10 Questions With Enduro World Series Race Director, Chris Ball

10 Questions With Enduro World Series Race Director, Chris Ball

This weekend the 3rd round of the 2014 Enduro World Series will be rolling in Valloire, France and as part of the lead up, Blurred has been lucky enough to grab a bit of time from Race Director Chris Ball.

Here's what he's had to say about the battles for overall leadership, essentials for competitors, why enduro racing is brilliant and possibly (just possibly) fuelling a rumour for the location of a southern hemisphere event..

Two events down into the 2014 EWS so far, any highlights for you from Chile or Scotland?
Highlights so far for me have revolved mainly around the atmosphere at each event and the discovery of new places to ride and new communities of riders. There’s been some amazing racing too, with Nico’s first win in Tweedlove and Jerome’s incredible race to catch Jared at round 1.  Also been amazing to see two young guys, Nicolai and Maes challenging for the top step, and Leov learning the ropes and starting to really perform. It’s also been great seeing the battle resume between the three women, Moseley, Chausson and Ravanel.

Watching everyone competing, do you sometimes wish you could just quietly enter under an assumed name? If you did, what would your alias name be and what would be on the bio?
I’d love to have a go one day. As for alias, I’d probably go for Dark Cloud Crew. So that people aren’t sure which member of the crew it is and everyone is expecting a disaster. No pressure! 

What's the most innovative piece of tech you have seen on an EWS riders bike, or a rider has been using?
I think the new suspension and efficiency designs are really starting to come out of the woodwork but as for innovation, Gracia’s fix on Maes saddle at round 2, where they used an old inner tube to tie it all together after a crash has to be the most cutting edge. 

Can you name three items a competitor must pack for each event... aside from essentials, like say... their bike!
Essentials? Flip flops, beer cooler and sunglasses. 

What three items do you make sure you have packed?
I once forgot my wheel axles on a trip, leaving me stranded so they always get double checked. Otherwise it’s camera and hip flask.

Chris, you are in a unique position. You get to witness amazing EWS competitors, who come from a variety of competitive backgrounds, so you must know the answer... which wheel size is the best, 26", 27.5" or 29”?
I personally love 29 inch wheels and am surprised more guys don’t ride them, but 27.5 is of course well used by many. I think there’s too much emphasis on wheel size when people look at the results though. Most of the time, the top guys aren’t winning because of their wheels, they’re winning because of a multitude of tiny things and a big slice of skill and determination.

Each EWS event brings together quite a collection, there is, factory sponsored and supported riders, globe-trotting privateers and local riders who scrape together the entry fee. What have you observed from such a wide ranging mix of skills?
Everyone is learning from everyone, which is great and one of the goals of the whole exercise. When you remove assistance from a pro, it’s perceived as a big problem, but it makes them realise that that’s how 99% of mountain bikers ride all the time. On their own, responsible for themselves and just getting out and loving it. Likewise, when you race a wild high mountain trail, yes there are awkward sections, little climbs and bits you might have to walk but that’s mountain biking and that’s what non-racers often do every weekend. For the amateurs, it’s also a unique way to actually experience what can be done on a bike and that’s often pretty inspiring to someone who only rides with the same group of friends. So, overall, I hope the cross fertilisation of pro and am is really opening eyes. Even if it’s just a little bit.

If an EWS event is coming to your town and you secure a place to compete, what key skills and training should a rider focus on?
First up you need to be able to ride your bike for a long time. And, with multiple stages, the fitter you are, the more fun you’ll have and less mistakes you’ll make. A lot of riders focus on training for the high intensity of the stages, but forget that they have to often ride for 8+ hours. So, you need power, but you also need endurance. Preparation is also key. You’re equipment should be tested and any eventuality played out in your head. Where’s your inner tube? What happens if you snap a chain? What are the rules of the competition? Knowing the answer to all of this will give you a better result and a more relaxed weekend.

As a mountain bike category, enduro seems to have exploded, why do you his has happened? Does it help people understand what type of bike they need/want to buy
I think formally it’s brought mountain biking back into mountain bike racing. Cliche yes, but it is a competitive version of what most riders do all the time. Hopefully that’s made it easy to relate to. In terms of purchasing, I guess it’s showed the capabilities of the amount of incredible 140mm - 160mm (ish) travel bikes on the market. 

How would you rate the chance of an EWS event being hosted in New Zealand within the next couple of years?
There’s a very good chance. Watch this space.

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