It had all the ingredients of a disastrous event but the 85th ISDE defied its critics to be actually really rather good…
When it comes to the issues that surrounded this year’s International Six Days Enduro in Mexico, I hold my hand up and admit that I had some serious reservations about going.
Like many Enduro World Championship regulars I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the event as it came at the end of a long and busy season. Truthfully, the last thing I wanted to do was fly halfway around the world and spend near two weeks in a country that’s not exactly known for its enduro culture.
But even more so the thought of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – possibly getting caught up in a little drug gang on drug gang crossfire – didn’t exactly excite me. All things considered I wasn’t exactly pleased I had to go.
But the reality of the 85th six days is that it was a way better event than I’d envisaged it could be. Considerably better than many European-staged ISDEs from the past 10 years and every bit as good as last year’s competition in Portugal. So from a sporting perspective I have to say the FIM were right to have appointed the event to South America. Before I went I wasn’t so sure. With a huge amount of time, effort and money consumed by project ISDE Mexico, the organisers left no stone unturned in order to deliver a truly first class event.
With fears concerning security playing a big part in the decision not to compete made by both the British and Australian teams, much if not all pre-event talk and speculation was negative. Would the event be any good? Would Mexico’s problems with drug cartels affect the event? Would riders, support crews and media be safe?
With five good days and one cancelled day the event clearly wasn’t without its problems. But the cancellation of day six wasn’t really seen as any problem at all by most competitors. With the first five days – arguably the five most important days – run without incident and very few accidents, worries surrounding security couldn’t have been further from people’s minds. Nothing got stolen, no-one felt threatened by unsavoury locals and for the first five days pretty much everyone was enjoying their time in Mexico.
The cancellation of day six was a massive disappointment for the organisers and the FIM. But in the same way as I believe running the event in Mexico was the right thing to do, cancelling the race was also the right thing to do. More so, the way in which the FIM acted – which was quickly and decisively – is to be applauded. Having made a mess of ‘tricky’ situations in the past, due largely to indecision, in Mexico they acted swiftly and professionally. Just as an international governing body should.
Exactly what happened to cause the cancellation of the final day isn’t 100 per cent clear. But what is clear is that it was very much a case of outside events affecting the ISDE. Although unlikely, it could have happened in any country. Giving those who stayed away the ammunition to say ‘told you so’, the reality of the situation in Mexico is that security really wasn’t an issue at all.
Looking back on the whole situation one thing is crystal clear – that the internet is a massively, massively powerful tool nowadays. One that can seemingly make or break an event. For every ‘everything will be fine, no-one should worry about security’ press release issued by the FIM or event organisers, the web was filled with stories warning of the dangers of travelling to Mexico. Add to that the fact that chatroom gossip and inaccurate information spreads like wildfire and it’s easy to see that holding back the tide of negative information is a colossal task.
One other thing that was clear in Mexico is that the event has to start attracting the very best riders and nations again. And soon. With only one of this year’s Enduro World Champions competing and with some key nations staying home, the event will never be great unless all are united.
Running the event every two years is one way of increasing the chances of that happening and an option that now seems to be getting talked about by the powers that be. Offering riders and teams the opportunity to ‘save up’ and organise things for what could become a bi-annual event means the six days might start to mean more resulting in better-supported events, especially if long-haul races are to feature more and more.