by Noah Sears
photographs by Eric Odenthal/Enduro Cup

It's finally here - the Year of Enduro has started domestically. The world-famous slickrock slabs of Moab, Utah played host to the first major U.S. enduro race of the year, stop number one of the three-race Enduro Cup series. Well over one hundred racers showed up to the recently legalized and popularized Mag 7 trails which served as the venue. The routes stressed equal parts bike-handling and fitness. While the courses lacked consistent descending, their rough nature certainly required more than super-human fitness if a rider hoped to do well. With the four-stages of the race all around the seven-minute-mark, there was not much room for error in navigating the courses or coming back from crash or mechanical.

Stages 1 and 2

Riders left the staging area and had a 10-15 minute climb on Gemini Bridges road to the trailhead, a perfect warm-up. Stage one and two were fought on Bull Run trail which rips along side massive canyon walls on predominantly slickrock and sand surfaces. The Men's Open class was comprised of 37 riders with a variety of different backgrounds - local shredders, endurance specialists, experienced enduro riders, downhillers, and elite cross-country riders. Equally notable was the age range in the Open class. There were young guns not yet out of their teens all the way to seasoned vets who cut their teeth on rigid bikes with bull-horn bars.

Ross Schnell and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski traded stage wins in the first two segments and both jumped out ahead of the rest of the competition. In the Women's field, Trek's Heather Irmiger, won both stage one and two. She would go on to win every stage despite stiff competition from Giant's Kelli Emmett and Moab superstar Heidi Rentz. Emmet and Rentz swapped the two and three-spots in the rest of the stages.

The vast slickrock expanses on both stage one and two lead a couple riders (including Schnell) off-course and desperately scoping for cairns and paint dots. Well-known Moab ripper, Kyle Mears, got on the gas a little to heavy out of the gate on stage one and snapped a chain, ruining his chances for a spot on the overall podium.

The author, Noah Sears, getting on it.

Stages 3 and 4

After a mellow, social spin following stage two, riders arrived at the common staging area for stages three and four, on Arth's Corner and Great Escape respectively. Arth's Corner was (at least in my eyes) the most physically demanding portion of the race. Following an initial, punchy climb, riders zig-zagged up and down a mountain of a rock. Everytime momentum was built up, it seemed a guaranteed 180-degree turn was ahead, riders to hypoxic up a short, steep climb. Schnell's incredible ability to find flow paid off on this stage and he handily nabbed a six-second advantage over Horgan-Kobelski. Yeti rider and fixture on the Colorado race scene, Mike West, had his best stage, coming in third another seven seconds behind.

The fourth and final stage, Great Escape, was the longest of the four for most. It was much the same as stage three; rough, pedally, and technical. Searching for the flow was critical with momentary lapses in concentration leaving riders either at a dead stop or on their ass, OTB. Once again Schnell put his unparalleled bike-handling skills to use and wrapped up the win. He was again about six-seconds faster than Horgan-Kobelski. Kyle Mears had his best stage of what was surely a frustrating race, coming in third another six-seconds back.

Post Race Wrap

With the racing wrapped up for most before the clock struck noon, racers gathered in the staging, start/finish area and threw down the complementary burgers, hot dogs, and brewskis for most of the afternoon, swapping stories and anxiously awaiting results. The organizers were on-point and quick to post results and settle any concerns with timing. An after party followed in the evening at the Chili Pepper Bike Shop with awards for the top three in every category. All winners received Bell's sweet new enduro helmet, the Super and there were some insane raffle prizes that included the ENVE wheelset of your choice!

Round two of the Enduro Cup series is set for July 21 at Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. For more information go to The next major event on the domestic enduro calendar is the opening round of the Big Mountain Enduro Series in Angel Fire, New Mexico June 15-16.

A big thanks is due the Moab BLM field office for their support of the event, too.

