowth, now faces questions around interpretation of a new wave of competitive events. Gravity–enduro–all–mountain competition is going places, so far it has avoided any form of standardization.

With divergence in markets and a certain disconnect in DH and XC disciplines, it is the sport of enduro (or whatever name you put on it) that many feel is closest to the essence of riding; that mix of cross country and downhill. Becoming fully engaged in a total ride is buzzing once again.

It’s nothing new. Well not outside this island at least. Events such as the Downieville Classic and the Megavalanche have been core events in both the USA and France for some time. Everyone knows about the latter, but as for Downieville, even as far away as fifteen years ago Bike magazine asked the question “Is this the toughest downhill in the World?" of the classic descent off Packer Saddle in the Gold Rush area east of San Francisco. Fitting then that last season it was the French and Americans that battled for the Enduro Des Nations title.

There remains that question of interpretation though. Whatever your understanding of the subject, the places, the equipment, the fashion or the friends you ride with, it’s all about riding the bike you would ride all the time anyway. One bike, one sport. If downhill is a personal battle with often a very public conclusion…in a field north of somewhere suitably remote (the finish of this year’s first national was so out in the sticks all the locals buggered off half a century ago), could it be that enduro is the sport that takes the off–road bicycle off the hill and into the town – literally? It’s more than location, a mix is always good, but the French and Italians have certainly not been shy about bringing mountainbiking in from the periphery. A certain lucidity exists between gravity–enduro–all mountain riders and organisers. Enduro is very much on the move>>

 Click through to keep reading...

[part title="Megavalanche: The Mass Start"]

Qualifyer track scenics
Qualifyer track scenics
Alpe d’Huez 8–10th July/Ile De Reunion 26–27th November

Price: 5 Day pass and race €84

www.avalanchecup.com

2010 Winner: JEROME CLEMENTZ 56mins 2sec

Description: A mass start event in which your start grid position is determined after taking on the thirty minute qualification run from a lower altitude. Probably the largest downhill, entries for this annual classic have headed into thousands. The final features a colossal arm wrestle off the start to get a position for a race that can take many riders up to an hour and a half to complete. Loud music, helicopters overhead and all the top pros. A classic.

Rider’s view: Steve Jones

Nothing quite prepares you for the final, not even the 40 rider knuckle to knuckle start grid of the qualifiers. 5am at the summit of Pic Blanc at 10,000ft is dry, cold, breathless, you are enveloped with anticipation, and you need a shit. You are about to enter into a void not quite knowing the limits you will have to push yourself. One of the hardest races I’ve ever done (Ed note: and there was no snow at the top when he did it).

cp Greg Germain G2VISION.FR_2
cp Greg Germain G2VISION.FR_2

The beginnings of French Domination

Interview with George Edwards

Dirt: George, is the Mega still the most popular race down a mountain with your mates or are other events like the Maxi and Enduro taking entries?

George: Our programme has three emblematic events: the Avalanche Cup in Lyon, the Transvésubienne and the Megavalanche. The Avalanche Cup in Lyon is the ‘Queen’ of Sprint Downhill in the centre of one of the largest cities in Europe. It is not only a real show, but is as well an international competition. Transvésubienne is a unique event in the world, which requires all the qualities that the MTB discipline wants and especially lots of technical mastery.

The Megavalanche in Alpe d’Huez remains a must for All–Mountain Enduro enthusiasts. Ski lifts, track configuration and facilities add to the fact that the Megavalanche was the first competition to showcase the versatility of the Enduro spirit as early as 1995. Because of this, it is the greatest downhill race in the world. The other reason for the success of this race is that this event has been progressing with time.

The Maxiavalanche in Europe has remarkable tracks such as Cervinia in Italy, Vallnord in Andorra, Flims in Switzerland and Åre in Sweden, but their creation is more recent. Riders of these countries are not so keen on Enduro (or versatile MTB) as the French, and to a lesser degree the British, are. As far as Enduro is concerned, the formula has a great success, but current means of organization limits the number of participants to this type of race to 250 or 300 maximum.

Races on mid–travel bikes are successful, which way is it heading?

