With the release of the dates for the Enduro World Series set for tomorrow, we managed to grab a few words with ex-pro downhill racer turned ex-UCI technical delegate, Chris Ball, on his involvement in the coming series and the growth of the enduro discipline as a whole.
The idea of a global series has been no secret since Chris and the French and Italian series’ promoters began talking about a UCI world series over a year ago, but having recently left the UCI, Chris tells me prior to our interview that everything has come together very last minute…
On with the interview:
So, why’s it all come together so last minute?
Well I left the UCI at the end of September and a lot of people think that I had plans in place already, but that wasn’t the case. I quit standing next to the bike wash on the Trans Provence…
People were speculating, saying you left the UCI just to do this, but you’re saying that wasn’t the case?
No, but within a couple of days I’d spoken to Fred Glo (French enduro series promoter) and Enrico Guala (Italian Super Enduro series promoter) to see what we could do. At the same time Darren from Crankworx got in touch and we all just said ‘right, lets try and do something together’. It’s just gone from there really.
Were the other guys going to be involved in the UCI deal?
Dates are to be released tomorrow?
Yep, tomorrow morning Canadian time, around 9/10 their time, so sometime in the evening our time.
Why Canadian time? Are Crankworx the main drivers behind this then?
No, it’s just because we’re trying to spread resources so we’re using their PR guys to get the word about. Fred, Enrico and I have all been pretty busy and they’ve got their PR guys in-house so it makes sense to use them. Obviously they’re on a different time zone to us so we’ve pretty much got a 24hour working day…
So you’re full-time on this?
Yeah, well I pretty much am. I’m cutting back everything else but still trying to hand stuff over and see how things go. Financially I can’t do this on its own because we don’t have any money.
What’s your job role?
I’ve been called the Managing Director. The company’s been set up here in Edinburgh (Note: Chris is calling me from his office/living room…). There are four equal share-holders; Fred, Enrico, Crankworx and I.
So it’s going to be pretty Euro-based with a couple of North American rounds?
Yeah, there’s a couple of reasons for that; one is that we had only five weeks to organise a world series, there’s obviously a limit to what you can do with that and our organisers already have the biggest events in the discipline; and reason two is that’s where enduro is up to at a world level – the best events are in Europe and nowhere else is really up to that level yet. Enduro’s pretty much in its developmental stages still, we all agree that. It’s new even in France and Italy even though it’s in its ninth or tenth year.
It’s set to be a seven round series, correct?
So are Enrico’s Super Enduro staff going to be working on it?
Yeah and Fred’s… We’re just going to be a company pooling together the different events. The Super Enduro will remain the same, so too the French series and Crankworx. The idea is that we won’t have any major sponsors so that each event can have its own, we’ll just bring coordination, we’ll work as a body to over-see and pull everything together so that each event can grow itself.
So there’ll be different formats for different races?
Yeah we want to pull everything as central as possible. We want there to be a light rule book that keeps a bit of creativity in there so that it’s not too rigid but so that there’s a defined format of enduro. There won’t be any mass-start events for example, only rally-style, minimal stages but not too restrictive.
So a world-tour like the Freeride World Tour bringing events together. Will all riders be entitled to enter or does that mean it will be elite only?
We haven’t released any of the info about the rules yet but our aims are to keep it as open as possible because we all believe that enduro is about participation. We want it to be so that you could enter and race Nico or I could enter and race Fabien or Joe Bloggs could enter and race everyone. We want to keep that spirit.
So you won’t be racing any then?
Unfortunately not! I did race the Trans Provence this year though which was amazing.
So will there be any lifts/uplifts used?
Yes some use of them. I think the whole point of Enduro is that you can adapt it to best suit the trails in that area. If that means you use a chairlift or you don’t it’s all good.
Are we going to see any races in the UK?
You’ll find out tomorrow.
Timing of the events – each organiser is going to supply their own timing then?
Timing will be a big point of what we try to take control of. Partly because the way we are trying to do it is because we want some flexibility, partly because we’re trying to start a whole world series in five weeks. But eventually we’ll take hold of that.
I don’t think mountain bikes should ever have any restrictions. I hate the whole road cycling ‘bans on saddle tilts etc.’ and some people have asked me if 29ers will have a different category etc. but I think that is nonsense, it should be completely open to whatever someone has to ride for that event. I don’t think we’re going to allow bike changes though, that defeats the whole spirit of it.
How are the UCI seeing this?
Fine. We’re not against them in any way, shape or form. Loads of people have asked if we’re setting up in opposition or defiance, but we’re not at all. They had the chance, they didn’t do it, the sport needed it, lots of people wanting it, and what we’re doing is setting up an association that might be a model that totally flops, that doesn’t work, but it might be something they want to work with in the future. We’re just doing our own thing and doing the best for enduro and if the UCI want to get involved in the future then so be it. So far I’ve only had positive word from them, I spoke to the guys in the office last week.
So the best thing for the sport is the priority then?
With the whole no sponsorship thing, what we’ll need to do is to get small amounts of financial support from as many brands as possible so that we become entirely funded by the industry and that’ll mean that we are entirely responsible in using that money in the best way possible for the sport.
Are you going to allow people to cut corners?
(At this point our conversation descended somewhat, particularly taking a slant toward potential corner-cutting punishments… We think that anyone found to be cutting turns should be put in the Enduro World Series stocks and pelted with rotten vegetables, any other suggestions let us know below…)
Keep a beady eye on the Enduro World Series’ Facebook page for news as it comes.