By Seb Kemp
"We’ve come a long way in a very short space of time. It’s been mental," types Chris Ball.
Procrastinating from looming deadlines, I decided a few days ago to engage in some mid-afternoon digital socializing. Chris Ball had popped up on Skype and we began chewing the cud about what we both have been doing since we last saw each other (a boozy night in a French campsite on the last day of the Trans-Provence). In that time Chris had finished working with the UCI (for five years he was the UCI's technical delegate) and taken on the monumental task of establishing the World Enduro Series, pretty much from scratch. Chris' achievements certainly overshadow my news - during the same time frame, I learned how to roast a chicken properly and I bought a green car.
So, Chris and I shoot the shit. I'm interested in the logistics and the conceptual issues behind the World Series and flood the conversation with questions. In just six weeks Chris and his partners (Fred Glo, Enrico Guala and Darren Kinnaird) have effectively built the whole thing from scratch. There are still many details to be finalized and creases to be ironed out, but the following is a glimpse at the driving force behind Enduro and where the series might be heading.
Seb: "I'm truly amazed you guys went from, what must have felt like nothing, to have something to launch in time for 2013. How are you even funding it?"
Chris: "We did have nothing. It’s actually a cool model because it means we have no exclusive sponsor. So loads of small pots of cash will hopefully mean everyone can get behind it and we have enough to pay the overheads to run it. We have no money [at the moment] and I’m still working for free on it all until we can launch the supporter packs for the teams and industry. Just like the sport of Enduro, everyone can join in…."
Seb: "Wow, so you will approach the whole industry and ask them to put into the pot. What if certain brands don’t put into the pot, but still take part and get coverage and exposure? Sorry if I’m asking a dumb question, it’s quite a different model than the status quo and I’m trying to get my head around it."
Chris: "If they don’t put in, they look cheap. Simples. I’m trying to figure out three tiers of support, so even tiny brands can join in for a pretty minimal fee, but will be listed as such on the website. It might not work, but it’s worth trying."
Chris: "So far a fair few big names have promised to join us. There seems to be a lot of motivation to see it happen. We’ll know how much when we ask for cash though."
Seb: "How have riders and teams reacted to the (understandably) late announcement? Has anyone said that budgets or funds are already allocated, or has it left some riders scrambling for funding now?"
Chris: "Bit of both. A lot of teams have said they thought something might happen and have held back on purpose. Others are now trying to find cash but a lot of companies had jumped into Enduro anyway. BMC, Orbea, Giant, Milka amongst others. So it’s a major bonus for them."
Seb: "So seven dates…?"
Chris: "Seven is a good number of rounds. Will they be grouped (European rounds then North American, etc) to help teams and travel.
"We’re going to develop the Enduro of Nations to become the World Championships. So Enduro will have an individual champion but more importantly, a national team too. It will be all about teamwork. We’re working on ideas. It’s a way of bringing riders together from different industry teams though. So Dan Atherton would have to race with Joe barnes or whoever. They’d hate it at first, but I reckon it would add a whole new dimension."
Seb: "Wow, I might propose to follow some of the teams and capture the chaos unfold. Maybe film it and turn it into the Big Brother of mountain biking."
Chris: "That would be amazing. Edited like an episode of The Office. The good UK one. Not the pish American effort."
It seems behind the whole idea of the World Enduro Series is Chris' drive to do something that means more than racing. The World Enduro Series is a vehicle to promotes the idea of sharing, mutual support, and respect. It is still racing, but there's much more to it than tape and times.
Chris Balls personal Twitter account is @ballersays
The World Enduro Series Twitter account is @World_Enduro
Chris and company also working on a Enduro Mountain Bike Association website