Over 80 young riders were put to the test last weekend in a new enduro mountain biking race organized by the Bike Cochrane Society.
Held at the Cochrane Ag Society on June 11, the Angry Hawk Youth-Duro event attracted competitors ages four to 16 years old from across the province to compete in four downhill stages on the Buffalo Bean trail network.
The event has long been a vision of Bike Cochrane board member at-large and race director, Ryan Hopping.
“I’ve never heard of any events like this for youth, especially in our area,” said Hopping. “There’s nothing for younger kids to kind of be a gateway to these events or to enduro programs.”
At its core, enduro racing is defined by timed downhill sections and untimed uphill ascents. While racers must reach the next stage within a predetermined time limit, their uphill travelling time doesn’t count in the final tally. The winner is the rider with the fastest combined time of all stages.
For most of the riders present, it was their first time trying the sport.
“At the start of the race, they asked by a show of hands who had never ridden an enduro race and almost all the hands were up,” said 15-year-old Cochranite Luc Ducelles, who had the fastest time of the day with four minutes and 15 seconds.
Ducelles has been riding in enduro races competitively for about five years and said it was awesome to see so many young people trying the sport last weekend.
“The whole experience was really awesome,” he said. “The volunteers were amazing and they put on a really good race.”
As the organizer of the race, Hopping said he gives props to Ducelles for showing up to the local event.
“He’s a pretty high-level racer and does some of the national series races, so it was pretty cool to have him come out for this,” he said.
Hopping plans to host the race again next year and said he sees the value of getting kids on bikes, having grown up on one himself.
Just last summer, he began hosting kids biking camps in May. This year, about 30 kids were enrolled.
“I think if you can show kids some structure, through any activity that is really accessible for them to do on their own, it can have a really positive impact on the rest of their lives,” he said.
The race director was taken aback at one point at the end of the race, when some of the youth who had finished earlier were helping their fellow racers journey uphill. The moment, he said, was a shining example of the character-building qualities sports can have, especially on young people.
“I knew that the older kids would be done much quicker than the younger kids, that’s just kind of how it works,” said Hopping. “I encouraged them to, when they were done, get up and get back on their bikes to help the younger kids up.
“Seeing kids as young as 10 years old grab a tow strap from their parents to help push or pull the younger bikes up the hill so they could finish their stage was one of the most genuinely heartwarming things I think I’ve ever seen.”