With a steady influx of hungry young riders into the world of enduro the future’s looking bright for off-road racing…
Studying the start list for any given round of the Enduro World Championship isn’t something I normally spend too much time doing. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I gave one more than a quick glance. But when the latest start list appeared in my inbox I decided a closer look might be the right thing to do, just to get the lie of the land ahead of the season opener…
Scrolling down through the four-page document there wasn’t too much that caught my eye as far as the Enduro 1 class was concerned. It’s the experience of seven-time world champ Juha Salminen versus a lot of fast and hungry youngsters in the 250F category. Enduro 2 is full of plenty of big names and looks set to be a thriller with the most notable newcomer Estonian motocross racer Aigar Leok who’s giving the woods game a go for 2011. Meanwhile, it’s the Enduro 3 class where British interest lies as Knighter takes on Ahola and a plethora of two-stroke mounted chargers.
It was actually the Enduro Junior class that caught my eye. Not so much because it’s ‘stacked’ with big-name riders – it is the junior category after all – but because it has no fewer than 61 riders entered. That’s close to the total entered into the E1, E2 and E3 classes combined!
It’s no secret that the opening race of the season always attracts a larger than normal entry. And with this year’s being just north of Barcelona it’s a very accessible event for all concerned. But 61 riders takes some believing. Riders from just about every European country are represented with some from much further afield making it an interesting and likely exciting class to keep an eye on.
So what? Well, if nothing else it shows that there is plenty of interest in enduro from Europe’s yoofs. While the European Enduro Championship has long attracted a strong youth element, the number of under 23s in the world champs has fluctuated between good, poor and now very strong indeed. How many will compete in more than just a few events this season is yet to be seen and the number that will go on and regularly compete in the senior classes of the EWC is another thing altogether – but for now things look good.
Things also look good in the UK. Very good in fact. Whereas in the past it’s not always been clear where the British Enduro Championship stars of tomorrow will come from, with just one BEC and four rounds of the Husqvarna ACU British Sprint Enduro Championship so far run it’s clear for all to see that there’s a plentiful supply of talent emerging in our green and pleasant land.
Getting youngsters interested in enduro sport isn’t the easiest thing in the world but it’s great to see that there are plenty of late teen and early 20-somethings taking up the challenge of the woods game today. Once the preserve of the more mature rider, enduro – like all sports – won’t prosper if there’s not a constant flow of enthusiastic and passionate newcomers streaming into it.
The most encouraging thing as far as the UK enduro scene is concerned is that as well as a high number of extremely fast Under 23 class riders, the next generation of starlets is eagerly waiting in the wings with many already showing their pedigree in the Under 19 class of the BSEC.
One thing I’m confident of is that Great Britain will enjoy increased success at the International Six Days Enduro in the years ahead. Getting into the Junior Trophy Team will be as difficult, if not more difficult, than securing a slot in the Trophy Team this year and likely in coming years too.
For the last few years there’s not been too many young riders stepping forward and showing that they have what it takes to mix it with European rivals. The likes of Daryl Bolter, Si Wakely and Greg Evans have all secured European titles and hats off to them for doing so but it’s been a case of one rider reaching the top in any given year, then a wait of a couple of years before they’re replaced.
With the right backing, encouragement and with time to settle into international level competition it’s not an unthinkable proposition that riders from the UK could soon be lifting one, two, maybe even more, titles in a single season. And delivering solid Junior Trophy results at the ISDE as well.
What’ll hold many of them back is funding – not having the finances to match their talents – but if raw talent alone is an indication of what some of these young British riders might achieve things are looking good for enduro sport in the UK…