Cutting Corners at Enduro Races is Slower (says Christo Gallagher)

Have you ever straight-lined a corner on a trail?

Christo just raced Tweedlove’s Transcenduro event (and won) and wants to call-out the course cutters.

Who the blame lies with

You might well have seen the recent controversy surrounding the cutting of corners at Tweedlove Transcend. The argument was that it ruins the hard work of the trail builders in favour of faster race times.

With that in mind, I thought it seemed right to have a look at this and see who, I think at least, the blame lies with.

The heated discussed kicked off at the Tweedlove Transcend Enduro event last weekend. The most obvious point is all the new ‘cut lines’ on the very popular trail “Angry Sheep”. Angry Sheep sees hundreds of runs on it every weekend from the Adrenalin Uplift and pedal powered riders alike.

It’s an exceptionally well-built trail that has withstood an impressive amount of traffic.

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Bit of a sad dog walk up the local today looking at a whole bunch of new cut lines. I don't really have answers and I don't want to seem like I'm pointing the finger at the race just gone as all the various events that visit are much the same in terms of impact. Some thoughts. Plain simple shortcutting sucks. Go ride a firebreak if you don't like corners. I don't know a single trailbuilder who rides cut lines because they know how much effort it takes to build turns. Most of these cuts are slower than the normal line, with worse exit speed and less flow than the main track. Once they are visible though, they will suck in more riders and closing them gets very difficult. Maybe we shouldn't race every classic trail. The one in the pics is loved by many, was taped well by the Tweedlove guys and has now been degraded a little more forever. You Enduro racers are horrible and will apparently cut anything and everything not fully double taped. It might be best just to keep the races away from some of the tracks. Rider numbers via commercial activity are only going up. More races each year with larger entries is putting an ever bigger impact on the trails. It's a huge strain on a network supported only by a few locals and a fledgling charity. No matter what they tell you, none of the event organisers have ever done or supported any significant post event repair. Unless this changes, with organisers contributing in relation to their footprint I can only see resentment from local builders and riders alike continuing to grow. Rant over. Go ride. But stay on the trail please.

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The shorter line is the faster line

What is it about a race that brings in this desire to cut corners?

You could argue that the shorter line is the faster line, and in many cases this is true. A race is, after all, about finding the fastest line down the hill and riding it as quickly as possible. Therefore you might question who is at fault here, the riders or the race organiser?

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The riders or the organiser?

I think we can all agree that the trail builder in question, who no doubt spent over 100 hours on this trail did not deserve to have this work of art abused so disrespectfully. However, bringing in riders from far afield, who don’t know the trail etiquette or understand how the trails got there can lead to the trails being treated in a different way than the local riders might.

Does the responsibility of avoiding course cutting sit with the riders or the organiser? You could argue that wide taping is great for the sport, allowing for creative line choice and natural maturation of trails.

I think, in this case, wide taping allowed for corners to simply be straight lined or cut out. It has gone too far and it’s no longer creative line choice. It’s just cutting corners.

Photo by Dave Price.

Think if it’s more fun or if it’s even faster?

With course cutting being very difficult to police in enduro it relies on a rider’s moral standing to keep things fair.

I think there should be more done to tape courses better. This is of course with perfect hindsight and a local might not even consider that these cut lines might be taken because, of course, they always ride the trail in the way it was designed to be.

Should there be someone with no knowledge of the trail inspecting the taping to provide valuable feedback? Should riders simply have more respect for the trail and themselves? I don’t know about you, but I’m at the race for a good time and going straight over corners instead of riding them is much less of a good time than riding them.

As someone who can call themselves relatively local to the Tweed Valley and someone who prefers corners over straight lines, I was very happy to prove all the course cutters wrong and take the fastest time of the day on the stage by riding the main line.

So next time you’re thinking of skipping out some corners in favour of the straight line, take a moment to think if it’s more fun or if it’s even faster?

  1. Not super-clear from the video, but it did appear that Christo did take a few lines that were not exactly on the cut trail there.

  2. Christo, I think you’re being more than a little unfair with your comment “I think, in this case, wide taping allowed for corners to simply be straight lined or cut out. ”

    I don’t think you can honestly say from watching the video that it was taped wide. The problem was that tape was deliberately moved (in at least one place) and people rode straight over/through it in quite a few others. Putting slalom poles all the way down it may have worked but could have been a problem for handlebars on some corners, and would doubtless have been knocked out making straight lines much worse as a result. Our taping team were VERY sensitive to the potential problems with the trail, and both the prep work and taping were looked at and discussed with one of the trails’ two original builders.
    We’ll always do our best, but ultimately the guilty riders have to change their culture – It’s only a relatively few who do it, so it’s certainly a possible behaviour change (especially when it’s very often not even faster).
    This is a great trail – we all love it. On Strava there have been over 16,000 people using it, and the uplift service has no doubt meant additional pressure on lots of trails here including this one. A lot of work was put in (by our team) to try and sort the multiple cheat/straight lines before the event – again all discussed with the original trail builders. Sadly that work was mostly undone by some of the riders.
    As organisers our aim has always been to provide the most enjoyable racing we can, but I can assure you Christo, our attitude on this was about as far as it’s possible to get from taping things wide and then letting the riders choose lines.
    Congratulations on the win though!
    Neil Dalgleish

  3. Like Sarge says, even Christo does some shortcuts in that vid. It’s hard to avoid, once they’re there, even the best intentioned rider can get sucked in. As a trailbuilder I hate shortcuts and I hate what’s happened to some of our trails and the amount of time we’ve wasted fixing things that could have gone into building new stuff but even so, sometimes it happens.

