Norco Canadian Enduro Series (NCES) managing director Matt Holbrook hopes Mother Nature will be a little kinder this weekend than the last time the mountain bike race series rolled into town.
“We got rained on like crazy last year when we were [in Whistler last October], so we couldn’t use a lot of trails we wanted to use because of the time of year, because of the forecast,” he explained. “This year, we’ve backed the race up a full month, so we’re hoping for nice weather … if we’re good to go, then we’re going to have access to some amazing trails.”
Even with the moved-up date, the Whistler event marks the final stop of the 2022 series as well as the Norco Canadian Enduro Championships. Holbrook is expecting to see more than 300 riders take to the yet-to-be-announced course when the championships kick off on Saturday, Sept. 24. The one hint Holbrook offered? “There’s a lot more elevation than last year,” he said.
Since June, the NCES has already made five stops total between the Island and the Rockies, spread across four B.C. destinations plus Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass.
“We weren’t sure what the uptake was going to be coming out of the pandemic, obviously,” said Holbrook. “We managed to pull off six events including this one this weekend. So it’s been good. I mean, numbers were down a little bit in some areas, but really I attribute that to gas prices. People didn’t want to travel all across the province when the price of gas was $2.20 to $2.30 a litre and we heard that loud and clear.”
With categories stretching from U15 to 50+ to pro, there are plenty of names scattered among the results lists from previous events that will be familiar to local mountain bikers, from sponsored racers to weekend warriors. Holbrook said organizers are expecting “close to a sellout” crowd of between 300 and 350 total riders on-course in Whistler this weekend. That said, “our bread and butter right now is U21,” he said. “That’s our biggest category, generally.”
This is Holbrook’s first full season at the helm of the NCES, after purchasing the event formerly known as the BC Enduro Series from founder Ted Morton last summer. Though this year’s series wasn’t an Enduro World Series qualifier due to scheduling disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, revisiting that relationship is something that’s on the table for future years, as is expanding the series to events in Eastern provinces.
This weekend, riders will race a couple of stages Saturday afternoon before finishing Stages 3 to 6 of the course the following day, with a Saturday night riders’ dinner breaking up the hard work over the full-weekend event. Racers will tackle about 14 kilometres of trail spread across the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and throughout the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s trail network over the six stages. There’s also a four-stage short course available that is—you got it—shorter, but not necessarily easier in terms of skill level.
This year’s NCES series is offering thousands in total prize money (overall male and female podium riders earn $1,500 for first place, $750 for second and $500 for third at each event) but there is a way for young, local mountain bikers to save a few bucks on their registration fees other than winning: event sponsor Concord Pacific, which owns Whistler’s Sundial Hotel, is offering 50-per-cent subsidized entries for up to 50 U21 racers living in the Sea to Sky corridor, from Squamish to Pemberton, for this weekend’s event. Registration for the Whistler race costs between $139 and $219 depending on course and age division.
“We’re an expensive race to put on,” Holbrook acknowledged. “We have huge costs for insurance and staffing and marking the trails and resort fees and all those other things that go into putting on a big event … so for Concord to be able to subsidize some of those costs to the riders is huge.”
Partial registration proceeds from the NCES will also help fund local trail maintenance projects, while all racers will be required to have a WORCA membership ahead of this weekend’s NCES race.
The NCES’ Whistler stop is also seeking more volunteers. In return for their time, those individuals get food and swag, plus free entry to a future NCES event for themselves or a 75-per-cent discount code for their child or partner. Head to canadianenduro.com for more information.