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Enduro World Series Countdown Interviews - Anne-Caro Chausson and Brian Lopes (Team IBIS)

This interview is part of VitalMTB's Ultimate Guide to the 2013 Enduro World Series

Anne-Caro Chausson is considered the winningest gravity rider of all time, male or female. She thoroughly dominated the gravity side of mountain biking during the 90s and early 00s, in addition to which she was the first ever Olympic BMX champion at the 2008 Beijing Games. It would be hard not to consider ACC the outright favorite for the 2013 EWS Title. She rides for Team IBIS.

Anne Caro ripping it up in A Bike Movie 3.

Brian Lopes needs no introduction, his record speaks for him: 9 National Championship (NORBA) titles, 6 UCI World Cup Championships and 4 World Championships. He also originally raced BMX for 17 years before taking up mountain biking in 1993. Brian rides for Team IBIS. If you somehow missed it before, here's a little glimpse of Brian on his bike:

Brian Lopes attempting the world land speed record.

Vital: You’ve won pretty much everything there is to win, you are both MTB Hall of Fame inductees – what are you looking for in the Enduro World Series?

ACC: When I started riding Enduro a few years ago, it was mostly because it was a format where we got to spend a lot of time on the bike, riding with friends, searching for the best single-track and the longest downhill runs. The atmosphere in general was really fun, no stress compared to high level racing. That was just perfect for me after training hard for the Olympics [Anne took Gold in the inaugural BMX event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics – ed].

Today, the Enduro discipline is getting more serious, especially with the introduction of the Enduro World Series. It's good for the sport, good for the riders and as a competitor I’m following this evolution. I can't wait to see how it will all unfold (organization, trails, rules, results...)…!

BL: I'm looking for a fun event with good trails. Also looking for an event that is run at the highest level, which means the timing system is spot on, there is no cheating (course cutting, rule breaking, doping), courses have a good mixture of terrain, and professionals are treated and compensated like professionals.

Brian Lopes giving his Ibis Mojo a good spanking off the GLC drop at the Crankworx Air DH 2012.

Vital: Being a well-rounded athlete is obviously key in this “new” format, and we know you have to be fit and fast to win Enduro races – but where do you think the bias is in EWS racing, speed/tech or fitness? In other words, can a XC athlete become a dominant force in Enduro, or is the advantage still with the DH riders?

ACC: For me, as an ex-downhiller, I would prefer if the format sticks to the 80% DH and 20% pedaling split, or perhaps 70/30. If you're just fit and have no skills you shouldn't be able to win an Enduro race.

BL: I believe you have to be a well-rounded racer to win. You need to have fitness for sure, but you need to have more skill than fitness. The bias should definitely be towards skills. If we have pure XC guys showing up on 4 inch bikes with skinny little tires with no tread, I'd hope they suffer big time. Can an XC racer be a force? Depends on how much DH skill they have when riding a bigger bike through more technical terrain. I think anything is possible, but it's a lot easier for a DH rider to gain fitness than for an XC guy to gain skill in my opinion.

Vital: Some EWS events will provide significant opportunity to practice the singles ahead of time, like for example the series opener in Punta Ala, where others will only announce the chosen itinerary on the morning of the race, with riders given one (1) non-timed run to practice (as in Val d’Allos for example). Which format do you think is the most appropriate for Enduro racing?

ACC: This is the big debate. The blind race is good because you need to really improvise. That requires a broad base of skills to be able to go fast and safe - it's really an interesting approach. It worked well at the very beginning of Enduro racing in France. But now as the sport has gained more notoriety, more sponsors, it won't be possible to maintain this format.

A high level sport should be a fair sport. But what happens if you have a World Cup in your back garden, if you have done the races the years before in the exact same place, or if you go try to find the trails by yourself 1 month before the race? You will have a big advantage over other riders and we have no control over that!

Riding the trails 10 times before the race as is allowed in Italy [in the Superenduro Series – ed], is probably more fair for everybody, but it starts to look too much like DH racing. There is no more room for improvisation.

Bottom line, for me, if we could control everything, I would prefer the blind races.

BL: I personally like to get a couple runs down each course. I don't like to take too many chances when I'm not sure what is coming up on a trail ahead of me. I'd like to see something like 2 days of practice prior to the races, but there are no shuttles. You have to ride up to do your practice. This way you don't have to show up a week early and you wouldn't have the time or energy to practice each course a bunch of times to know every little rock.

Anne-Caro Chausson by Matteo Cappe

Vital: Is there still a major difference between North American and European Enduro riding? Do you feel that the events in North America are “catching up”?

ACC: Except Crankworx 2 years ago, I have never raced North American super-D. But I heard those races were not really technical and required a lot of pedaling, more for XC racers compared to France where most of the Enduro riders are coming from DH racing. It would be good to find the right balance. I hope we’ll have some good races in North America this summer.

BL: I would say that the Whistler Enduro was about the closest we’ve come to a European Enduro, but I would still say that the European ones are more technical, rougher, and longer.  It has always seemed that gravity races in America are not on the same level as Europe, but we do have some good ones and over time they get better. Some may like the European events better, others may like the American events better. You will never make everyone happy, but with the growing popularity of the discipline we are seeing a lot more of these types of events so with more choices available, the racers can decide which events they want to participate in.

Vital: Uplift or pedal up – what should Enduro be in your opinion?

ACC: It can be both. The version where we pedal up is good for the development of the discipline, as it can be organized anywhere even where the mountains are small, not only in ski resorts. This means races can be held right by the big cities – and it’s really important for the sport to be close to the public.

At the same time, uplift-based races in ski resorts allow us to have longer trails, more special stages during the day and it's definitely better to take the lift rather than pedaling, especially at high altitude.

BL: Pedal up!

Vital: What are your objectives for the series?

ACC: I have trained well this winter and I hope to do my best as always. We'll see what will happen this summer. This discipline needs to find its way. As for myself, I already raced so much that all I want is to have fun on my bike.

BL: I don't plan on doing the series, just a few races. I stopped competing for overalls back in 2007, my last full season on the World Cup circuit. Titles are nice, but I’m not concerned at this point of my career with adding any more. I’m more concerned with having a fun experience.

Brian Lopes at the 2013 Sea Otter Classic by Cade VanHeel

Anne-Caro Chausson and Brian Lopes ride for IBIS.

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