Mountain bikes equipped with mid travel suspension ideally matches the founder spirit of the sport. Thanks to the technology applied on all the components, the geometry and the transmission, the practitioners have even increased in pleasure of use because, beyond the effort, the MTB is all about the dexterity, the game and the discovery. And, contrary to their elders that were very specialised (downhillers or XC riders) the current generation of rider excels in all areas. The Megavalanche and Maxiavalanche are the only events where there is the equality of World Champions of XC and DH, like Julien Absalon, Nino Schurter and Fabien Barel confronting each other. I feel that the mountainbike is already committed towards versatility and an Olympic XC course will, in the long term, be more technical.

The top ten at the Mega has always been dominated by riders on home soil. Why is this do you think? And not only your events but other enduro stage downhill are dominated by the French, the Megavalanche must have played a part in developing this type of rider.

There are many French riders in the Top 10 because our country has created very favourable conditions for the mountainbiking since 1987. The support of a number of great mountain resorts which had a vision, both economic and touristic, plus the know–how and passion of many of the first mountainbikers – the values of mountain bike have evolved and have been preserved. France was the first nation to organise a national cup for downhill in 1990, and create in 1991 a Cup of France of combined stages that today is called Enduro.

It was also the first and only nation in the world to create a national trophy for young bikers in 1992 while being based on the structure of a national team. This allowed children from 9 to 14 years to race a real program of competitions (departmental, regional and national). And it was versatile because all the young participants performed in a downhill race, XC and a trial. Then Megavalanche came in 1995 to Alpe d’Huez and l’Ile de la Réunion, causing the wave on which we surf, always and for a long time, the versatile MTB.

In terms of entries what has been the spread of nations over the past 16 years?

Paradoxically, the most reactive nation of alpine riding and especially at the Megavalanche, is the United Kingdom, they have as many competitors as France. Germany is now the third nation in the number of participants and the biggest potential for riders. However this country still lacks a fundamental culture of mountain biking. German events are performed on tracks or in ways that are much too simple and marathon orientated. Another remarkable nation in the All Mountain Enduro is Switzerland, mainly because of the performances by their leaders: Nino Schurter, Rene Wildhaber and Florian Golay are still very powerful. Spain and Italy are also into alpine mountain biking.

Most of the big name World Cup stars have come and had a go, yet Vouilloz and Chausson are still the only ones to succeed at the Mega.

Many holders of World XC or DH titles have raced the Megavalanche and Maxiavalanche. Steve Peat and Cédric Gracia, who won the Megavalanche of l’Ile de la Réunion in 2001 and 2002 and, of course, Nicolas Vouilloz. Now they practice at the same level as the best All Mountain Enduro riders – Rémy Absalon, Jérome Clémentz or Rene Wildhaber, who excel in many areas: strength, endurance, temerity, dexterity, management of equipment and mentally. And Anne Caroline Chausson? She is an exception because she excels in everything she undertakes in competitions; other women will not exceed her experience and qualities for a long time.

Are you surprised it has taken so long for similar longer downhill stage events to catch on in Europe?

Since the creation of our Megavalanche circuit, we always wanted organize similar events abroad to be used as references and models for the development of Enduro. We went to Cuzco in Peru and also supported a Megavalanche organization in Japan. Because of the lack of international partners and a difficult economic situation we have no dates outside of Europe this year, but we have many projects, including one in Mexico.

On the other hand, it is necessary to continue the promotion of this practice among our Italian, Spanish and (especially) German friends, and to move this new school even more to the East. For example, it is surprising that Austria doesn’t have many riders and doesn’t organize a Maxiavalanche Europe Cup. However, there is a big potential in all of these countries: Slovenia, Poland, and Hungary, that we encourage riders to come to our events with preferential rates.

Last year was first year in which less than half the top ten were French? Are things changing?

The French almost exclusively occupied World Cups downhill podiums between 1994 and 2000. Now the UK, and English speaking countries, take the first places. This is a sign of renewal of the sport and its riders.

Maxiavalanche

Locations/Dates: Vallnord 11–12 June/Cervinia 30–31 July/Are 26–27 August/Flims 2 October

Price: 5 Day pass and race €84

www.avalanchecup.com

2010 Final Winner, Flims: Nino Schurter      18mins 31sec

Description: Twenty–minute descent, twice. Run by the Avalanche Cup team, the Maxiavalanche takes racing to some of the lesser–known, but nonetheless intense, locations in Europe.