Top Results - for full results visit
Open Men
1. Ross Schnell
2. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski
3. Macky Franklin

Open Women
1. Heather Irmiger
2. Kelli Emmett
3. Heidi Rentz

AM Men 19-29
1. Steve Goodman
2. Bryce Straka
3. Aaron Russell

AM Men 30-39
1. Joseph Saperstein
2. Joe Hanrahan
3. Christian Gauvin

AM Men 40+
1. Zach White
2. Scott Crabill
3. David Beeson

Junior Men
1. Dylan Crane
2. Preston Bagley
3. Joshuah Anderson

AM Women
1. Debbie Preller
2. Carly Clifton
3. Tschana Schiller

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  • jhanro

    5/9/2013 7:35 AM

    Some quality terminology, course and bike handwringing going on here....I'd say Enduro has arrived.

    The event was awesome, really well run at a challenging venue. The course was super fun and a little brutal. It was a hard one to "race", and IMO that makes for a good course.

  • mrpowerjd

    5/8/2013 9:37 PM

    YMMV, of course.

  • mrpowerjd

    5/8/2013 9:36 PM

    Is this Pink Bike in disguise? I've always thought highly of the quality of discourse here on Vital as opposed to the rabid ass-nipping that goes on over there over the slightest quibbles. Settle down, y'all! Would some people like to have seen more DH in the Moab Enduro? Sure. I am one of the them. But you know what, I talked to a very large part of the riders there and not one of them complained or said they didn't have fun. Yes, it was pedally, but we work with what we have available, folks! And as for depth of talent? Seriously? Really? Are some you of that unaware of who the pros in the US are? This was a stacked race--especially considering it was very short in the planning and PR phase compared to most races. Everyone I talked to (and many conversations I overheard) were all positive and everybody is planning to come back next year.

    Let's stop bitching and get out and ride!

  • JMHV

    5/8/2013 4:26 PM

    I don't understand why everyone is so bent about this race and write-up. It's wadded-panties day on Vital. I feel like the UCI is going to have to issue a mandate about how Enduro works otherwise it won't be safe to discuss.

  • JMH

    5/8/2013 3:33 PM

    "the first major US enduro race of the year"...... with less competitors and less depth of talent than any of the west coast races so far this year...

  • Krispy

    5/8/2013 6:49 AM

    While it's easy to point out the lack of vertical descending one must understand it's still spring. At first i wasn't too interested in attending either..but of course, spring rolls around and everyone is signing up and ready to RACE! I had a great time despite the courses being pretty pedally. Great camaraderie, fun trails and an excellent overall event. Remember, there is a MBE race in moab that has 7000' of descending late summer when the high mountains dry out!! The Enduro Cup at Canyons Resort had 1500' of climbing and 3000' of descending last year with one gondola ride and 2 climbs. I think America gets it.

  • Particle

    5/7/2013 10:01 PM

    Wish I could've raced - had other plans - but yeah after riding the course 2 weeks beforehand, it was too XC for my tastes. Props to everyone who competed though! Super cool to see this kind of stuff happening, finally .

  • mrpowerjd

    5/7/2013 7:41 PM

    I could go for less of a Super XC feeling, to borrow from Pink Wolf below, and more DH--but this was a seriously fun race nonetheless. Yes, total distance was just over 17 miles. About 5 of that was the transfer back to the start paddock from the bottom of the last timed stage. 5-6 inches of travel was not necessary but would have been helpful. Several racers raced on 4 inches and did just fine. Overall, 26ers clocked faster times than 29ers--likely due to the short, back and forth, twisty nature of many parts of the course calling for lots of quick accelerations. Very few if any 27.5's were in attendance. I travelled with the guys from and rode my Yeti SB-95, another rode a Niner Rip 9 RDO, and the other a Pivot Mach 429. Other Salt Lake area riders were on an SB-66 alloy, at least 3 SB-66c's, and two Nomad c's.

