Race Preview | Getting Set For The Les Arcs Enduro 2
For as long as enduro racing has been around it has been a real dichotomy of situations – a relatively social transition time, starkly followed by that lonely, silent 10 second countdown before dropping in over the edge of a stage and continuing the race on your own. It’s an isolated place up there on the start line, knowing for the time being it’s just you, your bike and maybe Strava who will know what goes on!
Enduro is so often defined as “just riding with your mates” or “like a social bike ride” but really that’s not the case. When do you and your mates pin it down a trail 30 seconds apart? I’d say not very often, more likely you are just meters behind your mates back wheel whooping and cheering as they ride the trail, either trying to keep up with them or on the brakes urging them to go faster! Racing enduro and riding with your mates is coming together more than ever now with the introduction of a new format of race – pair’s enduro. This type of racing could spell the end to solitary jitters at the stage start and will certainly mean that someone other than you knows what happened down that stage!
Enduro2 has been created by Ali at trailAddiction, the company behind guided riding holidays in the Alps and the Trans Savoie Big Alpine enduro race. The format is simple, its enduro as we know it but you race with another person meaning you must both start and finish the stages together. The buzz of racing taking on unsighted, blind stages can now be shared, witnessed and experienced by you and your team mate. Be it your best riding buddy, brother or sister, a tactically chosen competitor or for those willing to risk it – boyfriend or girlfriend?!
Ali decided to create Enduro2 after taking part in an end-of-season local French event, The ‘Biivouac’, which had adopted a pair’s format almost as an afterthought in order to maximise tent-sharing capacity. “It was hands-down the most fun event I had ever raced. High-fives and man-hugs through tears of laughter were almost mandatory at the end of every stage. I immediately knew that my new mission in life was to bring this pairs enduro format to an easily-accessible, lift-accessed, natural, single track infested location” says Ali. “I’d done a few EWS races last season and whilst they were truly awesome to be involved in, it was all kind-of-a-bit-too-serious out there. Even the supposedly “social-bit” transitions were now so tight, there was no time at all for stopping for idle chit-chat with a fellow racer or to chew the fat over that gnarly rock section that almost killed me”.
With 15 timed stages over 3 days and a massive 12,000m of total descent, Enduro2 aims to bring back the idea of adventuring, finishing and starting the day with your mates, focusing on camaraderie and friendship rather than that all important second saved or a proper ‘enduro line’. This is racing still though so there will be teamwork and tactics employed, I’m excited to see how different teams interpret the event and what strategies are employed. I can certainly see mechanical issues being dispatched in half the time! The race is based in Les Arcs in the French Alps, with race HQ being in Bourg St Maurice. The village is a beautiful setting for the race and should create a great atmosphere around the restaurants and cafes as the resort supports Ali and the event. Each of the three days will begin from Bourg St Maurice with a lift in the funicular as a great assist to the ascending for the day. The racing will take place over varied terrain, both bike park and natural alpine single track.
Ali knows this area like the back of his hand so there will certainly be some cracking trails on offer. Power meter company Stages Cycling of Colarado are the official sponsor and they are sending over a few teams to compete at this unique event. I’m going to make a beeline for them and see if they can teach me a thing or two about the importance of power measurement devices in my training regime. Alongside them Vango are keeping the campers warm, and Shimano and Fox are helping keep riders on the trails.
As far as I’m concerned I’ll be one of those brave few, my team mate is my boyfriend, Adam……. I’m wracking my brains but I don’t think we have ever taken part in anything where we alone have worked as a team. It’s going to be interesting but I’m not worried, we have been a team now for nearly seven years so we must have the ingredients and recipe right, we just need to translate this to race day! Riding wise, Adam is faster than me by some margin but racing blind will tip the level back in my direction somewhat. I have had more experience of blind racing after taking part in the Trans Savoie last year and the Trans New Zealand earlier this year. Our speed can be further matched if I follow Adam on the trails, if I see he rolls a drop or takes a particular line then I know just where to go and how to handle it, hopefully reducing braking. Well, that’s the plan anyway! We have been practicing riding close and braking hard over the finish line and also interpreting each other’s shouts and noises as we ride. I am now well versed in Ad’s language for ‘oh errr, that’s tricky’ verus ‘send that’! As only one person holds the timing chip and this should be the second one to begin the stage and the last person out, I expect that will be me.
We will have figured out what to do if we inadvertently sway places in a stage at a later date – probably mid race! Aside from thinking about the tactics our training has surrounded racing the Enduro World Series races so our fitness shouldn’t be an issue- I’m sure Adam will be figuratively kicking my arse up any climbs anyway!
Our competitors for this race are coming from far and wide, there are entrants from all over Europe including Germany, Finland, Britain, Italy, Slovenia and from further afield such as Canada and New Zealand. I am also impressed with the creative team names I have heard so far, I’m looking forward to seeing who “Big Biceps, Little Legs” actually are and if the claim is true with team “Mid Pack Averageness”! Racers are going to be housed in a number of ways depending on which race pack they chose. Adam and I opted to look after and feed ourselves in our trusty van ‘Felix’, whilst others are being catered for and sleeping in a tent (not actually that bad after my Trans Savoie experience last year) or being fed and watered in Trail addiction’s luxury accommodation. There are all sorts of options and still worth a look for a last minute entry. Whatever happens all racers get a hot meal at lunch every day, keeping energy and spirts high no doubt.
I am eager to get back out to Les Arcs and race against the awesome backdrop of the mountains and scenery there. Enduro2 is very unique and a format I think could really catch on, I can’t wait to test myself in a team environment and see what Adam and I can achieve. Whatever our race results are I already know we are going to have an amazing time riding together, picking each other up after our falls and no doubt laughing and grinning down each and every trail.
More information about the race at trailaddiction.com.
Words: Rachael Gurney Pictures: Trevor Worsey, Trail Addiction