Cresting the 2000’ ascent to see the race’s first starting gate, my stomach was already in knots, only getting more butterflies as my starting time approached. I was stiff and rigid as I entered the start gate, but instinct and adrenaline took over almost immediately once gravity began pulling me down the course. This is Enduro.
What is “enduro?” For those of you who aren’t familiar with enduro racing, it is basically a mix of cross-country and downhill. You pedal up the hill under your own power, and are only timed on downhill portions of the course, known as “stages.”
While it doesn’t require the sustained, all-out intensity of a cross-country race, enduro racing does demand sprint speed and the endurance to deliver that speed throughout a day of racing. Relative to other forms of racing, enduro has a much more relaxed format that often feels like a normal day of riding with friends. I believe that this is why enduro has gained so much popularity in the past few years; it gives a rider the ability to compete without the intense environment found in other forms of racing.
With that said, Enduro racing does have an elite level of competition. The World Enduro Series is an eight round tour, traveling to eight different countries, featuring many of the world’s most talented mountain bike riders. In the field of competitors you will find many ex professionals from both downhill and cross-country, which shows the true versatility required to be an enduro racer. Enduro is a test of everything from a rider’s physical fitness, to their technical preowess to negotiate turns and obstacles, to their mental ability to focus throughout an entire race.
Captivated by this form of racing that very much resembles our weekend rides, my good friend and coworker Trevor Roland and I decided to start a team to compete in California’s premier enduro race series, the CES (California Enduro Series). Our goal was to gain enough support through sponsors to create a team, not only for ourselves, but also to help young, local riders. After a little organizing, recruiting, and logistical work, DSENDiT Racing was born.
Traveling all across California and even reaching into neighboring states of Nevada and Oregon, racing the California Enduro Series is a big commitment. With both Trevor and I in school full time and working part time at Art’s Cyclery, we knew it would be tough to manage a team, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. In true college student fashion, we began to think of ways we could cut corners and save a dime here and there. The next thing we knew, we were all budgeted and ready to go for a season of racing.
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned road trip with your buddies, and as the first round of the season was 425 miles away in Reno, NV, we rounded up the team and prepared to hit the road. In my opinion, preparation is the most critical part of a trip, because what you pack is all you have. I’ve learned through past experience that you can’t be over prepared, especially when racing is part of the itinerary, because you never know what the trip is going to throw at you. With this in mind, I made one last stop by Art’s Cyclery to grab tires, a hydration pack, and some tools.
Running on Red Bull and loud music, we rolled into Reno late Thursday night. Friday morning we woke early, loaded up on coffee, and hit the trails. With terrain very similar to our local stomping grounds of San Luis Obispo, I felt right at home on the loose, gravely hills of Reno. I was a little hesitant on some parts of the course, because I knew my rear tire was worn-out and I didn’t want to risk a crash the day before the race. Sure enough, towards the end of the day, as I came into a corner a little hot, I felt the rear tire start to drift away from underneath me, and, boom – Reno dirt sample. As soon as I hit the ground, I immediately regretted not changing my rear tire. It turned out to be a bit of a “win-win” though, as my friend ripped a hole in his tire earlier that day, so I gave him my worn-out tire and installed a brand new one for the race. The increased traction from the new tire was incredible, but more importantly, it gave me peace of mind knowing that I had fresh tread underneath me during the race.
Hydration is usually not much of an issue for me. That’s probably because I do most of my riding here on the central coast of California where we consider 80°F hot, so the Reno weather was a big shock to my system. Despite the hot and dry weather conditions, I opted to practice without a hydration pack and carried just one water bottle on my bike. I will not make that mistake again. As the day went on, the effects of dehydration started to set in. By the time we finished inspecting and pre-riding all of the stages, I was completely dehydrated, exhausted, and my throat was as dry as the Reno trails. Learning from this horrific mistake, I filled up my hydration pack for Saturday’s race. Although I wasn’t used to riding with a pack, I was still very satisfied with my decision to wear it, as I stayed hydrated all day and ended up with a solid fourth place finish. And to think I almost left town without the two things that saved my weekend…
Trevor, on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. Having had shock issues a few weeks prior to the race, he sent his shock in for service. Unfortunately, the problem returned during the race. With almost no rebound damping in his rear shock, he was bouncing around the trail like a Ping-Pong ball. At that point, there was no way to fix the shock on the trail, so he had to make do with what he had.
In a stacked Pro class, Trevor and Max were just seconds away from breaking the top 20 and Kasey finished a solid 9th in the Sport class. Our two junior riders, as well as our two women’s riders were not able make the race due to registration complications. With Enduro becoming more and more popular, you have to be ready to register as soon as the entry form becomes available.
So what’s the lesson after all of this? Be prepared! There is only so much room in a vehicle when road tripping to a bicycle race, so you have to be very mindful about what you pack. A few tips from my experience in Reno: 1. Bring spares, especially things that can easily break and ruin your weekend (i.e. tubes, chains, tires, shift cables, etc.) 2. Bring all the tools you can fit and a bike stand if possible 3. Be ready for any type of weather, this means rain jackets, ventilated jerseys, and in my case a hydration pack. Take it from me; don’t learn your lesson the hard way!
All things considered, the weekend was a success, no one got seriously hurt, we all rode well, and most importantly we had a blast. Looking back on past road trips, especially going to races, I have always felt unprepared. For once, I was actually ready for the curve balls the trip threw at me. Like the old saying goes, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”