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Honor & Enduro Racing

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8/4/2020 8:04 AM

Before I even get into my rant, I want to point out that I'm well aware Robot and a number of others are going to make fun of my title. Hell, even I want to make fun of it. I just don't have a good enough handle on the English language to find a better word than "honor".

Those that don't know me, I love racing and riding bikes. I also generally suck at both, at least considering how much bike riding I've done. At best I'll eek out a mid pack pro finish at a BME which is to say I'm a total joke on the world stage (EWS). The reason I point out my level, is because I'm not delusional in thinking my below rant somehow impacts my results either way. I'm still going to get smoked either way...

A trend I've noticed since enduro became a "thing" is dudes showing up to race venues well in advance of the race for a look at the trails. This is clearly not illegal and isn't even something I cared too much about when all this started. (okay, I cared a little...)

As the sport has grown up, it seems like this has gotten worse...and worse...and worse, to the point you'll see various sprinter vans rolling around weeks before even a BME or similar, often with some of the higher caliber riders. (riders that would smoke the field anyway, trying to gain an edge on their closest competitor)

On one hand, I get it. They have a job, go win races. A hack like me has to work all week, mow his yard thursday night before arriving for Friday's sanctioned practice. I maybe get a look at each stage and boom, I'm racing. I dig it. Obviously, if the event is near my home town, I have a huge advantage. We'll never equalize this.

However, it feels like there should be a "gentleman's agreement", "honor", "pride", something that says "eh, I'm going to roll to an event just like everyone else and not try and gain an advantage". I know certain riders like Marco could smoke me even if I had 100 looks at a trail and he had 0. These are the types of racers I most respect. Marco is more likely to be found fishing if he shows up early, not poaching trails. If a race feels rigged, its harder to want to compete in them.

When I reflect on the bigger picture, I realize why this seems a problem; it really is unique to enduro racing, a sport that is generally held on publicly accessed trails and emphasizes descending (unlike XC, which is also often on public trails). DH racing, especially at the top level, is very often on closed courses, which was *certainly* the case when I was growing up. Slalom was this way. Other forms of racing, such as Supercross, Hard Enduro, Enduro (moto), snowmobile hill climbing etc are basically no practice, on-sight and go.

I realize there are races like Trans-FILL IN THE BLANK. Which is rad, and nearly impossible to make a series out of. Enduro in the US will remain a sport on public trails.

Is it cool to game these unwritten rules and try to make a place your "home" weeks in advance of a race or should this be looked down upon? Is this good for the sport, or not?

Curious the collective's thoughts. The power of social pressures can be vast, hence, this thread...


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8/4/2020 8:24 AM

It would be great if everyone cared about integrity of the sport as much as you, but as soon as you say it’s a race people go nuts. It’s not even about money either, how often have we all heard about 50+ year olds doping on the road or other disciplines?

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8/4/2020 8:39 AM

ssk wrote:

It would be great if everyone cared about integrity of the sport as much as you, but as soon as you say it’s a race people go nuts. It’s not even about money either, how often have we all heard about 50+ year olds doping on the road or other disciplines?

No contest here. I recently met a girl who is pretty competitive on the road side, the number of confirmed dopers below the Cat 1 level is insane!

The big difference however is doping is behind closed doors, obviously shameful, obviously full of social pressures to NOT do.

This one is right in front of our faces, and if we all decided "eh, that's not cool" or could maybe better define the line here, the social pressure would be enough to keep it relatively in check.

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8/4/2020 8:43 AM

My experience riding the 1001sentiers regional championship for the last 10 years. (Nicolai, Cure, Tordo, Dailly were all raised on this championship and Barel/Vouilloz won quite a few rounds)

"Recos" were a huge problem in France a few years ago, races were intended to be run blind, and organisers often opened up 1-2 fresh cut tracks per round specifically as race stages which were supposed to be unridden until the race. A couple of locals would always find them (by local I mean, people who didn't need to drive to get to the trails) which I felt was fair enough. A lot of us might go a few weeks (3-4) before hand to ride the previous year's course, this was considered borderline, but at the same time, i'm not going to stop riding my favourite spots because a race will happen a month later... Most venues were within an hour's drive of my house by the way. It is important to understand that tracks here are extremely technical, specifically as they are very narrow, very low visibility and have ridiculous switchbacks, so riding the course gives massive advantages.

Then the top juniors started all out cheating: their parents would shuttle them to tracks during the week before races, and some of them started beating some pros. Pros got super angry, but soon just started doing the same shuttling or camping out at venues days before events. This was clearly written as against the rules, and a few big names got named and shamed, but no one ever got disqualified/penalised.

