How come a sport invented in Europe is dying on its arse over here but thriving in the US of A?
The last 10 days have been flat-out busy for me. Heading into Europe on two separate occasions to do a number of pre-season photoshoots and rider interviews, I’ve spent time catching up with and chatting to some of the biggest names in enduro sport. I’m talking about the likes of Knight, Blazusiak, Aubert, Renet, Mena, Salminen, Meo, Guillaume, Seistola and more…
For this is an important time of year for everyone. Each getting ready in their own personal way, all are either testing or ‘fair weather’ riding or both. Some have refreshed motivation thanks to joining a new team, others relieved to be sticking with what they know. For some the start of the international season can’t come soon enough.
Almost without exception – and completely unprompted by myself – just about all riders touched upon the subject of the Indoor Enduro World Championship, or the 60-minute world series as one rider jokingly referred to it. All were disappointed that the proposed five-round championship ended up cut to two rounds and even those that aren’t overly enamoured by the indoor discipline were well aware that the premature end to the series wasn’t a positive one for enduro sport in general.
What was interesting to hear was a large proportion of the riders saying the same things with many keen to understand exactly why the series flopped so spectacularly. With most wanting a decent indoor series, trying to work out how to fix things and what the best way forward might be regarding any future championships was important.
It’s clear that a few things need to change. Firstly, with current promoters RPM Racing rumoured to be handing back their responsibilities to the FIM a new promoter needs to be found – and fast. The FIM might take on that role themselves as they do with the Indoor Trials World Championship which would be fine. But with several riders questioning the thinking behind some of the ‘rules’ applied to this year’s championship, confidence in the FIM’s ability to move things forward and sort things out wasn’t exactly overwhelming.
Just about all riders agreed that running the championship across the Christmas break didn’t work. Most seemed to think that a more supercross-like schedule would be better with either three or four events taking place within a six-week period. Keeping things short, sharp and concise – and completed at least two weeks before the Christmas break – is what most see as one of the best ways forward.
Of the two events that did run it was generally considered that one was exactly what is needed and the other a good example of what’s not wanted. The Genoa event was night and day better as far as most riders were concerned due to a faster, more flowing track around which riders could race. Barcelona by comparison – and despite the organiser’s considerable experience – was too much like a long trials section. Indoor enduro racing does need to include a multitude of different ‘off-road’ obstacles but without the racing element can become processional and uninteresting.
The length of races, the time between races and many other details need to be sorted out in order to deliver a better show but unless any and all future tracks offer enjoyable and exciting racing then there’s little future for the sport. Having retired trials riders dominating the proceedings – which they certainly don’t do in the Enduro World Championship – shouldn’t happen as it has done at some races. Equally, tracks that are little more than watered down supercross circuits aren’t what’s wanted either.
Mixing the right amount of technical difficulty while also delivering tracks that can be raced around, just as a rider would with an outdoor special test, seems to be key to not only entertaining the spectators but also boosting rider numbers.
So where do things go from here? Has indoor enduro had its day in Europe? Will a stronger series be born from the mess that is the 2011 Indoor Enduro World Championship? Will the idea of an indoor championship simply get scrapped and replaced by a return to independently promoted races?
Making things even more frustrating for many riders is the fact that the discipline that was born in Europe and which has hit a massive low-point is thriving in the States. In 2011 endurocross will be included in X Games for the first time ever while the regular endurocross series marches on successfully.