Thankfully, mountain bike racing will go on in 2021, with a revised schedule and strict health regulations. The new Enduro World Series event calendar came out a few weeks ago, featuring nine elite races spread across six unique locations, with 39 total races including qualifiers — for now.
Some of our North American readers were wondering if it’s possible to qualify for the elite races this year, given the low number of qualifying events. The shortened pandemic-calendar has left us with just three events in the US, nada in Canada yet, two in Mexico, one each in the Dominican Republic, Israel, Nepal, and South Africa, respectively, and plenty in Australia, Europe, and New Zealand. The good news is that, unlike in years past, the 2021 calendar will grow as event organizers are able to get the green light from their local governments, and the EWS staff is doing what they can to help make those races happen.
For reference, the calendar was packed with about 90 races in 2019, spanning 34 countries, and some of those qualifying rounds were worth extra points. We reached out to EWS Managing Director, Chris Ball, to ask what might be the best route to racing for athletes this season. Our main question was: Does it seem like the calendar will continue to grow as the race season nears?
“People actually committing to activity in 2021 is difficult. It’s easier for the bigger organizations. We’ve got a bit more fire power in the World Series, and we’re working with local governments. The smaller events maybe don’t have that support, and we’ve seen that around the world. So we basically said [to event organizers], ‘get your dates in and we’ll publish the calendar. Then, everyone else, we’ll keep rolling announcements.’ So, yesterday Venezuela confirmed. They’re dropping in all of the time. The Dominican Republic confirmed over the Christmas period.
“It seems like in the US especially, we’d normally expect around sixteen events. And in Canada as well. [There are] a lot of issues around land access and permits for activity. I think the real impact from last year is still going to be felt quite a lot this year. A lot of people posted dates, they had plans, they had commercial partners, and they had riders entering events. This year people are going ‘whoa, that was painful. Let’s progress a little bit slower.’ And rightfully so. That’s why we’re not starting until mid-June.”
On the topic of garnering points to enter an elite event, racers who don’t have the opportunity to earn enough points at local qualifying events can still attend the main EWS rounds and race in the EWS 100 series, which offers loads of points toward qualifying for elite races. “The 100s offer pretty good points. With the restructure we did, doubling events and splitting up the new event schedule, it’s somewhat tripled the capacity for amateurs. So there’s now more ability to race at an actual World Series race than there ever was, whether it’s the 100 or not. So that’s a really good thing.”
Given the long list of benefits, is the new block format with back-to-back races going to stick around, or is just designed around the pandemic? “Last year we kind of took every race as a learning experience. When we got back I asked everyone what they would do differently with the series if we started it all over again in 2021. Grouping things together was something we were never able to do because we were dealing with the confines of the way things were done. I want that [the new race grouping format] to roll on to the future. We even saw it in track cycling, pre pandemic. They bunched it all together, because that’s what fans want. There’s that, there’s the environmental impact component, and there’s the cost component.”
In summation, racers who hope to sign up for an EWS event this year will be able to, but the limited number of qualifying events that the pandemic allows for might mean you first need to do well in an EWS100 event to gain sufficient points. The upside is that, with two events per weekend across tightly calendared blocks of racing, there are plenty of chances to go earn those points with minimal travel. For more info on how many points you will need to qualify, and what events and results offer the best shot at an elite race, check out the rule book below.