About 2-3 years ago the organisers gave up and just allowed Recos, a few of us held out, out of principle, or simply had jobs and families. Suddenly I dropped from being a top 30 rider to often getting places in the 60s. This year the only race I did I couldn't break into the top 100 of the only race I could enter which I had to travel a bit further to, this was a different championship which never had Reco bans. Another thing that drives me insane is outside assistance, with a lot of the juniors riding with no bags, tools or even water and meeting their parents at the end of each stage for help.

The step that really disgusted me, is that once recos became allowed, some riders would turn up the day before the race on e-bikes to ride the course effortlessly. Basically "pay-to-win".

I know it sounds like i'm some kind of baby boomer, but I'm only 35 tongue

Really soured my whole approach to racing, to the point that I just can't get excited to train or take racing seriously anymore.

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8/4/2020 9:30 AM

I went and entered an Enduro race within the past few years and the promoters were short staffed with volunteers, so there was no one at the uplift checking #plates for the transfer stages. I noticed some racers that quietly blended in with the other lower category racers that had the chair available to them for their stage since racing was going on all over the mtn. that day. That was a real bummer to see those take advantage of the chairlift and not pedal their ass up the top of transfer like everyone else. Advantages are taken when given, but some just go too far with it and then it gets to straight up cheating. imo.

The one thing that slightly lowers the curve on the playing field is the weather. Heat and rain can totally change the tracks and the racers strategies.

I like "blind racing" events and thats what most of my enduro race experiences had been since I was only able to get to the race the night before.

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8/4/2020 11:36 AM

It is definitely annoying when you work full time but see your competitors arriving to the venue a full 3-4 days ahead of you. Happened last year at the Burke Mtn ESC and was definitely annoying knowing my competition had been shuttle lapping the course on Tuesday when I showed up and had to climb them for practice on Saturday

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8/4/2020 12:19 PM

bermslapper69 wrote:

It is definitely annoying when you work full time but see your competitors arriving to the venue a full 3-4 days ahead of you. Happened last year at the Burke Mtn ESC and was definitely annoying knowing my competition had been shuttle lapping the course on Tuesday when I showed up and had to climb them for practice on Saturday

3-4 days? I think I could be like "eh, whatever, 3-4 days", even though I agree it makes it hard. What I'm seeing is like 1-3+ weeks early. I could cite examples right now, but don't want to be a (total) douche.

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8/4/2020 1:05 PM

I took part in an enduro race in 2016, it was my only experience of it ('cause I hate all the logistics I've to put together ^^), and f***in' loved it !

But even if it was in the rulebook that NO "trainings" were allowed, a whole lot (a third at least) of riders came friday and rode the trails. The organiser the first... And I was a little disgusted BUT...

I shared a chairlift the day of the race, between two timed trails, with a tall and talented guy I don't remember his name but his philosophy enlightens me some years later. He raced in french championship, and didn't do a single on-place training, he rode blind everytime he raced. And didn't care at all. He knew he lost few places, but that's how he liked it. Blindly charging trails. 'cause that's what "real" mtb is in fact.

Maybe it's true, maybe he convinced himself he rode blind because he had an excuse not to put a foot on podiums (just like I did when I rode hardtails in DH races grin ). Anyway, I keep his words in my head. In substance : "do what you like and don't care about the rest".

Obviously the organisers can't prohibit racers to come and ride near the race trails. Where it becomes edgy is when trails (enduro or DH...) are closed and riders go on it anyway... Another touchy aspect is the guy who knows the shapers/organisers who help them to know exactly where the race will be...

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8/4/2020 1:51 PM

i've seen it for sure during the EWS in whistler. Doing course walks on the allotted day only to have maybe 50 people riding a trail that would normally see 5 a day tops. All the bros in their sponsors jerseys etc.It sucks but its the way it goes and unfortunately it seems to be more of the "if you can't beat em join em" mindset these days.

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8/4/2020 2:26 PM

vweb wrote:

I took part in an enduro race in 2016, it was my only experience of it ('cause I hate all the logistics I've to put together ^^), and f***in' loved it !

But even if it was in the rulebook that NO "trainings" were allowed, a whole lot (a third at least) of riders came friday and rode the trails. The organiser the first... And I was a little disgusted BUT...

I shared a chairlift the day of the race, between two timed trails, with a tall and talented guy I don't remember his name but his philosophy enlightens me some years later. He raced in french championship, and didn't do a single on-place training, he rode blind everytime he raced. And didn't care at all. He knew he lost few places, but that's how he liked it. Blindly charging trails. 'cause that's what "real" mtb is in fact.