Rider’s view: Alex Langley

Sat on the start line of a Maxiavalanche race, the day is going to go one of two ways: Blitz the start and disappear off in a helmet filled with a mix of dust, wheezing and euphoria OR lose a 300–person, bonkers, high–speed lottery and ride a wave of frustration for the next 15 minutes trying to pass guys with massive rucksacks.

One of two ways, eh? Here’s the catch, you don’t just have to flip this coin of fate once, but twice. Unlike the better known Megavalanche races, a Maxi consists of two heats on finals day, meaning that upon reaching the finish line with a broken bike and bruised pride things have to be turned around pretty quickly to get back up the hill for round two. The Maxiavalanche Europe Cup is a seriously formidable race series.

From the southern dust and madness of Andorra to the northern rocks and mist of Sweden, Maxiavalanches take in some terrifically varied terrain and cultures. The biggest names in enduro compete in the series, with Remy Absalon, arguably one of the best enduro racers on the planet, taking the 2010 crown.

The varied nature of this series is reflected not only in the tracks and the countries that host them, but also in the people and the trusty (or occasionally not–so–trusty) steeds that come to participate. Racing on track can be equally competitive between a cross–country racer and a downhill racer, a veteran and a junior, a trail bike and a freeride monster. It is this that makes Maxiavalanche races so special; it reminds us that there is no need for barriers or divides, marketing spiel pigeon–holing people into different ghettos of cycling, but that we are all one on two wheels.

[part title="Mountain of Hell/ Staged DH Enduro Races"]

during  the Mountain of Hell. Les Deux Alpes.
during the Mountain of Hell. Les Deux Alpes.

Mountain of hell

Locations/Dates: Les 2 Alpes 15–17th July

Price: €68

Details: www.les2alpes.com

2010 Winner: Olivier Giordanengo 39mins 40sec

Description: This three day event has a drop in altitude of more than 2500 metres. There are 25km of downhill on an unmarked route passing through several timing posts, riding over snow, rocks, singletracks, steps and sheer descents. The final day culminates with the descent from 3400m to 900m forming the notorious race.

Rider’s view: The Mountain of Hell Episode 11           

What would it be like to race through almost every terrain imaginable against 443 other riders when you could only practice half the track? Last year riders were only allowed to walk some of the track which left a completely blind run for the race – and that bit was a glacier with a flat out 1km straight with an icy stream running across it – just before a fast right hand turn. You get up at 6:30am to get a train underneath a glacier up to an altitude of 3400m and wait for the race to start at 9:00 with a Le Mans style running start on the glacier. The race went through a pub, but you couldn’t stop for a drink because you were kind of in the middle of something. But then I guess (if you didn’t quit) the race finished down at 900m and a nice French lady poured chartreuse down your neck and sent you on your way? The Mountain of Heaven?

during  the Mountain of Hell. Les Deux Alpes.
during the Mountain of Hell. Les Deux Alpes.

STAGED DH ENDURO RACES

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1Y9J9226_M

Locations/Dates: Sestri Levante 16/17 April/Limone Piemonte 2/3 July/Sauze d’Oulx + Enduro of the Nations 6/7 August/Punta Ala 17/18 September/Finale Ligure 22/23 October

Price: €30

www.superenduromtb.com

Description

Superenduro is characterized by up to six stages between two and fifteen minutes long specifically ‘tuned’ by the team. Don’t be misled by the slightly laid back philosophy because it’s definitely flat out, “The main goal of the Superenduro philosophy is to create a universal racing format, accessible by every mountain biker without the need to purchase any special equipment other than the bike he/she uses every weekend, which at the same time is challenging enough even for professionals. It awards the most well–rounded riders who possess the skills to ride fast in the Special Stages and to cover the Transfer Stages efficiently and within the imposed time limits."

