With a blend of cross-country technical riding and gravity-fuelled descents, enduro races seem like the perfect fit for the diverse trails of the Sea to Sky corridor. But aside from a smattering of local of races each summer, there haven't been a ton of the races to go around in the region.
Enter the Sea to Sky Enduro Series, which kicks off its inaugural season on Saturday, May 2, with The Gryphon in Squamish, the first race of the brand new circuit.
The series is a joint venture of WORCA, the Pemberton Valley Trails Association, North Shore Mountain Bike Association and Squamish Enduro that is expected to draw healthy numbers of riders from the Sea to Sky and beyond.
"It's an idea I've kind of been thinking about for a few years, and I thought it would be good to do it before everyone's sick of enduro," laughed Clark Lewis, WORCA's director of downhill and special events.
"Everyone's excited.... There's been a lot of buzz, a lot of people talking about it. It's a pretty popular style of racing right now and people up to now have had to travel down to Washington and Oregon to do it, or even further."
One of those who has travelled regularly to find enduro races is Jesse Melamed — now a regular on the Enduro World Series since switching his focus from cross-country riding. Although his schedule abroad this year means he likely won't make it to all six stops on the series, Melamed was thrilled to see an enduro circuit developed locally.
"Honestly, I was kind of like, 'It's about time,'" said Melamed. "We've had a lot of cross-country and downhill races for a long time. It's good to see enduro finally coming about.
"I'm excited because we can showcase a lot more trails that weren't being shown in the other races. I think a lot of people are going to come out and enjoy the races."
Whistler and Squamish will both host two races on the schedule, while Pemberton and North Vancouver will each host one. Since the series is being put on by the local associations, all proceeds from the races will be put back into the trails themselves.
"(It's) a good opportunity to have a local series with a local flavour to raise money for our own trails, rather than having someone come in and do it from the outside for a profit," said Lewis.
The stages for each event will be revealed shortly before race day, which will help keep the trails in good shape for competition and eliminate some of the advantage for local riders who would have greater ability to practice, said Lewis.
Pemberton will host the second race of the series on May 17, and registration for that event is open at www.worca.com. Meanwhile, Whistler's races will take place on June 28 and July 26. Lewis said one race will be held completely within the Whistler Mountain Bike Park and run by Whistler Blackcomb to make up the toughest stop on the series. The other Whistler date is expected to feature a more mellow course outside the bike park.
"The one in the valley is going to be on pretty smooth, fast trails with lots of pedalling," said Lewis. "I've already got the course picked but I'm keeping it under wraps."
More than 150 riders are already registered for Saturday's season opener, and Lewis expects the level of competition to be strong.
"I think a lot of the local riders will do well on their own trails," he said. "We'll hopefully get some of the fast guys out to get the standard up a bit and get people going. But there will be a whole mix. I'm hoping we get lots of ladies and a bunch of juniors as well."
There will be pro men's and women's classes to appeal to the fastest riders, but the courses will be set with intermediate difficulty to accommodate bikers of varying skill levels.
The series will keep an aggregate points total over the summer in each competition class. It's likely that winners will receive 80 points, and each subsequent finisher will earn five points less on a descending scale. Riders will collect five points for participating, regardless of their placement.