Maybe it's true, maybe he convinced himself he rode blind because he had an excuse not to put a foot on podiums (just like I did when I rode hardtails in DH races grin ). Anyway, I keep his words in my head. In substance : "do what you like and don't care about the rest".

Obviously the organisers can't prohibit racers to come and ride near the race trails. Where it becomes edgy is when trails (enduro or DH...) are closed and riders go on it anyway... Another touchy aspect is the guy who knows the shapers/organisers who help them to know exactly where the race will be...

Fair points!

I suppose what I was hoping is a noteworthy EWS dude would jump into this and get behind it. It has to come from the top. It has to be from someone who goes "yeah, this is how I'm going to race going forward and I feel its better for the sport, I/we encourage everyone to do it like this".

It'd have to be defined a bit better, too. But ultimately, like I said, the social pressure is big. If it becomes "uncool" to try and game this, show up early, etc. it'll cut down on it.

Its probably all a pipe dream with so much bike park stuff in a race these days, but I'll keep dreaming. The ultimate would be a race that is within like 100 miles of a place like Bozeman. Nobody knows the location. Vans shuttle the racers to private land and the race then goes off.

Unrealistic, but it'd make racing a lot more "worth it" to me.

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8/4/2020 11:02 PM

Bass Fishing was my experience with the suckiness of humans and competition, prefishing was the big deal in fishing similar to your issue and yes we humans suck & biking has its extreme suckiness with doping and fishing with guys catching fish before the tourney and leaving them anchored out on the lake to throw into there livewell for weigh-in this is where I lived and played for a big portion of my life about 30 years ago. As far as my experience went the only that ever worked was the knowledge of being publicly shamed of you where caught.

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8/5/2020 6:34 AM

Agreed Jeff, it's lame. It's not just the pro class, there's amateur and masters guys that do the same thing. The fact that most of the races in the west are bike park based these days and there are rarely new trails cut just for the race doesn't help, it's just too easy to practice a ton. I have a hard time giving up racing entirely, but I'm kind of over it at this point - dadlife and a busy job usually has me showing up for 1 practice day at most.

Maybe if some of the best riders were more vocal it would change the culture a bit, IDK. There seems to be a bit of an omerta like road racing, there aren't many riders that speak up publicly. It's a tight knit group that doesn't want to burn bridges so nobody really gets shamed too badly, even when guys get caught and penalized for doing stupid stuff.

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...she had a weakness for writers and I, I was never that good with words anyway...

8/5/2020 7:09 AM

ZAKBROWN! wrote:

Agreed Jeff, it's lame. It's not just the pro class, there's amateur and masters guys that do the same thing. The fact that most of the races in the west are bike park based these days and there are rarely new trails cut just for the race doesn't help, it's just too easy to practice a ton. I have a hard time giving up racing entirely, but I'm kind of over it at this point - dadlife and a busy job usually has me showing up for 1 practice day at most.

Maybe if some of the best riders were more vocal it would change the culture a bit, IDK. There seems to be a bit of an omerta like road racing, there aren't many riders that speak up publicly. It's a tight knit group that doesn't want to burn bridges so nobody really gets shamed too badly, even when guys get caught and penalized for doing stupid stuff.

We 100% see eye to eye on this. I too love racing but I'd almost rather race on the dirt scooter being the racing seems so much more "fair". Nobody is practicing the course ahead of time, nobody is camping out for weeks on end. Run-what-ya-brung and have fun.

I know there are some racers at the top who see things similar to the way we do, I just wish they'd be more vocal, and I wish we as a community could define the etiquette a bit better.

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8/5/2020 7:10 AM

Pedal4life wrote:

Bass Fishing was my experience with the suckiness of humans and competition, prefishing was the big deal in fishing similar to your issue and yes we humans suck & biking has its extreme suckiness with doping and fishing with guys catching fish before the tourney and leaving them anchored out on the lake to throw into there livewell for weigh-in this is where I lived and played for a big portion of my life about 30 years ago. As far as my experience went the only that ever worked was the knowledge of being publicly shamed of you where caught.

I honestly want to know more about competitive bass fishing. Seriously, that sounds insane!

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8/5/2020 7:41 AM
Edited Date/Time: 8/5/2020 7:41 AM

jeff.brines wrote:

I honestly want to know more about competitive bass fishing. Seriously, that sounds insane!

strait's back-up plan : ) (and i homepaged this thread. good discussion topic, thanks jeff).