Rider’s view Al Stock

The San Remo rally has been held since 1928, drivers race through a technical ribbon of tarmac lined with rally fans at 130 mph+ (teams use speed limiters to stop the drivers going balls out). Last year I raced the final round of the series held a few miles down the coast in Finale Ligure. Riders race through diverse mountain tracks at sub 100 mph and there are no speed limiters, so you can go nuts. The 34km course opens for practice on Friday and comprises of five super special stages from the 50 second night prologue to a full–on enduro test of over 7 minutes. Kona’s Karim Amour took the overall win last year with 23mins 7secs. Stages are mostly linked by tarmac road and quite easily climbed, although the heat can be a factor bearing in mind you have to wear your helmet at all times, a lot of people take a half and a full face helmet carrying one on their back.

“Before Enduro in its different interpretations, there was a ‘hole’ in the racing scene". Now into its fourth season Italy’s Superenduro series is already getting full–house entries. An interview with series organizer Enrico Guala

PhAlessandroBelluscio_Superenduro_SestriLevante-9222
PhAlessandroBelluscio_Superenduro_SestriLevante-9222

Enrico: Let me see if you answer yourself at the end of the interview.

A mainly Italian entry? How many?

Yes of course. We started the Superenduro with the goal to give the enduro bikes a racing format so we could sell more bikes and have more people at the races. Superenduro is a group of people who operates on the national market and distributors, reps, press, photographers and Italian riders were the initial goal for us.

You have to start from the ingredients you have and we have a lot of Italian riders in Italy. In 2010 an average 250 riders per race. But 2011 began in San Bartolomeo with 400 entries. The first year we had races with 50 riders and we tried not to give up, even if it was pretty sad to be honest. But even less than 50 riders are important when you start something new and we treated them as if they were World Champions, they have spread the word and now they come with friends.

Why not so many French in the results?

In the beginning we went to see Tribe Sports Group, the Enduro Series organizers, because we wanted to team with them, but we were too young and they were not ready to risk with us. Even in terms of format we wanted to develop the ‘Italian way of Enduro’ while their Enduro format is different and there was no way to change it.

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1Y9J0412_M

How is time to top measured? What percentage make the deadline?

We usually set a time/elevation ratio that may vary upon the type of climb, dirt or asphalt, and grade. Usually it’s one hour for 500m elevation. But we also evaluate weather and climate as variables. Thanks to our system we can adjust timing up to 5 minutes before the start of the first rider. There is a wide range of riders at Superenduro, pro to amateur, young kids (starting at 14) to ‘grey hair riders’. We need to find a balance. In the beginning 100% were able to make the deadline, now we are around 80% and we will set it to 70%.

Superenduro is not just a collection of downhill sections?

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1Y9J4747

But there is more, you need to work on the bike choice and set–up depending on your characteristics. You want a lighter bike if you are a stronger downhiller to save on the pedalling sections or a heavier and beefier bike if you are stronger on the climb and sprint, same for wheels, tyres and all other parts. There is no ‘perfect’ Superenduro bike, but the bike that fits you and the course better. And this is fun for the riders. Plus you have checkpoints where you need to show up at the given time like enduro on a motorcycle. Plus such a variety of times on the downhill sections…some short, some long.

Tell us a bit more about tuning?

Each race we interpret what the location has to offer to bikers. On the Alpine events we can have lifts and a lot of vertical drop, because we can combine lift plus pedalling up. On the coast (like in Finale Ligure or Tuscany) we ride on very old trails of miners or farmers, like in Molini di Triora. We love Italy and Superenduro is a good way to let bikers discover the variety of trails, landscapes, perfumes, languages and food of our beautiful country.

Tuning also means deciding the time you need to be on top of the hill for the stage start, we can ‘tune’ a race more on the physical side or more on the riding, eventually we can reduce timing to the point that a 6" bike with 66° head angle can't make to the top in time unless pedalled by Absalon (Julien) or give enough time that you can go to the top walking and pushing a DH bike. This is the intriguing factor of Superenduro.

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No, there is no unique format. Once again we ‘read’ the location. There are races with 15 minutes stages, others with climbs up to 30 seconds. For each location we try to find the Superenduro ‘key’.

You need to be a complete rider?

I think I've already answered this question, but the most important thing is that you need to love mountain biking and racing.

How long has the series been running?

2011 is the fourth year. The arena is special, based in and around towns.

Quite important for sponsors?

