J Day Off Road Series, Mohawk Sprint Enduro, Lanesborough, Massachusetts.
Story by Kevin Novello, Photos by Art Pepin
Sprint Enduro has finally come to the U.S., courtesy of the always innovative J Day Off Road Series. Its debut was made just a few miles from another “first” in U.S. off road racing history; the first ever International Six Days Trials (the 48th ISDT and former version of today’s ISDE) hosted by the United States was held in Dalton, Massachusetts, 41 years ago to the day. So it’s fitting that Sprint Enduro gain its U.S. foothold in such an historic setting.
So what is Sprint Enduro? Basically, it’s a race against the clock. All competitors ride between 6 -12 tests (depending on your class) and are timed to determine who can complete the required number of tests the fastest. For the J Day Mohawk Sprint Enduro, there were three separate tests: a Cross test (grass track), a Woods test, and an Extreme test. The C riders did each test twice for a total of six tests while the B, A and AA classes rode each test four times for a total of 12 tests.
Much like the National Enduro series, the competitors ride through transponders set up at the beginning and end of each test. It all boils down to sprint speed and the rider with the fastest test time wins. Each test is approximately 8-10 minutes in length and competitors are set off every 30 seconds. It’s also important to note that each test starts and finishes within close proximity to one another. There are no complicated time keeping rules or distant refueling or spectator points. Everything happens in close proximity to the parking area, allowing riders and support crews to make any adjustments after a test. Needless to say, the entire layout is extremely spectator and media friendly. And because it’s a form of enduro, the terrain is left in its natural state – meaning there is no course grooming.
Upon completing a test, the riders can go out whenever they are ready to begin another test. Some riders used the time between tests to scrape mud off of their bikes or swap wheels that were better suited to a particular test. There is no set sequence as to when the tests are to be ridden, you just need to complete them within the allotted time. For instance, the novices had two hours to get their 6 tests in, which was plenty of time. The afternoon race had 3 hours to get their 12 tests in (3 tests done 4 times).
The Extreme test consisted of some muddy areas, a few notable elevation changes, a brief rip down a streambed, and a steady dose of regional gnarl that would be comparable to a typical NETRA enduro (minus the relentless rocks). The Woods test was beautifully laid out and all about flow. The Woods test was slick and alternated between fresh cut single track, established trail, cart roads, and grass track. The Cross track was about 8 minutes of grass track with a few brief woods sections to break things up.
About 120 C riders took on the morning race and the common consensus was that it was great fun. When it was “go-time” for the Pros, Experts and Amateurs, all of the tracks were well burnt in. About 100 riders spread out over each respective test gate with the majority of them opting to tackle the extreme test first. The apparent strategy was to knock off the extreme test before it got too chewed up.
The Pro class was stacked with J Day regulars and NETRA AA riders that included reigning J Day series champ Johnny Girroir, along with Kyle Hangos, NETRA Hare Scramble champ Jason Klammer, Jason Connell, and Jake Abbott, to name a few. Stand outs Ben Kelley and Drew Torrance were also on hand. When the riders began flowing into the woods, many of the fans were already in place. A popular spot was the first hill climb which was a short walk into the extreme test. Regardless of where you watched from, there was a constant flow of action. Conditions along each test route started out pretty good, but became more technical as the day wore on. There no stoppers or bottlenecks, at least for the afternoon race.
When the test scores were compiled, it was Kyle Hangos (carrying the momentum from his double pro class win at last weekend’s J Day Grand Prix series) nabbing the overall over Johnny Girroir. Ben Kelley would put in an impressive ride to round out the final podium spot followed by Jason Klammer and Jason Connell.
Hangos had this to say about the first Sprint enduro: “It was an awesome day. It was much more relaxed than the regular J Day series. You pinned it and then got in line to do it again. I liked that you could talk with your buddies after a test or make adjustments to your bike. I liked the Extreme test the best, it was slower and tighter with lots of roots and logs. I felt like I rode better in there. I think there’s a lot of riders that will like this kind of racing.”
Overall the first ever J Day Sprint Enduro was a big success. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive and it appears that the J Day Crew have sown the seeds of something destined to grow. Turnout was somewhere in the ball park of 220 riders, which is impressive given that the J Day GP and NETRA Series are winding down from an exhaustive season of racing and that this was a standalone event with no points.
If there is a J Day Sprint Enduro series next year, the odds are that it will be hugely popular. I know that this Editor would be all-in for it. Fingers crossed.