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8/5/2020 7:44 AM

A few of you have mentioned dadlife and mid-pack and /gasp/ being 35 years old (me too) so perhaps we should all keep this in perspective? You are there to ride your own race. What the teenage kid gets to do is out of your control. I'll be at work all week and see y'all in the parking lot Friday night in prep for the Saturday morning session.

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8/5/2020 8:40 AM

Three thoughts by someone who has a fictional serial killer as their avatar:

1.) People with more resources and less integrity will always have an advantage in competition.

2.) It's amusing that mid pack pro means suckage, you're in the 99th percentile of all mammals on a space rock who can ride bikes.

3.) It's nice to have a low number next to your name on a piece of paper and maybe even get a cheap trophy but there is probably more actual reward in learning how to not define our (GO TEAM 35!!!) middle age self worth by performance on a toy

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8/5/2020 8:52 AM

After racing in Spain since the very first enduro races (2011, middle pack always), later going to tons of races as media, in Spain, Portugal and France, and also several EWS in Europe I can say that this is usual everywhere. EWS riders don't do it as there is much at stake but on all other levels is crazy. The moment people get a race plate they totally change, not everyone, but many do. There's no way to stop it. And the "locals" discussion is a totally different talk on its own.

One big difference I've noted is in Ireland, where I currently live, riders are lot more respectful and try not to ride the trails 2-3 weeks before the race. Ireland is small, compared to Spain and France, so more or less you can go anywhere with 3-4h drive and check the trails.

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8/5/2020 9:46 AM

This is mostly a big who cares to me, but one thing I will say, is I have def planned a vacation around a race before, so I'm sure a lot of people are going to take advantage, but if you signed up for a race that is not very close to home, and you had some vacation time to use and wanted to explore the area of course you are gonna check out the riding in the area you are racing, slightly unfair, probably, but if I'm using vacation time I'm not gonna avoid the area out of "honor."

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8/5/2020 11:06 AM

the major reason i don't race enduros

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8/5/2020 2:07 PM

I definitely understand how this can be an annoying point, but I generally tend to view it as a way to level the playing field with the locals. A local racer will be able to have such a good knowledge of the trails that it could be a major advantage, so giving other racers the ability to practice a little bit ahead of time can even it out a bit. Of course, that can suck if there are some racers who have the ability to show up well ahead of time and practice the course again and again if you aren't able to do the same, but otherwise you could have every race just be dominated by the local pro who knows the trails inside and out.

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8/5/2020 2:17 PM
Edited Date/Time: 8/5/2020 2:21 PM

My biggest take away from this thread is that 35 is now considered middle aged... 0_o

Racing mountain bikes is truly a young mans game.


Edit to add: Not to burst your bubble, but I don't think there really is anywhere in a 100 mile radius around Bozeman that people don't really know about. Your best bet is probably local, grassroots enduro races and not events like the BME.

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8/5/2020 3:17 PM

At 44 I too have to laugh at 35 being middle age!

Pre-riding and doing tons of course recon I think cheapens the race experience. Enduro should be about setting up your bike, mindset and fitness to handle whatever comes and then just go out for the adventure of it.

Last BME I did in Aspen, most of the other Masters guys had all been there for at least a week and ridden everything over and over. I showed up the evening before as that's often how it goes with work and young kids. I had a great time and was top ten but I really wondered why I was racing when I could have just used that same amount of time and money to fund a little riding vacation. Haven't raced since. I do miss some of the racing vibe but don't really miss the stress and having kids have made me question the risks that racing seems to promote, at least for me.

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8/5/2020 8:21 PM

Sory, but if you want to ride the track, then ride it, unless it is actualy marked closed or is on private land. Expecting people to not ride a particular track for a couple of weeks leading up to a race is ridiculous.

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8/5/2020 11:11 PM
Edited Date/Time: 8/5/2020 11:13 PM

"WEEKS" before a race isnt cheeting, and is well within the EWS Rulebook. Its only not allowed from the release of the stages, which typically is only ever 1 week from the race. This is only for Tier 1 races, not tier 2 or Qualifier events, where you can train/practice the stages right up to the official training, or race day.

Rules are Rules, and no one outside of this is cheating.