  • pink wolf

    5/7/2013 3:41 PM

    I guess since its 4 stages it is an enduro. But still N America failing to grasp the enduro part of racing. Sounded like super d stage race or super XC. What was the distance and vert drop per stage? Contrary to popular USA belief it does not have to be a mix between and endurance. Often stages in Europe will have zero uphill, maybe the odd pinch connector climb, to allow for long DH runs. Trails are often as tech or more tech than WC DH tracks. Enduro is getting a bit abused here.

  • Mr. P

    5/7/2013 3:58 PM

    I guess kind of like abusing cruiser bikes by modifying them , then riding out in the wilderness. "Your doing it wrong!"

    Call it local flavor and be thankful for the event - looks like a fun one.


  • JMHV

    5/7/2013 6:09 PM

    I don't think it's necessary to copy what other folks are doing. Enduro racing will thrive if there is variety, I think the quickest way to kill it is to make all races follow a formula. You don't have to enter races that don't suit you, but that also limits your growth as a racer. I think everyone was pretty stoked on the fun, fast, demanding course.

  • bdamschen

    5/8/2013 8:22 AM

    I'm leaning the other way on this. It is cool that there was a race and people had fun, but it's not really following the enduro format. It is necessary to follow a formula because that's what made it popular in the first place. If people want to grow as racers they can go race Super Ds or Super XCs or Downhill races.

    Like I said before, it's good they had a race and it was fun, but don't call it "first major U.S. enduro race of the year" if it's not really a true enduro race.

  • NoahColorado

    5/8/2013 9:00 AM

    So what's the "true" enduro formula? Much more descending than climbing? Check. Multiple timed stages with untimed transfer stages? Check. Self supported? Check. At least one french racer? Check.

    Everyone is quick to call something NOT an enduro, but what is an enduro? The format is new, so how do we know exactly what it SHOULD be yet? Haven't downhill and cross-country races changed over time? Can you imagine someone saying the Hajfell WC track isn't a "true" DH because it doesn't fly down a gravel road like the Kamikaze.

  • Krispy

    5/8/2013 9:20 AM

    I don't have the World Enduro Series handbook memorized, but they call for 1- minimum 4 stages mostly downhill, 2-minimum 20 minutes combined time, 3- the most fun way down using the local trails. All of these rules were adhered to in Moab.

  • bdamschen

    5/8/2013 10:09 AM

    Noah- did you just try to compare a a 15 year old DH track to a current world cup DH track to justify your point? I somehow doubt adding more flatness and climbing is really the Hajfell to enduro's kamikaze...

    I'm just going to leave this link here and you guys can decide which direction you want enduro to go:,807

  • NoahColorado

    5/8/2013 10:52 AM

    I simply making the point that this type of racing is relatively young - and extremely young in the US. It's seems a little early to have an exact definition for it. You can have a generally defined format, and it would seem this race met that. If we had given "downhill" a strict definition in the beginning it would probably say: tracks must be 10-15' wide, riders must use neon skinsuits, and courses must enable speeds of 40mph or more. But we didn't really, we just agreed on a format: single-rider time trail, no more than a few minutes in length, and with an elevation loss.

    Secondly, this race is an anomaly - I wouldn't say it's an indication of the direction of the sport here. The rest of the Enduro Cup series, the full BME series, and the EWS stop in Winter Park seem like "true" enduro races, right?

    I agree the term "enduro" is used pretty loosely lately - but I don't think this it was misapplied in the context of this race. For instance, this weekend we have a local "enduro" race - it'll be one stage, last about 16 minutes, cover 4 miles, and lose a few hundred feet of elevation at most. That doesn't seem too "enduro-ish" to me, but hey whatever.