I would say it's important for the riders, loud music, public, lights. It's like racing in Monte Carlo F1. I tell you a story. The first time we did the arena stage in Finale Ligure the riders had been using my shoulder to clip–in both pedals for the start. You cannot imagine that even the top riders were trembling like kids to their first day of school. Plus we bring a good show downtown and the local people love it.

The sport is growing. American Super D, French Enduro series, Superenduro and now Gravity Enduro in UK. Is there a slow but steady shift of focus underway in competitive mountainbiking away from the traditional XC and DH?

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1Y9J5651
Mountain biking is a relatively young sport, about 30 years old, and it's coming to maturity. The technical evolution of bikes and components has opened up a new way of riding and racing.

There is a bike category that is fun to ride and less engaging than modern XC or a DH bike. What would you buy if you can only have one bike and you like pedalling and going down fast? As the market changes the racing has to change too. Before Enduro in its different interpretations, there was a ‘hole’ in the racing scene.

I would not say the change is slow, things are moving pretty fast here. France and Italy lead the European Scene, the UK is coming. I still see Germany far away, I'm sure that they would love the Superenduro format, having talked to the few German riders who came to race in Italy. The USA is a different story because they developed Super D with riders in mind, instead of bikes. And another very important factor is that the first ‘Enduro’ bikes came from European brands that developed them for the Avalanche style of riding, again a European format.

Last year’s top three came from a variety of backgrounds, both downhill and cross country?

Yes, but at the same time we have seen the birth of specialised Superenduro riders, fast on the way down with good fitness to do the climb fast and have the time to rest on top and still have power to sprint into the stages.

Enduro of Nations (EMTN) in Italy this year!

It will be in Sauze d'Oulx–Alpi Bike Resort on August 6–7. Superenduro format with mass start for the last stage from top of the Fraiteve mountain down to the heart of the village. Two days of racing up and down in one of the most natural bike resorts we have in Italy. It's the first time outside of France and we wish that the EMTN will start to move around the world like the Motocross of the Nations after this year.

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Rules first of all, there are many different interpretations of Enduro racing but if we want to achieve an International level we need to work on common rules.

Budget for the race organization. An event with three to four stages is almost like doing three or four DH races at the same time. You need timing, marshals, medical assistance, food and water, services, all at the same time on the separate tracks. There are a lot of personnel involved. The last risk is to put everything that is not XC or DH under the name of Enduro. This can be good, but also dangerous. In the beginning of a new sport you need to do things right, avoiding disappointing new riders. Every weekend of racing has to be an experience for the rider.

Where you going to take this sport?

In Italy it's mostly road racing and XC racing, biking generally means getting tired pedalling. Heart rate monitors, special food (I'm not saying illegal food)), lycra, shaved legs, but most of all water bottles. The water bottle is the big difference in attitude. When you leave the water bottle and switch to the backpack you change your mind and attitude. You become a potential Superenduro racer. To really be honest we have started Superenduro to support bike and accessory sales, but we understood the potential is huge! And now we are super–focused on the development of the discipline. I would love to see a Superenduro World Cup in the years to come, but the format will be super–important.

[part title="E-MTN"]

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Date/Location: 23/24 July Sauze D’Oulx Italy

Price: TBC

Details: TBC

Description

Three enduro riders under the same national jersey who will fight for their country as a team. The E–MTN is quickly becoming the annual and global meeting for all enduro riders. Race formats might change depending on the country but the riders are the same, all looking towards a fun, physical and technical ride that is for them the spirit of mountain biking; American Super D, Italian Superenduro or French Enduro Series riders to name but a few, this will be the big enduro event of the year.

Rider’s view Rowan Sorrel

The inaugural Enduro des Nations took place on the steep grassy slopes of Les Deux Alps, the premise was simple; riders enter in country teams of three riders to pitch themselves head to head over the 10 time–trial gravity enduro stages. The final eleventh stage takes the form of a mass start event amongst all the country teams, with the winning team the ones with the lowest cumulative time between all riders from all runs; so any big crashes or mechanicals in a team can put them out of the running.

