8 Oct 2021

Toni Ferreiro’s five top tips for your first enduro race

Getting started in the world of enduro racing can be intimidating, but with these top tips from Merida pro athlete and world-class enduro racer Toni Ferreiro, you won’t need to worry when it comes to race day.

What is enduro racing? You can think of it as a hybrid of pure downhill racing and traditional cross-country racing. There are multiple timed descending stages linked by untimed transition stages. That means you need the nerve, skills and strength of a downhiller with the fitness and endurance of a cross-country racer. As it’s unsupported, self-sufficiency and smart racecraft is the key to getting a good result because if you have any problems, you’ll need to fix them yourself.

Toni has years of experience racing on the Enduro World Series scene, so he’s picked up a few top tips along the way. Here are his top pieces of advice:

“Make sure your kit is up to the job, so you don’t have to worry about anything but riding”

There’s a saying in racing the world over – to finish first, first you must finish. Enduro racing is hard on the bike as well as the body, so you need to make sure that your kit is in perfect condition before you start. There’s nothing worse than having a race ruined because old and worn kit finally chooses that moment to break. Consider getting your bike checked over by a professional mechanic if you’re not confident with maintenance.

Toni also recommends using tyres with tough, reinforced casings to reduce the chance of punctures. This is especially important as your line choice will suffer as you get more tired and there’s a good chance you’ll be hitting things you didn’t expect to.

It’s also worth making sure you’ve got all the equipment needed to fix common issues with you too. A multitool with a chain breaker, spare chain quick-link, spare inner tube and/or a tubeless repair kit plus a pump or CO2 inflator are the bare minimum.

“On your first stage, make sure you relax and go steady for the first 20 seconds”

It’s easy to get over-excited when racing and speed off from the start line, but if you go in too hot and start making mistakes from the very first turn of the pedals, it’s going to ruin your concentration and you’ll end up making more mistakes.

That’s why Toni recommends just taking it easy out of the start gate and finding your flow. A race isn’t likely to be won within those first 20 seconds, but you could easily damage your confidence enough to put your head in a bad place for the rest of the day. Go steady and then start to crank up the pace once you’re comfortable.

“Eat something every 45 minutes, so you don't get tired and then you can't recover”

It’s easy to forget to eat and drink in the excitement of racing but if you get tired and dehydrated, it will be hard to make up for it later. Taking on regular amounts of food and drink every 45 minutes is a good habit to get into, even if you don’t feel thirsty or hungry. It’ll pay off as you’ll get less fatigued over the course of the race, allowing a better performance overall. Don’t forget that eating fuels your brain as well as your muscles; concentration is the first victim of fatigue, so you’ll start making poor decisions and errors long before your muscles begin to fade. Stay fed, stay sharp!

“Use the practise stages to judge your limits”

Most enduro races allow you to ride the stages in a practice session. While you could spend this time trying to memorise the details of each and every stage, you’re unlikely to achieve that. It’s much better to use this time to judge how hard you can push before you start to make mistakes. Having a crash will lose you a lot of time, but smart racing will only gain a small amount of time. Figuring out how fast you can ride while staying within your comfort limits will mean you’ll be more confident and comfortable on race day.

“Take risks in the easy and fast areas rather than in the more technical areas”

Of course, all racing has risks, but knowing where to take them and when not to is what separates the truly great racers from the also-rans. You need to think about the potential for saving time and judge the risk accordingly. Taking a hero line through a rough and technical section might save a second or two but it runs a high risk of crashing and damaging the bike or your body. Conserving enough energy in the technical terrain to get in a hard pedalling effort on an easy section might not make you feel like a hero, but it will stand to save you an awful lot of time – and racing about who gets down the hill fastest, not who was the bravest or looked the coolest.