California Enduro Series provides proving ground for junior athletes
By Patrick D. Rosso
There are plenty of young bucks out on the enduro course, but we’re not talking about the deer that cross the trail or get flushed from the trees.
These bucks are the U18 Boys field in the California Enduro Series, races that have become a proving ground for the next batch of young men nipping at the heels of the Pros. Posting fast times and eating up the competition during the six-race series, Paul Serra, Nicholas Gallizioli, and Blaise Janssen showed that even though they’re too young to vote, they can make their voices heard.
“Enduro truly challenges riders to their limits, both physically, technically, and mentally,” said Serra, 16, who took the U18 overall title for the 2016 series. “I love enduro because it demands that the rider be fit, know how to ride fast, and be smart.”
Serra always has racing and winning on his mind. Whether it’s the next Super D or an XC race, he sets out to crush the courses and racing formats.
“Winning both the Big Mountain Enduro and California Enduro series, finishing second overall in the NorCal XC series, and third at XC State Championship was definitely my biggest accomplishment this year. In other words, being able to stay consistent whatever the terrain or race,” added Serra.
Gallizioli, 17, who took second in the overall, said he’s always working to improve his riding style and show the other riders what’s up.
“My big accomplishment this year is that I was steadily getting faster and that I was able to get a win at the Ashland Enduro,” the Scotts Valley Cycle Sport rider explained. “My focus is to be consistent and slowly progress and I feel that I did that this year.”
Although the finish line is always in his sights, he said it’s also about having fun, learning a thing or two, and hanging with some great riders. As always though, getting faster is the number one goal.
“Even though I do have the advantage of being able to ride on so many different types of terrain, I don’t think that I fully took advantage of it. Showing up to a new place is always easier when you can adapt to the terrain faster. I will be working on reading new terrain so that I can make the right line choice the first time down the trail,” Gallizioli added.
New to the scene, Janssen, 16, started racing in 2014. He may have just gotten his driver’s license and be a bit of a newbie in a car, but he makes up for it by going pretty dang fast and precise on his bike.
“I plan to step it up by becoming faster and earning better results at the races. I also plan to step it up by racing bigger races to push myself and become a faster rider,” Janssen, who took third in the overall series, explained. “Next year I want to continue racing California Enduro Series and succeed at that. I also want to step it up and race select Big Mountain Enduro Series races as well. Overall my goals are to push myself and improve my riding and racing.”
Speed seems to be on the minds of all the U18 riders, but a little style never hurts. By throwing a few whips or hitting the hardest line, the three make sure that the cameras are clicking and the spectators are cheering.
“My riding is flowy and playful, while still being aggressive,” commented Gallizioli who has learned plenty riding the premier Central Coast trails. “One of the greatest qualities of the California Enduro Series is the friendly, but competitive atmosphere. Everyone wants to beat their competitor, but only through speed and not because of a mechanical.”
Janssen, like Gallizioli is all about the flow, but sometimes you also have to let off the brakes and trust the bike.
“I let the bike do a lot of the work under me and let it go, while also trying to stay light on the bike and flow as much as possible to make up speed and save energy,” added the Pedals Bike Shop rider.
Serra tends to be in his head before a race, picking lines, fine tuning his bike, plotting his moves.
“I’d say I am a very calculated rider who doesn’t take useless risks during a race run. I will spend a lot of time during practice trying every line and tuning the bike,” Serra, who races for Team Netwon Gravity, commented. “I’ll go about 95% to make sure I’ll finish the race. I have learned that if you go 100% on every stage, it might work once, but the chance of you crashing or breaking something on the bike is very high. Winning races and a full championship in Enduro is about going fast, taking calculated risks, and finishing.”
The season may be over, but the off season has just begun and that’s where riders can really begin the work for next year. Be sure to look for the racer’s youthful vigor in 2017.