Gone Too Far? Enduro World Series, La Thuile 14

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Some of the most incredible trails and landscapes in the shadow of Mont Blanc are what make the Enduro World Series in La Thuile, Italy, a racer-favorite. Hell, it's the venue that made Sam Hill fall in love with the discipline. But have the courses this year been pushed too far in terms of steep, technical terrain? Some say yes, some say no. Regardless of opinion, every will compete on the same course this weekend. Experience the breath-taking, all-time mountain biking of La Thuile thanks to Sven Martin, @maddogboris and Lee Trumpore.

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sspomer 7/20/2018 8:47 PM

14 comments newest first

Ah opinions...
I was riding at La Thuile last tuesday and saw a good amount of the new stuff... Holy shit it looked gnarly but not unrideable. I think its great that there are events like this as it really shows what the truly talented racers can do. I've loved watching the vids and looking at the pics and seeing how some racers (Barelli for example) have been so creative on sections.

For sure there is a danger that venues will try to one up each other, but I do trust that Chris Ball and his team are well on top of this. He's definitely far more experienced at race an event organisation than everyone here.

A racer is not going to like every stage/event, but how they crack on with the job at hand speaks volumes of their character.

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the EWS scene can be what it needs to be, thats not my conern... my concern and Heath's concern is to create a network of events in California that scaffold up to these EWS events. At the local level, this year and last year we had some courses that were touching on EWS level demanding for local riders, and it was too much... For us, we are looking for ways to get people into the sport and staying in the sport... while then also preparing the riders who want to go far the courses and racing that they need to be able to tackle these tougher EWS event... The sport is evolving and this is a part of it.... Sport and age group Expert riders probably dont need to be going down La Thuile style stuff, nor do they want to, and when we do send them down this stuff they dont register for another race again!... but how to create courses for them at the same time that we provide courses that are close to it for riders like Cory Sullivan, Evan Geankopolis, Matt Koen and Paul Serra.... probably have two courses and push the age group experts into Pro/Open who want the challenge, but this creates some extra logistical challenge to overcome... but anyway... Its a mistake to assume that any one man has so many moving parts under control and we just trust in one dude and let it all ride... There are many of us here, active in the sport with a comparable level of experience to those at the highest level.. so we are working like they are working and we are meeting in the middle, and feeding riders into the EWS....

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"Chris Ball and his team" are not just one man... no mistaken assumption on my part.
This one man and 'his' team have far more experience than you give them credit. And you can have no doubt that when they need to they are able to seek advice from some equally talented and experienced people.

Its tough for UK riders to make the step up to world class level too, but we've been blessed by being close to mainland Europe so our riders can gain a lot of superb ride and race experience. But it would be naive of us to think think that we could gain all that experience within our own shores... hell if that were true none of us would last longer than 2 minutes downhill.

Ask yourself this:
How many UK/NZ/AUS/SA racers spend massive amounts of their off season training/riding abroad?
And how many US/CAN racers do the same?
I hope I'm wrong here but I can't think of many US racers that have done/do that?

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Wow, I literally composed an email to CES organizers, Northstar and Erik Saunders about this exact thing. Stiks, I said the same thing about the late 90's Norba issues citing it as the beginning of the decline of DH in America. I'm glad Mitch spoke up, he knows the difference between gnarly and stupid. Getting crazy to get crazy is not the way to grow the sport. There's a better way to improve attendance and grow the sport and that's the next step in putting on races. Places like Downieville and Ashland have natural trails that are ridable at slow speeds and are flat our gnraly at high speeds. That's how racing should be, your risk level should be up to you, not the course designer. I have been terrified to race at a few locations due to sketchy courses that are World Cup DH level tracks but they are built for enduro races. First of all, DH has chair lift access and four days of practice, the first day is all about walking the course and then you have three days of unlimited practice. Enduro races maybe give you a couple practices on each stage at best and you're on short travel. It's absurd to think it's safe for even the best riders in the world to try to race them on that little of practice. Guaranteed the best have deeper pockets and more resources to prepare properly and we try to gauge ourselves to them. Not wise. Kudos Mitch! Let's hope they listen.

