Words by Seb Kemp
Video featuring (and courtesy of) Ash Smith
Enduro racing was originally a “blind” racing format where, unlike downhill or cross-country competitions, racers could not pre-ride and learn every detail of the timed stages. This is the purest format of Enduro. In recent years, however, organizers have added practice runs to the schedule. Pre-riding the course is supposed to even out the advantage of local riders or racers who have raced the same event previously. The newly-formed World Enduro Series has stated that practice days will be included in the race schedule in 2013.
Ash Smith, Mavic Trans-Provence race organizer and course mastermind, believes that part of the magic of Enduro racing is about racing blind, "I see why the World Enduro Series went with practice, but I hope the original, French format is still kept alive. That is the most pure format of Enduro. Of riding and racing even, because of the adventurous aspect, the discovery. It's just like mountain biking should be."
I asked Anne Caroline Chausson what her take on practice for Enduro is, "It is like DH – there is no discovery and instead it becomes about analyzing lines. Too much analysis. Also, with this format you need more time – what with practice days – so for riders it means more time off work, more time to go somewhere. With the classic style of Enduro [no practice] you go for the weekend, race, have fun, discover and get the purity of racing."
"It makes sense here because there are thousands of old trails, hidden trails that have overgrown and been forgotten. Organizers around here often go out and discover old trails, cut back the overgrowth and set stages upon them. Even for locals it is extremely hard to know every track and trail."
Ash Smith sees why it has to be this way and this is why the six-day Mavic Trans-Provence can retain the spirit of the origins of Enduro rather than becoming too serious about line choice and memorizing problems.
In the above video we see Ash Smith out on the trails in Provence scoping out new terrain and singletrack to put into future Trans-Provence routes. He wants to keep Enduro pure, but he also wants to keep providing the racers at his event with new experiences and fresh delights.
After completing the 2012 Trans-Provence I can honestly say that there is no way anyone could pre-ride and remember all 300 kilometers of trail – this was demonstrated, when on the last stage of the 2011 Mavic Trans-Provence race leader Nico Vouilloz got lost on the trails closest to his own backyard, resulting in him losing the general classification victory.
If I was lucky enough to return in 2013 then it would still be as fresh as the first time round. There can be no local's advantage and just the raw thrill of trying to ride as fast as you can on never-before-seen trails. It's exhilarating and truly undiluted racing.