Now in its fourth year the event has built momentum and after three years being hosted in France moves over the Italian border to the excellent resort of Sauze D’Oulx. You couldn’t pick a better venue for gravity enduro than Sauze; the trails are excellent there, a good balance between trail and downhill and while it doesn’t have a huge vertical drop it will make for some great racing. The Des Nations event shares the calendar with an open entry solo event so anyone wanting to take on the courses and enjoy the events whilst pitting themselves head to head with the likes of Absalon, Clementz, Douscende and Andre can do so.

You really would struggle to find a better bike event to travel to in the Alps to take part in this summer. The buzz of riding all the trails blind is something unique to these events (you may walk the routes but not practice them, but you’d have to be determined to walk the four to five courses, all of which are 10–20 minutes long on a bike). Combine that with the sheer amount of riding that you can do over two days. On the Saturday the race runs are shorter and more downhill orientated, around 8–15 minutes depending on the route and venue. Then Sunday is more physical, weighted more to enduro with runs nearer 20 minutes. Over 11 runs you can be looking at anything between 2–2 ½ hours of racing time.

France have had a stranglehold on the event from year one with strong teams, last year they took first, second and third placed team, so perhaps this year will see a few British teams or even better an Irish, Scottish, Welsh and English team all in the mix.

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DSC_3126

Locations/Dates: Les Gets 18/19 June/Val D’Allos 25/26 June/Valloire 30/31 July

Price: €50

www.enduro-series.fr

Surprisingly little is know of the Tribe–sports events here in UK (although that should now have changed with the invitational Cabo Verde event), but they have been running for seven seasons and this year will be officially known as the ‘French Enduro Cup’ and validated by the French Federation (FFC). Tribe will be running two styles of event: the Enduro series and the All–Mountain series (see below). The main difference being one has lifts to the top and the other does not; the Enduro series are in the Alps so they use lifts whilst the All–mountain series are in medium sized mountains so riders pedal to reach the time trial sections.

Description

The French Enduro Cup timed descents will range from 8 to 20 minutes with ten descents cumulated over the weekend to find the winner – that’s 10,000ft of descending.

This year the French enduro series opens in Les Gets, Fabien Barel head to head with Cannondale’s Jerome Clementz, not one to shy away from such confrontation and winner of the Enduro competition in 2010, as well as the Megavalanche. It should be special.

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Locations/Dates: ‘Warm Up’ Lorgues 10th April/Joucas 14/15 May/ Hautes Vosges 4/5 June/Portes Du Mercantour 3/4 Sept

Price: Warm Up €29, Others €35

www.enduro-series.fr

Description

Based in lower mountain with ascents under your own power the All–Mountain series features 6 to 10 minute timed descents with up to 10 timed runs cumulated for the final result.

Lourges could be a perfect start to the season in the sunny hills between Toulon and Nice. Tribe’s all–mountain series looks set to be the series that might not be as affected by weather as its Enduro and Alpine based team mate. Well worth a look for those not shy of the climbs in cool, but hot, places.

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TP-byMichielRotgans-56

Date: 24 Sept/6 October

Price: €1295 all-inclusive

www.trans-provence.com

“The world's first and only Gravity Enduro event set to a week–long, point–to–point wilderness itinerary"

Description

A seven day singletrack biased, gravity enduro race across the sunny Mediterranean Alps of south eastern France. The winner is the rider who finishes in Monaco having accumulated the lowest total time from the 25 predominantly singletrack and descent orientated timed ‘Special Stages’ featured along the route.

Rider’s view Rowan Sorrell

This had been organiser’s Ash and Melissa’s pipe dream for a few years prior to its realisation in 2009. Born from a passion of riding in the Mediterranean Pre Alps, they set about conceiving a multi–stage rally format race with a difference, this is one made for Dirt readers; a multi–stage gravity–enduro! There are many seven day stage races around the world, the Trans Wales, Scotland, Rockies, the Cape Epic to name but a few, but this is where the Trans Provence is different, in that the TP, the linking (or liaison) ascending stages are not timed, they can be ridden socially at your own pace, and all of the special stages (the timed stages) are all predominantly downhill with 95% on natural singletrack.

This allows for a winner who is both technically gifted and physically strong and fit, rather than the usual outcome of the fittest rider taking the title on a longer point to point. With no set times to start the special stages riders can choose when they want to start and rest before the descents, timing is controlled by chipcards and beacons at the start and end of each stage with riders collecting the results from the day’s tests in the evening.

