Epic Enduro bike event to make Park City debut
Dodging pesky rocks and weaving around leaning tree trunks is on the menu. Ditto for bolting down an elaborate series of mountain trails at 30 miles per hour with nothing but a firm grip on the brake lever.
In recent years, Park City has morphed into a mountain-bike Mecca of sorts, and today joins the busy summer schedule as the inaugural Bell Wasatch Enduro race — a 17-mile, six-stage contest — makes its debut at Canyons Resort. The event is part of the North American Enduro Tour. Park City joins Santa Cruz, Calif., Winter Park, Colo., and Whistler, British Columbia, as sites hosting one of hottest new styles of mountain-bike racing in America.
Birthed and developed in Europe, Enduro racing is a unique format for racing on dirt. The Enduro is a six-stage event that is expected to last from 9 a.m. — today’s starting time — until as late as 6 p.m.
Ali Goulet, a former professional snowboarder who has transitioned to racing mountain bikes around the globe, is the race director for the Bell Wasatch Enduro. He said Enduro racing has caught fire due to its flexibility for competitors and style of race.
Enduro racing is based on how fast riders can shoot down the single-track dirt trails. Goulet said hill climbs aren’t timed, which is inviting to any level of mountain biker.
"The physical portion of this is going as hard as you can and it means you’re sprinting around corners and when you get to the bottom, you feel it. It’s as hard as anything anyone has ever done," he said. "But when you climb, you’re not penalized for being four pounds overweight or having a 12-pound race rig. The average guy, who likes to climb and who enjoys downhill riding, doesn’t need to have a specialized bike.
"It’s either as physically demanding as you want it to be as an athlete, or just a great day to challenge your buddies to see who can have the fastest time. On the climb, you’re not gasping for air. It’s not a ‘heads-down-I’m-going-to-get-you’ race."
According to the event website, racers will leave from the Canyons Resort Village in groups of five and climb to the first timed competition stage. For each competition stage, racers will be grouped according to category and sent off in 30-second intervals. After each competition stage, riders will make their way to the next competition stage to tackle the next stage.
Goulet, who competed in the Bell Super Enduro in Santa Cruz in April, has been globetrotting in Enduro fashion. He participated in the Inca Avalanche race in rural Peru as part of a 300-person mass start and descended a total of 5,000 feet, which included a 24-minute continual drop.
"It feels like a rollercoaster ride on the way down," he said.
According to Darren Muehlhaus, the event coordinator with Canyons Resort, this race, making its Utah debut, has been over 18 months in the making. After asking various mountain-bike and Enduro riders, he finally struck gold with Goulet and the North American Enduro Tour.
"Enduro is the fastest-growing of all disciplines of mountain biking in the race world," he said, "but it’s still relatively new in the States. This complements what we’re doing in our bike park with longer travels on bikes and longer descents."
For the race to be approved by the Snyderville Basin Recreation, Muehlhaus said he had to go through various steps due to the amount of trails that will be utilized. The Enduro will feature 1,300 feet of climbing and 3,200 of various technical descents. The race cap is expected to be 200 competitors and Muehlhaus said it will reach its max.
"It’s kind of cool to finally bring something like this together and it’s going to attract a really good market for us," he said. "It’s definitely going to be challenging, but it’s great to see it all come together. We are making this something the participants are excited about, too, so hopefully they’ll come back for more."
Goulet said he took a competitor, a female racer from France, out on some of the tracks Wednesday. She said it reminded her of an Italian Enduro style race.
"She described it as being very, very technical," he explained. "Most American Enduros are flowy and fast."
For Goulet, the first race will be an accomplishment both as an administrator and as a racer. He is planning on being among the 200 expected competitors.
"That’s the whole reason why I put this race together," he said. "People were ready and needing it. It definitely is the biggest event I’ve ever put on, and everything comes together because it has to."
For more information on the Bell Wasatch Enduro, visit http://www.bellwasatchenduro.com.
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Park City leaders have approved turning Main Street into a pedestrian zone on Sundays in the summer, an effort to boost business.