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It's been creeping up in the last 2 years I would say... Enduro has a slight inferiority complex to World Cup DH in some ways and we feel the pressure to step up, but I agree Heath, that the courses should be doable at slow speed and have an element of pedaling to go fast, not only stay off the brakes and hope for the best.

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Please do not dumb down northstar or the CES even more. Getting crazy or pushing the limits is exactly how you progress the sport and people's ability. That's why we have enduro now. Our bikes are so good and better than the DH bikes of 10 years ago that a lot of these tracks were designed for.

Top riders aren't stoked to race places like toro. China Peak and Northstar keep things interesting because they are so challenging(and completely rideable at slower speeds). Downieville and Ashland are arguably more dangerous than Northstar because the buff trails and lack of true rocks allow skilled riders reach insanely high speeds (and in a race encourage pushing the limits even further). Would you rather wad at 15-20 mph on rocks or 35-40+ on buff trails?

Pedaling isn't bad, but racing up a one minute fireroad shaft in the middle of a stage doesn't belong in enduro. It's about pedaling flat sections or very short kickers. EWS should be worried about the upcoming race at Northstar with talk like this from admin at CES.

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the CES is not "dumbed down"... there are entry-level events and there are top level events... our strategy is to meet ppl where they are and give them something they can enjoy... this is why we have different venues and different events with different focus... two years ago we created the Golden Tour to differentiate the races that will be there to challenge the top classes... but that does not mean that we need to send Beginner, and Sport riders down international pro level tracks... China Peak, N*, and Mammoth have that high-level challenge (we are always pushing the Mammoth team in this regard), Toro, Auburn, Mendo, dont take it that far and really the terrain just isnt there... but still ppl need to race a race at their level that they dont have to drive 5hrs or more to get to and get broke-off riding over their heads...

you have to keep in mind that last year, with 1200 racers taking part, most of them are not pro and do not aspire to that level of racing... the Pro Men Class is one of the smaller classes compared to Sport, or Expert most of whom would rather not have the high-risk tracks.... so we have a lot of ppl to entertain and a lot of levels that deserve a course that they can access without excessive risk... dont forget that the CES is grass-roots entry level racing... in the future, you will notice that we have now aligned our top classes with the EWS classes (u21, pro, master) so that you can choose the top level with most demanding courses, or you can race normal class for ppl who want to have fun and make it down alive and go to work monday (Beginner, Sport, Expert)... a vocal minority of CES riders clamor for harder and harder courses and we happy to oblige... but the majority are not stoked on the gnar factor, and let us know by quitting... so we need to make it work for everyone who wants to race... not just the fast guys...

EWS gets the race they want in the end, so they dont have to really worry about anything I say... they have their concerns, mine is making sure that there is a way for anyone interested in racing to have the experience they want... thats why nationally CES numbers are historically higher in participation than any other series- for the fast guys, we did Golden Tour, i personally pushed CP and went out to dig to create the infamous "stage 5", and even scouted a way to make another pro stage down the old Pro GRT course... I supported the inclusion of Dog Bone at N*.... now its time to make some effort to support the mid-pack expert, sport rider, and the 12yo Jr who wants to race too...

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Great to hear Mitch's take on this kind of track. Yeah we all love to see the best in the world being challenged,but track design is going too far many times IMO.
Not a problem for most of us,but the enduro bike development is getting far from all-mountain and it's now on park/mini-DH territory. No one I know is willing to pedal a 170mm,38lb 29er.

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EWS is going through a NORBA late 90's crisis, where each track tried to out do the next and ultimately removed the fun, became a test of balls---it seems anyway, from sitting in my living room

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which reminds me of all the nutty rumors that could get spread. Someone would always try to say that overnight Lopes was sneaking up and moving rocks around in the rock gardens... to the point where nobs were yelling it at him as he went by at Seven Springs. Seriously... every Nat I went to people would start it.

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No disrespect for Grubby and Keene but if McMillan was at the top of the Specialized ranks this weekend it would be radical. The dude rides a bike like all of us wish we could.

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Not to mention Joe Nation from NZL who was riding a Spesh Enduro and came 18th. I know its not all about the bike by any stretch, but I cant fathom why Keene and Graves insist on riding the Stumpy instead. They even did it before the latest more capable version appeared. Graves claims its about size and suspension feel but I bet they could tweak an Enduro to his liking...

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