Starting at Gap in the Hautes Alps and ending on Larvotto beach in Monte Carlo the route along its 340km’s ascends 10,000m and importantly descends 15,000m thanks to vehicle uplift at the start of each day. There are a whopping 26 special stages along the route; the rider with the lowest overall time from all 26 stages takes the win.

When you enter the Trans Provence you are buying into a logistics package that will help you make the most of your ride, whether you are there to race or to simply enjoy the trails. The team set up and break down the camp every night and you are fed three meals per day, this leaves you the rider to just focus on riding, eating and sleeping.

With entries limited to just 50 riders a year, and those spaces booking out in a matter of days, the popularity of this event is such that should you want to take up the challenge of the Trans Provence in 2012, you need to enter the very day the entries come out. The 2011 event see competitors from 16 different countries take on the route and the inclusion of a five rider pro category to battle it out over the course. Dirt magazine will be there for the Trans Provence this September, to take you through the highs and the lows of the seven days, so watch this space.

[part title="United Kingdom"]

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Date/Location: Ae Forest 7 May/Kielder 11th June/Innerleithen 15th July/Eastridge 6th August/Afan 10th September

Price: £60

www.ukgravityenduro.co.uk

Description

Enduro racing is a cross country based event and is normally run on an existing red route cross country loop. The event is run like a stage rally event where each rider has to complete a set amount of stages, most of the timed stages will be downhill but some will have uphill sections. Each event will consist of five competitive stages where you will be set off as an individual with a gap between each rider. At the end of each stage you will ride on a non–timed section to get to the next stage, this will involve riding uphill. The times for the link sections will be very generous so you don’t have to ride quick on these sections, you will have time to take it easy. The rider with the quickest overall time for the five timed stages will win their category…there will be no waiting around to find out your results.

Rider’s view, Steven Jones

Timing was always an issue at the three previous staged descents of UK’s forest centres. However all is about to change as this new series is set to be electronically timed and manually backed up, “A UK enduro has never been timed to this level." Should prove an exciting series although the challenge will be to get off the worn out ribbons of man made trails.

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GR_AfanEnduro__337

Dirt: Steve really exciting news, we finally have a series in the UK. Why has it taken so long? Mega and Downieville been going 15 years, French enduro series seven, we’ve had trail centres for nearly two decades, 24 hour races, but only a couple of Mash Up’s which is the nearest thing.

Steve: Yeah, we’re really excited over the way the series is coming together, we have a great title sponsor in 661, all the categories are sponsored, top three all get prizes and we have some great spot prizes from BOS and Riviera Freeride, to name a couple. Entries are a little slow, but we are presuming this is people just curious about how it will go after some disasters at this format. Your gonna have to remember this is the UK, clouded in red tape and health and safety rules, we are still jumping through hoops for certain parties, also we only have a few mountains here, no Alp's or a massive mountainbike community yet!

All the GE events will be based in forest trail centres?

All but one of the rounds are based around trail centres, but there are going to be some twists in what people might expect just coming to a trail centre.

What Euro events will GE be comparable to?

I've not been out to Europe to race, so can't give you an answer to that, all I can say is that we are getting a bit of interest from the Euro riders about coming over. In the words of one Euro racer, "the UK has finally discovered Enduro, we may be in trouble".

Why will the entry fee be twice that of Euro equivalents?

That good question again, well the timing system we are using has manual back up, this means we need 12 staff to ensure the system runs. Stage 5 will be timed into a finish arena, this all costs money, a lot of money, £7K a round. Then you've got FC charges, BC insurance, private land owners fee's, toilets…the list is almost endless and we get no local money from the Councils or BC. Hope that helps?

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GR_AfanEnduro__322

Every venue will be different, we are trying to mix some of them up as much as possible, we’re close to a perfect 50/50 mix at Ae and Inners of trail and natural terrain. Eastridge (Round 4) is all natural trail, with some great old–school descents.

What will be the longest stage do you think?

Longest stage at the moment is about 7–8 minutes, but talking to you at Dirt HQ, there are some long sections at Afan we haven’t found yet.

Will there be any off–piste riding or solely on established formal trails?