  • bdamschen

    5/8/2013 2:13 PM

    Yeah, it is still cool there was a race at all- which is better than no race. I would also not classify a 1 stage, 16 minute race as an enduro. I'm just getting defensive over the amount of descending and speed. It's probably because it is so new in the US and I want it to grow to be as fun as the enduro scene in europe that I get nit picky with US events. Bring on Park City

  • NoahColorado

    5/7/2013 4:11 PM

    Stage info here

    The whole ride (segments and transfers) was about 17 miles (if I remember correctly).

    You must remember that it's pretty early in the season for monster, mountainous enduro races in the US - but they are coming. The courses at this race, while not entirely downhill, were technical enough that a 5-6" bike was warranted.
  • Scott_Townes

    5/8/2013 7:23 AM

    5-6 inches of travel weren't needed by any means, haha. I bet most of the top guys, from looking around at their bikes, were running 4 inches, maybe some with 5 but none running 6. Found out that it was overkill for these trails normally and although it may give a slight advantage on the downs, there wasn't nearly enough of it to make any difference in the times.

  • NoahColorado

    5/8/2013 7:54 AM

    Everyone in the top 5 was on a 5" or 6" bike.....Fuel EX 1 & 2, Mach 5.7 3rd, SB-66c 4th, and ASR-5c 5th.

  • Scott_Townes

    5/8/2013 3:09 PM

    Yeahh... I thought that comment didn't post but still, 6 inches is overkill for these trails. There wasn't anything gnarly, just seemed like a really intense sunday ride with the buds on some great XC trails.

  • mrpowerjd

    5/8/2013 9:43 PM

    And that's not just the pros. The same held across each class/cat. I saw more SB-66's and SB-66c's at this race than I have ever seen at any other single race!

  • sspomer

    5/7/2013 4:17 PM

    i added the stage map to the article above. thanks noah

  • Scott_Townes

    5/7/2013 1:54 PM

    Great write up and despite the race being a little bit more XC than Enduro, it was still insanely fun and possibly the best run race I've ever been to. Aside from the first timed stage, it ranged from 1-10 minutes to wait before taking on the next stage. I highly suggest for people to come check this out next year. Great times, free food and "drinks" haha.

  • mrpowerjd

    5/8/2013 9:55 PM

    I agree that the race was extremely well run. It gives me very high hopes for the rest of the Utah Enduro Cup. Having the chip timing with enough equipment to cover each stage, allowing riders to more or less check through at their preferred pace, made the whole race run smoothly and quickly by. And no gripes about the free refreshments at the start/finish area, either!

    Please, mountain bikers who love to ride and read Vital, think hard about signing up for the Wasatch Enduro in July (19, 20) that is a stop on the North American Enduro Tour (NAET) at the Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. That was the event last year that got us all whipped up into such a fun frenzy that we now have the small (but going to grow even more I hope) Utah Enduro Cup series this year. It will be serious fun no matter how they lay out the transfers and timed stages. And the Snowbasin event, August 17, will be a bomber too. Come on out to Utah and ride! Logistics here are super easy. SLC is a super airport to fly in and out of, hotels are abundant and cover the range from trashy and cheap to five-stars-loaded. Lots of camping is available, if that's your thing. Hell, if it came down to it, I bet we could even find come locals who could spare a couch or bedroom or two to help you keep your travel costs down it that's what it takes. Canyons and Snowbasin are both short drives from the SLC valley. Come on out, have a raging good time, help us grow our events, and we'll get out and help you grow yours. That's how these things happen--the people doing the riding get fired up and excited and start inviting friends, coworkers, family members. First it's a few trial rides just for fun, then hints about racing and maybe even take them out to spectate and see how much fun we have mtb'ing compared to the seriously over-serious roadies at their events.

    More mountain bikers=more better for everyone. Let's grow the sport we love instead of fighting amongst ourselves quibbling about whether there's enough DH to "really" call it an "enduro" race. This was my second enduro, both were pedally and tough, I'm signed up for at least six or seven more this season, and I'm not slowing down any time soon. It's too much FUN. And isn't that why we ride bikes at the end of the day? FUN! Let's get out and make some good times.

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