Winning an Enduro
Youíve got your bike dialed in. You are in great shape. You have the timekeeping setup on your handlebars and you took a nice healthy dump this morning. Nothing stands between you and the high point trophy except for Mike Lafferty. Youíve already let the air out of his tires, loosened up his spark plug, and put a whole can of instant country time lemonade in his gas can on the gas truck. You are set.
Well, thereís more to learn than just how to be good at log crossings to win at this time keeping thing. While I wonít go into all the techniques of trail riding, I will give you a few tips that some very "fast" A riders gave me.
Listen to your body. Donít be a statistic and end up being the guy whoís wife gets your end of year trophy posthumously, by pushing yourself too hard. But remember thereís a lot of guys resting and slowing down. At any given point on the trail, no matter how many AA riders go past you, you are still #1 in your class. All the way until the cards go up on the scoreboard. Keep pushing, ride smart, stay upright and donít stop to rest unless you are caught up at a reset.
If the posted speed average is well below your skill level, ride faster than the posted average, but pay attention to your odometer and the mileage markers on the trail. Ride up to 0.1 miles short of the next possible check and THEN look out! Do not go around corners blind, and remember, the club is allowed to be 1/10th off on the mileage of the checkpoint, so be careful going past the possible checkpoint mileage for another tenth before you wick it back up to the next possible. Leave the gas stop early and ride out to 0.1 miles short of the first possible check. Remember, 2 in 3 out.
Riding possibles gives you the advantage of having just a little extra time through the rock section or the mudhole, or the insane hill climb that is taking time from every other rider who is riding on time. Give yourself the time to lose, without losing the points as well.
Try to come in to all check-ins as close to the top of your minute (00 seconds) as possible. Seconds saved at the check in can save seconds at the check out of a test section.
Study the route sheet before the event.
Major turns are listed on the route sheet. Study the route sheet and use it to anticipate where checks are likely to be placed. Most clubs will check you into and out of tough sections. Usually a check out will be placed immediately prior ot a reset. Check in checkpoints can be anticipated by looking at the route sheet which lists the major turns. Look for turns off of roads or dirt roads, wheree you know you will be on time, into long trail sections. The check in will usually be at the first possible location (whole tenth, whole minute) after the turn onto the trail.
Here are some common abbreviations used on route sheets:
WT = Woods Trail
DR = Dirt Road
TR = Tar Road
BT = Black Top
X = Crossing
L = Left
R = Right
FC = Fire Cut
RR = Rail Road
Interpreting the information on the route sheet will help you plan your race and prepare yourself mentally for pushing early or saving energy. You can see how long the test sections are going to be, and determining where a club might likely place checks is not that hard. Use some highlighters on your roll chart to give yourself some notice at those possibles where you think the club is likely to place a checkpoint.
For example here is a small section of a route sheet and how to predict where a check in might be.
12.5 RBT Right on black top
12.8 XRR Cross Rail Road
13.5+ LBT Left on black top
14.8 RWT Right on woods trail (Good place for a check in to an obvious 6 mile woods section)
15.1 XFC Cross Fire Cut
16.9 LWT Left on woods trail
17.4+LWT Left on woods trail (the plus sign means the mile marker is between an even 1/10th)
18.8 RWT Right on woods trail
20.4 RBT Right on Black top road (Check out is likely at the last possible coming out of these woods)
23.8 Gas Stop
23.8 Reset to 38.6
Watch the checkpoint flags
When you approach a checkpoint, make sure you look at the checkpoint flags. A check crew can mark your time and act just like a timed checkpoint, with white flags, which indicate a observation check. You can get fooled by this old trick, and then leave the check into a 12 mph section riding very hot thinking you have 3 free miles, only to wind up in a timed checkpoint a mile down the trail. Observation checks can be placed anywhere on the trail and there is no associated free time and the checkpoint mileage separation factor does not apply to observation checks.
When you are riding possibles and come into a corner right at the top of your minute and see a check, look a the flag! If it is a green flag, it is an emergency check and you want to scrub off 30 seconds so you enter the check right at 00:30 seconds after your minute comes up. This can make the difference at trophy time, believe me.
Win the academy award for acting
If you do come around a corner hot and you know you canít possibly scrub all that time off, crash. The more dramatic, the better. Make a big show of trying your best to get up fast. Slip and fall back down, then get up quickly. Kick fast, move fast. Make it look believable like you are trying to get going quickly, only then do you slow ride into the check to be on time. You were screwed at the corner, and whether you get burned or not is only by the grace of the check point crew chief and you damn sure better give him a good show if you expect any mercy.
Calibrate your odometer
All odometers are not equal, and the official mileage markers are made using the enduro refereeís bike. If his odometer and yours donít match, you lose any arguments about the legal location of the checkpoint in protest. Every time you pass a mileage marker on the trail, adjust your odometer to match the posted mileage marker. Some electronic odometers will automatically re-calibrate your wheel size to match the official bike. Your odometer needs to match the clubís official mileage in order to successfully ride possibles.
Watch for mileage markers
Letís just say your odometer got calibrated at the first mile marker from the start and has been spot on for the whole race. Donít ignore the mileage markers after that. The rules state that there must be a mileage marker 3 tenths before a check, so when you see those mileage markers, the club may have selected the next few tenths of a mile for a possible checkpoint. Pay close attention if you are riding possibles.