As the dust settles, podiums are packed away and trade tents are reloaded into vans, the entire enduro world can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the crucial opening event of the Enduro World Series was a colossal success! Never before has such a calibre and variety of riders attended a single event, with enduro specialists standing shoulder to shoulder with legendary 4X and DH riders. The Punta Ala event was sensational, a landmark in the evolution of the fresh face of competitive mountain biking! However, to ensure that enduro grows to towering heights, the passionate team in charge of steering its development need to maintain fair and solid foundations! As the small town of Punta Ala returns to its off-season persona, the trails quieten down and regular riders and locals emerge from hibernation to return to the trails that they love. A burning question has been left in the wake of the fantastic event, should shuttling by 4×4 be permitted in enduro?


Shuttling is an undeniable performance advantage to those with access!

Enduro will always be dictated somewhat by its location, some events providing chairlifts, some requiring pedalling to get to the stages. Wherever the location, there can be no arguing that having intimate ‘wheels on the ground’ knowledge of the trail allows racers to carry more speed, with more time spent practicing a stage resulting in quicker times. With the rapid professionalization of the sport and the top 10 places being separated by mere seconds, teams and individual racers are seeking that infinitesimal performance advantage that can make all the difference between a good run and an exclusive top spot. Strategy dictates that practice time needs to be in balance with conserving energy, staying fresh and energised for race day. Especially in longer events with lots of climbing, this balance between practice and conserving energy becomes an important and critical race tactic. However, if you throw a 4×4 pickup truck into the mix, allowing uplifting off-road to the trail head, then the balance rapidly shifts dramatically in favour of extensive practice of the special stages. Controversially, not everyone has access to dedicated 4×4’s and their use may be seen as highly unfair to those relying on leg power, and inevitably the big question has to be raised ‘should shuttling be a part of the new Enduro movement, or should all practice be carried out under pedal power alone?’


Should be be striving to protect the delicate environment that we enjoy!

To put this in context, the route for the 62km Punta Ala race course and the 5 special stages were released over a month before the event. Special stages 4 and 5 were only accessible by singletrack and were protected from vehicular access by topography. However, stages 1,2 and 3 were separated by long fire road climbs that required a fair amount of leg work and stamina to repeatedly climb the 300m+ ascents. With the arrival of the big guns and pro teams, the quiet fire road climb became less of a pedal powered toil and more of an unruly procession of team vans, local pick-ups and rapidly disintegrating hire cars scraping up the steep and loose climb. With clutches and brakes burning, vehicles laboured to deposit riders fresh and clean at the top of the stages. On the single lane forestry road passing was dangerous, with more than one vehicle ending up in the ditch, and both vegetation and road surface took a hammering. Riders without team support or an understanding partner were forced to gasp in clouds of vehicle dust and fumes as they fought their way up the hills under pedal power. It would be hard to ignore the ‘them and us’ atmosphere as privateers and non-elite riders sweated at the roadside while a pickup full of crisp and relaxed riders bounced by in a pick-up, 6 bikes laid out neatly in the cab, chatting merrily away. Some would argue that this behaviour stands in stark contrast to the core ethos of mountain biking, using ones legs and lungs to embrace the natural beauty of the surroundings. Is this the spirit of enduro, or should practice be as important and challenging as the race day itself?


Is this the truest form of enduro, just lungs and legs against the hill!

It would be a brave team that would pioneer the decision to take the moral high ground and shun shuttling, while other rival teams take advantage of the performance benefits for their riders. Indeed, one of the elite riders who podiumed at Punta Ala decided not to shuttle in the conspicuous team van for fear of being seen to be elitist. It is evident that if enduro wants to keep the playing field fair and accessible to all, then the question of shuttling needs to be addressed. Either the use of vehicles off road needs to be prohibited to riders or made available to all! With every event being different, enforcement of shuttling would be tough, but perhaps by simply outlawing off-road shuttling as a practice tool, riders will self police in fear of being labelled as cheating. As it stands, the grey area will always be abused, and those with the support of 4x4s will inevitably enjoy more practice and fresh legs for race day! Perhaps it is time for the big teams to lead by example, leave the 4×4’s in the paddock and prove that their riders have the legs and lungs to dominate the events without outside assistance. Enduro needs to be wary of being viewed as just a string of DH races in one day and recapture its roots of rewarding riders who can demonstrate lightning quick downhill speed with the strength and stamina to complete a tough course, including pedalling the practice.

In the dust and sweat of Punta Ala, a new era of enduro racing has been forged, the format like steel still needs hammering and shaping, but it has begun! Whether shuttling needs to be a part of the new format is up to those with the power to enforce!

If you have an opinion on using 4×4’s to shuttle, pop over to our Facebook page and let us know what you think!

Words and photos: Trev Worsey

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