Enduro is a rapidly growing, and by now firmly established, discipline of mountain bike racing. The Enduro World Series began in 2013 to create a platform for the best gravity riders in the world to push their limits, the limits of equipment, and to further progress and develop the enduro racing format. When you look at the 2022 Enduro World Series, it can be hard to believe that it’s only in its 10th year! The events are massive, the coverage is brilliant (and only getting better since Discovery bought into the series), and the racing is cutting edge.
If you are unfamiliar with how Enduro racing works, it is not too complicated. Riders will complete a set course of around 30km but distances can vary substantially. Certain sections of that course are designated “stages” (4 per race is typical). Riders will race down each “stage” in time-trial style with 30 second gaps. These stages are majority downhill but often have a punch climb to add to the challenge. The total time of all the Stages is added up and the fastest rider wins. The stages vary in length and style but will generally be longer than 3 minutes to race (and up to 15mns or more in some cases!) with a large volume of technical features and corners to test the riders. And of course the riders only get to practice each stage once before racing!
Enduro racing has had a major influence in developing the modern trial bikes that we all love and we can even see its influence in the modern cross country bikes as they continue to grow longer, slacker and more capable. Competing on the world stage is intense. In recent years we haven’t seen any South African riders break into the top 60, at least in any consistent way. While there have been a small group of Saffa boys regularly heading over to race the best, we haven’t seen too many of the ladies taking to the world stage. But now Frankie Du Toit (SA Enduro Champ) is making her debut at round 1 of the 2022 series!
Frankie is a talented gravity racer and dedicated athlete who’s been balancing a performance lifestyle with studies and work over the last few years. Originally an XCO athlete, she’s found her niche in gravity riding, even heading over to Val Di Sole to represent South Africa at the UCI Downhill World Champs! Fast win the bike and a lovely presence outside the tape, we caught up with Frankie ahead of her EWS debut in Scotland!
WA: Frankie, for those who don’t know who you are, tell us a bit about you!
Frankie: I’m currently living and working in Stellenbosch, South Africa, managing the Hellsend Bike Shop. I moved here (from KZN) to study, and now, at 24, I still haven’t left. I started my riding journey as a cross country and occasional road racer. After representing SA for both disciplines a couple of times, I got bored with the very intensive lifestyle of a professional athlete and gravitated towards what I thought was the more fun side of riding – enduro. I got into it towards the end of 2018 and never really looked back. I now race downhill and enduro and am putting a lot of effort into encouraging more women to try it out too!
WA: You’re in Europe now to race the first round of the 2022 Enduro World Series but this isn’t your first time riding abroad. What is your experience of riding in these parts been like?
Frankie: I’ve raced overseas a fair amount of times for cross country – but my first trip over for enduro was in 2019. I came to race a couple of local british enduro races and was 100% in over my head – but I loved it and have grown as a rider since then. Last year I also raced the UDI Downhill World Champs in Val di Sole which was equal parts terrifying and incredible, so I would definitely like to go back and try my hand at more international DH races. One of the venues I raced at in 2019 was tweed valley so when I saw the first round of the EWS was there this year I decided I had to give it a go! It was some of the best riding I’ve done so I’m very excited to go back this year as a better rider and see how I can handle it.
WA: So how long has this EWS trip been in the pipeline for?
Frankie: I qualified to race the EWS in 2020 – so I had a multi-race trip planned, but then COVID happened and I pushed that trip out by a year. The end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 saw some big life changes for me which made going over to race for longer periods of time a little more of a challenge. I still organised a multi-race trip which unfortunately became too complicated due to COVID restrictions and Visa requirements and I cancelled it. This year I just wanted to go to do at least one race and I have managed to get over and I’m still pinching myself that it’s real.
WA: What are your goals for this trip and what are you hoping to take out of the experience racing an Enduro World Series event?
Frankie: Unfortunately the lead up to this event hasn’t been great due to sickness – but I am just so stoked to be here! I want to see how much I have progressed since my last time riding here and also just meet as many people as I can. This will also be such a great racing and riding experience so I’ll just be soaking everything up. If it goes well I will try my best to get over and do more next year, so networking and generating a bit of exposure for myself is also important for me.
Knowing what you do from the previous trip, what have you been doing to prepare yourself for the demands of the riding and racing on this trip?
Frankie: Wow – a big one and something that I can definitely say has made a massive difference is gym work. I am a lot stronger which has made a huge difference to my riding – the gravity side of riding is super physical and being able to handle the bike and take big impacts has really helped me! I have also incorporated some efforts down trails – normally I would focus my intervals on an uphill, but now I sprint into – down – and out of singletrack which has helped me be able to ride trails fatigued. I would have loved to do more volume and riding – but as mentioned my training has been very stop and start due to recurrent illness this year and a busy work schedule.
What would you say that your strengths a rider and a person are that you will lean on going to race on the World Stage?
Frankie: Coming from an XC background I know how to suffer which means (when I get fitter) I feel I would be able to handle the physicality of this type of racing well. I am not so good at the endurance side but power has always been my strength which is useful for the shorter bursts of power you need during a stage. This race will also be able to tell me what I need to work on and where I should focus in my training going forward.
WA: How are you making the trip work? Who is supporting you financially, helping out on the ground in Europe, and who are you traveling with?
Frankie: At the end of last year I sold my bike and having got a sponsored bike from Trek South Africa, was able to use that money towards this trip. My parents also live here in the UK which has made logistics a lot easier! They have a campervan which I am borrowing for the race for transport and accommodation which is so nice! I have a little bit of money left over from this trip and I’m wanting to put it towards racing DH World Champs at the end of the season.
WA: What does the rest of the year’s racing look like for you?
Frankie: As mentioned I’m hoping to get over for DH world Champs and I’m wanting to combine that with a riding trip to France to get some good bike time in somewhere with a lot of trails and a ski-lift. I have to juggle that with tight finances and leave time but I’ll see what I can make happen. Unfortunately there won’t be any more EWS races for this year but I’m hoping to put together a trip for next year with a couple of races. I haven’t been able to make the local Enduro National Cup work this year (saving the leave and money for the bigger trips!) but I’ll go up for Enduro SA Champs and do my best to defend my title! The Western Province DH committee also do a great job of putting on our provincial DH series so I’ll be doing that too.
To keep up with Frankie’s adventures racing abroad, check out her Instagram handle here: @frankiedutoit
To follow the Enduro World Series racing in Scotland this weekend, find all the info you need here: https://www.enduroworldseries.com