The Duluth Enduro Series: why I’m now hooked on mountain bike enduro racing

Duluth Enduro Series 2015I tried a few XC mountain bike races back in 2011 when I first started mountain biking and while I enjoyed the atmosphere of the races, I didn’t really enjoy the riding that much, as it seemed to be 90% aerobic endurance, not my forte.  I began to equate ‘endurance’ with ‘suffering’ and haven’t competed in any XC mtb races since.

So when I started learning about mountain bike enduro racing last year and that COGGS was again hosting a Duluth Enduro Series in 2015 for members, I became intrigued because of the format. The way they explain it:

Enduro uses a time trial format with racers starting special stages 30 seconds to a minute apart. There are two types of stages: Timed stages (or Special Stages) and Transits. All of the Timed stages will factor into your final place. Timed stages are mostly downhill, but will have a few flat sections or small climbs. Transits require riders to make it to the start of the next timed stage within a given time, however there’s no benefit to finishing the Transit faster than your competitors.

The Wikipedia entry for Enduro mountain biking nails the rationale for me because of the emphasis on technical features, more my forte:

Enduro is a form of Mountain bike racing in which there is a greater proportion of downhill sections, which are timed, to uphill and cross country sections. This aims to test rider’s technical bike handling skills as well as providing endurance and climbing.

But since I live in southern Minnesota, a 3+ hour drive from Duluth, and since the Duluth Enduro Series races are held on Wednesday nights, I didn’t give too much thought to actually competing.

On Wednesday morning, June 10, a massive rain system was moving towards southern MN and forecast to cover most of Wisconsin on Thursday. I had been planning to head to the IMBA Great Lakes Summit in Marquette, MI on Thursday but decided to take a detour to Duluth to avoid the rain and sample some of the COGGS trails that I’d never ridden. I posted a note about my intentions to my Facebook profile timeline at 3pm:

I’m on my way to Duluth this afternoon, hoping to avoid the monsoon rains that are heading for southern Minnesota and Wisconsin tomorrow. Hope to ride Brewer Park etc at around 6pm.

45 minutes later I got this reply from my COGGS buddy Rudy O’Brien:

You’re not gonna ride in the enduro?

My response:

I forgot about it! And now I’m not going to make it in time, I don’t think. Shit!

I did make it to the registration table at the Piedmont trail head on Hutchinson Rd with 3 minutes to spare. I promised Board member and Ride Coordinator Dave Cizmas that I would join COGGS the next day (membership required to participate), suited up and got to the Piedmont overlook for Stage 1 just in time:

That's me, #49, Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont Overlook; Caleb Wendel on the far right James Sajdak, Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont Overlook Far left: Daniel Cosgrove; far right: Adam Sundberg. Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont Overlook

Amanda Brennan and Carl Paulson; Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont Overlook Dave Cizmas, Ride Coordinator, Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont Overlook

The  routes:

  • Stage 1: Medropolis to Shortcut to Skyline
  • Transit to 2: Snowmobile trail to Lower Burner to Snowmobile trail
  • Stage 2: Red Dress to Old School trail to powerlines to trail next to Rickety Cricket to Diablo to Lower Burner

The map:

2015 Duluth Enduro Series 1 map

Stage 1 was just as I’d hoped: technical, mostly downhill, fun. I kept my seat post down the whole way.  It took me 4-5 minutes. Pete Stone’s photo of me descending one of the many rock drops on Medropolis:

Griff Wigley, Duluth Enduro Series 1, photo 1 by Pete Stone

After Stage 1, I was relieved that there was no big rush to ‘transit’ back to the top for Stage 2. I forced myself to socialize with these fellow competitors:

L to R: Kelly Erbach, Pam Schmitt, Katie O'Hearn Olson, Tiffany Edholm. Bottom of Stage 1, Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont

The scene at the start of Stage 2:

Among the competitors: Caleb Wendel, Eric J Olson, Mason Bacso. Start of Stage 2, Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont  Dee Clouse Bartlam, start of Stage 2, Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont

Back in April when I rode Piedmont’s NIMBY cluster, I made a few tentative runs down this section of Dr. Diablo with the wood drop closely followed by the rock jump:

Dr. Diablo segment, COGGS Piedmont MTB trail, Duluth Dr. Diablo segment, COGGS Piedmont MTB trail, Duluth

Dr. Diablo segment, COGGS Piedmont MTB trail, Duluth Dr. Diablo segment, COGGS Piedmont MTB trail, Duluth

It was tricky because if I didn’t land the first drop perfectly in control, there was little time to set up for the rock jump. I never was able to get the hang of it.  So I gulped in the middle of Stage 2 when I saw that it was included. As you can see in Pete Stone’s photo of me coming off the rock, my eyes were bugging out:

Griff Wigley, Duluth Enduro Series 1, photo 2 by Pete Stone

I actually came off the wood drop in good shape for the rock but my seat post was up. It came up and hit me in the nether regions and I almost lost it. Yeah, I know, I need a dropper post.