From EWS Rulebook 0.6.4

At all Tier 1 and related events, all Special Stages must be kept closed to racers following the course
map release until Official Training commences. This is to allow the organisation to mark and prepare
each Special Stage. Any racer found riding on a Special Stage outside of Official Training will be subject
to a penalty including disqualification. This restriction is not applicable to Tier 2 Enduro Series and Tier
3 Qualifier events unless specifically stated in the individual event rules or Race Book

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8/6/2020 1:43 AM

This conversation is always going to be difficult as people are all over the place globally with very different interpretations of "local" (to me my favourite spot "Blausasc" isn't really "local" even though is a 30 minute drive away...). Add to this different regulations of "Recos" and pre-riding I can't claim anyone is right or wrong overall.

What I am specifically against is riding the week of the race, often with a view to opening new lines or even finding shortcuts. As Jeff said, the biggest issue is that there are no role models: juniors and amateurs started this here, but Pros have all been caught, and i'm talking EWS winners, thanks to their vans being parked at the trailhead or strava (which I find particularly brazen)

I kinda disagree with this though:
"It's nice to have a low number next to your name on a piece of paper and maybe even get a cheap trophy but there is probably more actual reward in learning how to not define our (GO TEAM 35!!!) middle age self worth by performance on a toy"

A huge issue of being in your 30s these days is specfically being defined entirely by your job and family situation. As your serial killer avatar Bateman's movie kinda touches upon, where his entire self worth is based on having the nicest business card. It is surely healthy to "diversify your bonds" and feel some pride from your job, family but also from passions like bikes/racing. That last one really gets thrown out the window when hours of training at the crack of dawn or on the home trainer in the evening amount to almost nothing versus just turning up on friday+saturday to shuttle or ebike the entire course. And it isn't like I couldn't take a day off or turn up on my own ebike saturday, but it is a simple matter of ethics as Jeff brings up at the top.

The devil's advocate in this case for me is that pre-riding allows a lot of communities to live from bike tourism, a huge factor in the EWS rounds in Italy for instance. So from a sport growth and sustainability aspect there are strong counter arguments.

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8/6/2020 5:17 AM

Lots of good banter, which was the idea. Clearly everyone has a different idea of “right” and “wrong” with this one. Hell, I’ve been majorly called out for swapping tires between stages (legal, but was in this same vein to some extent...I guess?)

What I always wanted enduro to be was 3-4 hard, raw, mostly cut-for-the race stages that were all pedaled. This won’t happen this side of private land. It’d also take a gargantuan amount of work. It’d even work if the stages remained more or less but the land owner shut them down outside of racing.

I’m on my phone so will address the existential crisis we’ve identified later wink

Unrelated, but I’d also like to see someone run with an omnium race. Aka one weekend where everyone who enters has to race xc, slalom, and 2 dh races. One bike. Tire swapping only allowed. Placing tallied via points not time. Basically like collegiate nationals with a slight twist.

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8/6/2020 7:05 AM
Edited Date/Time: 8/6/2020 1:24 PM

"A huge issue of being in your 30s these days is specfically being defined entirely by your job and family situation. As your serial killer avatar Bateman's movie kinda touches upon, where his entire self worth is based on having the nicest business card. It is surely healthy to "diversify your bonds" and feel some pride from your job, family but also from passions like bikes/racing. That last one really gets thrown out the window when hours of training at the crack of dawn or on the home trainer in the evening amount to almost nothing versus just turning up on friday+saturday to shuttle or ebike the entire course."

I think you're slightly missing the point.

I would never argue that time spent racing or training is inferior to material pursuits. Time spent with friends and family? Vastly superior. For a lucky few; riding, racing, and family are all the same.

I was more getting at intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and it seems we agree extrinsic motivation bad, intrinsic motivation good. Hacking at Paul Allen with a chrome axe, best.


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8/6/2020 8:10 AM

I layout the courses for the Windrock enduro stages that are on the XC side.I don't have the final say in which courses get picked I do have the responsibility to tape them. I encourage our promoters to not show course previews as it lets guys pre-ride the course weeks out as you say. Secondly, I wait to tape the tracks until the night before official practice and by that time all the inside lines are established. Obviously I will tape those off and try to reroute the trails differently where I can to level out the field as much as possible.

I started back into racing years ago with Enduro and much like most I got sick and tired of how it was turning into a multi-stage DH race. I really enjoyed the back country events that had no shuttling and required lots of riding to practice thus weeding out the punters and limiting the pre-riding.

At this point I just spend my time riding and not standing in a lift line or worrying about eeking out seconds so I can win a pair of socks or a water bottle.

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8/6/2020 12:59 PM

This happens at the dry hill NW cups all the time. A few brave souls show up weeks early to push their DH bikes up the hill a few times a day until the race rolls around. These folks rarely have great performances on race day.

I ride these trails almost 7 days a week anyways so can't really complain lol. Locals are king.

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