    Definitely true that many are slower- especially further down the field people ride them just because they assume it’ll be fast. And also there’s loads that might be fast for a pro but aren’t for mortals- like, gapping a corner where us knobbers would end up just riding across the grass.

    Riding with Fabien Barel at the EWS was eye-opening, he took the view that anything within the tapes is fair game- but he still only uses a few real shortcuts, because he’s got so analytic about it all, he takes what he thinks is the fastest line and more often or not that’s the solid, well built, grippy, simple one not the shortcut.

    Sometimes, it is the organiser’s fault. The damage in the first ever UKGE at Innerleithen was really bad for this, large sections were totally untaped and riders rode round every single rock feature on the black, frinstance, 30 of us spent most of a day reblocking those lines but once they’re there, they’re there and some couldn’t be fixed and are now just lost.

    Other times, it’d be easy to blame the organisers or tapers but it’s basically unfair, because 1) they have a shitload of corners to do and it’s really, really hard to block every one. 2) as Neil says, people move tape and obstacles, even with skipoles this happens. Sometimes just because they get accidentally broken or hit by a rider, but often because some racers are scumbags. I’ve seen some dudes in particular who’ve literally unblocked shortcuts after practice in the evening before the race, so that nobody else uses them. And yes I did tell the organiser and they did nowt.

    But the big one is just that it’s hard to see the trail with the same eyes. This happens with building too- sometimes we think we’re building the one obviously best line, and then something else happens. It happens with laws and loopholes, tax evasion, etc, it’s hard for the shepherd to think like a wolf, and it’s sometimes hard to realise that a line that looks blocked, is actually totally ridable if you’re good enough.

    And so with tape- the first EWS in the valley had this problem for sure, riders found ways to exploit it that you’d just not see coming- gapping right across the ditch out of Carl’s Lane and then cutting across the grass into Zoom or Bust was an eye opener. Riding miles off to the left of the Inners black not just to cut individual features but to cut out huge sections was another- and the advantage there was so enormous that it gets hard to blame riders who follow suit because you end up rewarding the cheats (*). And it’s totally unsurprising that the taper didn’t see it coming too.

    (I’ve not often done taping, and it’s partly because when I do, I go mental and end up taking far too long and using up all the poles to do 5 corners. The crews are out for days before the races, and often days after, unless they get twice as many volunteers it’s just not realistic to have perfect taping- and as above even the best tape isn’t foolproof, it can still be changed)

    There’s 2 things that organisers can do, and generally don’t. One is, aggressively blocking bad shortcuts after practice. Not every one, but any where the rider knows fine well they’re pushing it. Finding your preferred line has a bloody great log on it on race day is just reaping what you sow. It wouldn’t have to happen often, just often enough to be a possibility.

    The other is often promised but you don’t hear much of it actually happening- and that’s kicking people out of races. Of course there’s never enough marshalls around and always too much happening on the day, so this is hard, but it could pay off more over time. And have proof, and make it PUBLIC- like, everyone knows about Joe Barnes getting banned from races back in the day for pushing it too far, but it’s always nudges and whispers. I even got told off by a BC scrutineer for mentioning it one time. It’s ridiculous, it should be as well known as the winners. Make it shameful, make it something *sponsors* care about, make sure people know they’re risking their careers. I’m a sneaky bastard, I’d leave a really grievous cheat line on a race, stick a camera up, maybe add some broken tape, mention it in the rider briefing… Take away the grey area completely and then fuck some people up.

    And yeah, sadly there’s some trails that we shouldn’t race full stop. Falla Brae’s one- it’s hanging on by its fingertips. I think probably Angry Sheep and Green Wing are too, because they’re pretty lightly built, totally dependent on their corners, and because they’re so difficult to tape with the trees being wider. It’s a shame for everyone but it’s really important to put the blame for this where it deserves- not on organisers or the FC but on the people who’ll wreck it otherwise.

    (*) I say cheats outright in this case at the EWS… I totally understand the “anything between the tapes is fair game” argument and also that these guys job is to go as fast as they can. But, that race in particular had the “ride the trails as you find them” clause and anyone riding through heather 10 metres away from a trail to avoid several rock features knows they’re not supposed to be there. Sometimes, the grey area is really really dark

  4. This article “Cutting Corners at Enduro Races is Slower (says Christo Gallagher)” is a breath of fresh air. It’s refreshing to see a different perspective on this commonly discussed issue. The author’s unique take challenges traditional viewpoints and sparks meaningful conversation.

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