Enduro races have two stories: one which sees riders and race organisers battling to conquer the national and international scene and the other which is led by weekend warriors and amateur riders who are after more than just risking their lives on bone-shakingly tough race circuits. For those guys and girls, there’s one series that captures the essence of a great racing weekend, and it goes by the name of Trail Trophy. We set about finding out its secret.
Whether it’s a small-scale start-up or a huge multinational, every business needs to answer the crucial question of “What do our clients actually want?” And while it’s time for every enduro race organiser to do the same, there’s one man with enough business acumen to have already done this: enter Thomas Schlecking, the man behind the Trail Trophy series. With five races across Germany, Austria, and Switzerland each summer, the Trail Trophy series began back in 2008, long before the current enduro hype and without any real financial aspirations.
But what is it that renders the series so successful?
To answer this question properly, first ask yourself: Why do we even race? Of course, we want to be competitive, challenge ourselves against other riders, push our own limits, and stand on the start line with adrenaline coursing through our veins. Focused purely on the here and now, we’ll cross the finish line pumped with satisfaction or frustration.
But that’s just one reason, and it applies just as well to XC or marathon races. Enduro, however, has yet another attraction: the experience. That’s why we do this sport – it’s about the fun of discovering new trails, whether they’re flowing, technical, rocky, or covered in roots. The experience is shared with our mates; we’re battling them on the stages, but we’re creating something together at the same time. Solving problems, suffering on those unforgiving, steep climbs, and celebrating at the end. In short, it’s about community, and it’s this community spirit that makes enduro such an amazing sport… although it’s often pushed to the peripheries in more and more race series.
The key to success
The essence of community at the Trail Trophy series is hard to pinpoint, as so many factors contribute to its success. The race format is one such feature, as you’re shredding some of the greatest trails around for several days in a row without having trained on them before. As there’s no training, the pressure on each competitor is reduced. You’re unlikely to find anyone sitting in their hotel room, meticulously scouring the previous day’s GoPro material for mistake-ridden lines, nor will anyone be stood on the start, muttering to themselves as they visualize their line choices for the day.
Far more tangible is the sense of excited anticipation and assurance that riders will be dipping into one amazing trail after another. At the first day’s Riders’ Meeting, the organizer Schlecking personally outlines the general characteristics of the stages and highlights any tricky sections in addition to explaining the weekend’s schedule. There are stages ridden during the daytime as well as timed nighttime runs. And trust us, riding past screaming fans armed with chainsaws in the dark is an experience that’s hard to beat.
Race Mode = Party Mode
The Trail Trophy races tend to run for at least two, if not three, days. With the objective of uniting the riders for as much as possible over the weekend, the organisers kit the start and finish zone up with a seating area, a small expo, and bonfires. Each rider receives food vouchers, which gives them the luxury of tasting local specialties, and the drinks flow.
It’s not surprising that many riders stay up late into the night chatting bikes and breaking out some dance moves. Stories are swapped, new friends are made, and plans for the next race are shared – enduro, as a sport, couldn’t be more celebrated on these occasions.
Races like the Enduro World Series are important; they continue to stimulate the bike industry to develop by providing the ideal testing ground for new materials and delivering perfect, nail-bitingly tough stages on which pro riders can race against stiff competition. In short: they represent the Formula 1 of enduro. But if your name isn’t Michael Schumacher, and you’d just like a chilled-out weekend of racing with professional timekeeping, challenging stages, and a chance to race your buddies, then it’s time to enter at least one of the rounds of the 2016 Trail Trophy. These races are where you’ll find everything we love about enduro – and as soon as you pick up your starting number, you’ll know exactly what we mean.
Read more about the Trail Trophy 2016 dates and venues.
Further information on the Trail Trophy website.
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Dennis Stratmann, Paul Masukowitz, Manfred Stromberg
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