We are working with the FC to put some ‘off piste’ stuff in at as many rounds as possible, were looking for the biggest grin factor here, not the most knackered.

What type of rider is going to dominate the series?

Going to stick my neck out here and say, a fit, Expert/Elite DH'er, they will have the skill level to gain grip and seconds, where the XC rider is not tested this way in the UK.

What bike would you advise?

5 or 6 inches of usable travel, 150mm fork with bolt through hub, a drop down seat post, but my main thing would be to keep it as close to 30lbs as possible, you don't want it to kill you on the climbs or flattish sections.

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GR_AfanEnduro__273

Round 4 should be a classic. Alex Langley and his crew have been doing some great stuff over at Easty’, there’s some quality new sections gone in over towards Snailbeach side. The likes of Crawford, Titley, Longden and yourself will no doubt remember the NPS there in the early 90’s; yes we are using some of those runs.

Where do you want to take this sport?

Plans are already afoot to get BC rankings and move this sport forward. As to where it may take us? Hosting Euro rounds, tying in with Euro series, a World Cup series for Enduro, who knows? One thing you can guarantee is the UK riders will be pushing the top spots of the sport and if all goes to plan the UK series will be the place to be seen.

[part title="USA"]

 

DPP_999
DPP_999

Location/Date: Downieville, CA 9/10 July

Price: $35

www.downievilleclassic.com

2010 Winner: MARK WEIR 44mins 1sec

Description

All–Mountain class or Survival in the Sierra? Either way, this event will test and torture riders and their bikes, Downieville style. Racers will compete in both the Point–to–Point Cross Country and the Downieville Downhill, on the SAME bike. Lowest combined XC and DH race time wins. Riders should choose their weapons wisely; a bike that climbs efficiently, descends with precision, and can handle a high–speed beat down for 46 miles on the way to victory.

Rider’s view Steven Jones

It’s an epic. Luckily when I competed a few years ago I had to shoot on the previous days cross country qualifier, “an 8 mile, 3,000' climb up the face of the Sierra Buttes, a metamorphic crown that stretches 8,600' towards the wide–open sky…a climb known to many as the Trail of Tears". Fifteen years ago Bike magazine asked the very reasonable question, “is this the toughest downhill in the World?" It’s still a challenge today for sure, dropping 5000 vertical feet in 17 miles. Still one of the longest and most demanding downhill races in the nation – the smells, the historic gold rush location, the atmosphere, technicality, Downieville is blood–thirstingly physical and up to 50mph fast. Utterly unmissable.

DPP_12
DPP_12

Location/Date: Ashland, USA June 17–19

Price: $65

www.ashmtnadv.com

2010 Winner: Mark Weir 34 mins 40 sec

Description

The Ashland Super D is one of the finest endurance Downhill events in the Nation. Featuring near 5,000′ of descent and 800′ of climbing and over 12 miles of swoopy single track, this course will challenge the best of the sport and thrill everyone that makes this event.

Steven Jones

Located very roughly midway between San Francisco and Vancouver I’d heard a lot about this place whilst competing in Downieville a few years ago. It’s not just a race venue either, with a regular 14 passenger shuttle service to the top of Mt Ashland ($15) and a gigantic hour long descent. The annual mountain challenge draws in all levels of riders and seems like a cool town to stay for a few days.

DPP_13
DPP_13

Location/Date: Hood River May 28–29/Bend July 2–3/Oakridge Aug 6–7/Sandy Ridge Sept 3–4

Price: $65

www.oregonsuperd.com

2010 Winner: Eirik Schulz 48min 26sec

Description

Plan on tight, dirty singletrack through old growth forests the whole way. This race will truly exemplify the fastest and fittest all–around mountain bikers and Enduro athletes in the country. The course will drop over 4,700 vertical feet in 14 miles, while serving up 900 feet of climbing. Yes, one of the longest and most challenging Super D’s in the country.

Steven Jones

Super D/Enduro mountain bike race is best described as a downhill cross–country race. Therefore it encompasses roughly 80% of descending and 20% of climbing built into the course. Super D racing is for the all–round rider with DH, XC and Freeride skills. Most mountain bikes are adequate for a Super D race, but an all–mountain or cross–country trail bike with 4" to 7" of dual suspension travel is ideal.