When it comes to mountain bike racing, Enduro style is gaining swift popularity.
“Post-COVID, it’s more relevant than ever,” said former professional mountain bike racer Chris Boice of Albuquerque, who now is a sponsor for Big Mountain Enduro races, one of which is coming to Purgatory Resort on Saturday, Aug. 28 and Sunday, Aug. 29.
Still a rider who enjoys the thrill of careening downhill as fast as possible, Boice now rides events for the fun of it.
“As a racer, it just feels like home,” he said. “It’s liberating. For me, the adrenaline side of it wore a long time ago. I raced for 16 years professionally and to race again now for fun, it feels like I got to go home. The community is a big part of that. When I’m not riding my bike, I feel like I’m out of sorts.”
In the two-day event in Durango, Colorado, cyclists will be toted up the mountain via chairlift on day one, then timed on their descent, doing this on several different trails throughout the day.
On the second day of backcountry riding, cyclists will use their own pedal power to climb the mountain before heading off for the timed descent.
“There’s definitely an endurance aspect to it,” Boice said. “Durango is special. They have some of the most world class riding. This will be the best event of the year.”
Hannah Russert, 26, of Albuquerque is somewhat of a newcomer to Enduro racing, but enjoys it over all other types of cycling.
“You really never know what you’re going to get,” she said. “You have to be ready for long or quick downhill stages.”
A heptathlete in college in Minnesota, Russert said she got into mountain biking there with her boyfriend.
“Once we got to New Mexico we got into a lot more intense riding, and we got into a friends group, and they got us into racing,” she said. “We’ve been traveling for different mountain bike races ever since. It’s a new hobby that we really jumped into and it’s become almost like a second job.”
Russert has attacked her craft similarly to the way she did while preparing for her multi-event competitions in college.
“Right now, we’re actually being coached, from Elevate,” she said. “We do some weights two days a week, weightlifting, squats and dead lifts and some upper body work, and we typically do some bike workouts focused on sprint bursts and different climbing workouts and now we’ll do one hefty day of climbing so we can get ready for many big stages.”
While many of the athletes do prepare for the events with similar regimens, the idea of it all is to have fun, said race director Tony Wilhelms.
A kind of spin-off from European Enduro motocross racing, Wilhelms said the format is fairly similar.
“You can hangout, hang with your buddies and make the transitions, transitions to get to the start of the first stage,” he said. “There are multiple stages and the racing occurs in those downhill stages, usually some pedaling, but not as much as cross country or traditional races.”
The chill aspect to it all is as much or even more important than the racing aspect, Wilhelms said.
“In Enduro, you relax and when you get to the top of the mountain then it’s go time,” he said. “There’s a lot less stress, you hang out with your friends and just hang out at the start before you drop in. There’s a lot of riding, hanging out and racing each other on the way down.”
And while there is money on the line, the overall experience is the reward, Russert said.
“You definitely get that adrenaline rush,” she said. “Some of the trails, the features, they’re intimidating. I usually have to get off the bike and look at them before just send it down the mountain. But I’ve been building up my courage a little bit more. I have a fair amount of scars to remember those trials and some falls. Sometimes, you just put on a little extra padding and just keep trying until you get it.”