Stage 2 required more pedaling than Stage 1 which is why I had my seat post up, but it was just as technical and just as fun.  It took me 4-5 minutes. My combined time for the two stages: 10:55, good for 45th place (of 51 total – results below). So yeah, I sucked, but I’m glad I did it. With better preparation, some practice runs, and a full-suspension bike, I could see myself moving up a spot or two when I get a little older. 😉

The scene afterwards:

COGGS Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont trail head, Hutchinson Rd, Duluth COGGS Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont trail head, Hutchinson Rd, Duluth COGGS Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont trail head, Hutchinson Rd, Duluth

COGGS Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont trail head, Hutchinson Rd, Duluth COGGS Duluth Enduro Series, Piedmont trail head, Hutchinson Rd, Duluth Dave Cizmas, Rudy O'Brien, Max Fierek

I don’t know how many more of the 2015 series I can make but I’m glad I did it and I’m motivated to do more. I’d like to compete in the Lake Superior Gravity Series next year.

You might be wondering about the wisdom of traveling a couple hundred miles for 10 minutes of actual time riding. No worries. For this trip, I spent 8 hours riding the COGGS trails in Brewer Park and Mission Creek the day after the race. Ideally, I’d arrive a day ahead of time to pre-ride the course, then stay in Duluth for a few days afterwards to ride more COGGS trails and do some lift-access mountain biking at Spirit Mountain which I have yet to do (note that they now have a dedicated website for mountain biking, or shuttle-service mountain biking at Mont du Lac.

See COGGS member Pete Stone’s Facebook album of dozens of photos of the Piedmont event:

Enduro photo album

The 2015 Duluth Enduro Series, June 10 Piedmont results:

scott kylander-johnson 0:06:58
buhrito 0:07:02
Casey Krueger 0:07:05
Samuel Olson 0:07:08
Eric Olson 0:07:13
Jake Richards 0:07:19
rudy o’brien 0:07:40
John Morrison 0:07:40
Rossaroni 0:07:43
Adam Sundberg 0:07:49
Harris Dirnberger 0:08:02
Max Fierek 0:08:10
Jethro Holladay 0:08:20
Shawn Buesgens 0:08:23
Ryan Mallek 0:08:23
Caleb Wendel 0:08:25
Curtr Cline 0:08:28
erik carlson 0:08:35
George Olson 0:08:39
Justin Martin 0:08:52
Eleanor Bacso 0:08:56
Andy Cheesebro 0:08:59
nate heydt 0:08:59
Zach Smith 0:09:02
cassidy olson 0:09:05
Paul Blom 0:09:08
Pam Schmitt 0:09:22
Michael Adamczak 0:09:23
Tiffany Edholm 0:09:26
John Henry Morrison 0:09:26
ed holladay 0:09:33
Charles Young 0:09:40
baylor litsey 0:09:41
Tim Stark 0:09:46
dee bartlam 0:09:46
Katie Olson 0:09:47
Danny Cosgrove 0:09:52
James Sajdak 0:09:55
Jason Giddings 0:10:13
Kelly Erbach 0:10:17
Matt Johnsrud 0:10:18
allen sanborn 0:10:27
Mason Bacso 0:10:41
Jay Sharpe 0:10:51
Griff Wigley 0:10:55
Carl Paulson 0:11:27
Neal Reynolds 0:11:31
Bryan Crum 0:11:44
greg smith 0:11:56
Kate Waring 0:13:25
Brian Hammond DNF

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3 thoughts on “The Duluth Enduro Series: why I’m now hooked on mountain bike enduro racing”

  1. Awesome…No trouble making it to the start line of stage 2 within your transit time? I am also highly attracted to this race format for the same reasons; however, the only enduro race I’ve taken part in yet was at last year’s Duluth Kruas/Anderson Bike Fest. And in my opinion and several other racers I talked to as we struggled up Spirit Mountain for the second and third time, the transit times were too tight.

  2. Clay, the transit was super-casual. We probably chatted for 10 minutes at the bottom before heading up at a leisurely pace, mostly hike-a-bike. And then it was probably another 20 minutes once we got to the top of Stage 2 before I rode.

    But this was a COGGS event, super informal. I’m guessing the BikeDuluth Festival event and Lake Superior Series have to more stringent to keep things on track.

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