So keen to be around bikes that he persuaded the owners of a Gold Coast bike shop to let him sweep the floors at the age of 15; Josh Prentice’s passion impressed and he has been in the bike game ever since. Now a bike mechanic at Top Brand Cycles with several podium finishes under his wheels, Josh will be mixing it up with the best mountain bikers in the world at the end of this month; sharing some of Rotorua’s primo single track with the likes of Jared Graves and Curtis Keene. It’s a dream come true for the 23-year-old who will be taking every opportunity to learn from the best in the business.
With Enduro mountain biking proving to be an increasingly popular format thanks to a thrilling mix of endurance and bike handling skills, Enduro World Series events are notoriously difficult to get into and sell out within minutes. The first leg of this eight-round prestigious competition is in New Zealand, but it’s hosted in locations as far-flung as Spain, Chile, Ireland and Canada until October.
“There will be multiple world champions there and mixing it with the big boys is one of the things I’m most looking forward to”
“People are coming from all over the world,” tells Josh, who won his age category in the Paluma Push mountain bike race last year and is also skilled on the road, displaying particular tenacity on the criterium circuit. “I believe I’m the only one going from Townsville. It was really hard to get into – you had to sign-up to a newsletter, they asked you a few questions and you waited – I’m not sure how they do the selections, but entries are very limited. They only accept 400 and about 700 people try to sign up.”
With the event rolling over two days, riders will compete against the clock on the best downhill sections on Rotorua’s iconic trails for up to six hours. A unique Enduro element that Josh is pumped about is ability for amateurs to compete on the same ‘Special Stages’ (see below facts for more info about this) as their mountain-biking heroes.
“Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses so I want to learn what mine are and work out how I’m going to race later on down the track.”
“There will be multiple world champions there and mixing it with the big boys is one of the things I’m most looking forward to,” tells Josh, although he adds watching the ‘underdogs’ (the people that race at a pro level but still have a 9-to-5 job) will also be thrilling. “I’m particularly excited about seeing Jared Graves [Aussie cyclist who’s the World Enduro Series reigning champion and has represented Australia in downhill mountain biking, BMX, and 4X] and Curtis Keene [US downhill racer turned Enduro rider] – there are guys who will be there who I’ve looked at for years and years in magazines and watched their videos and you always look at them with a bit of respect and awe. It will be interesting to see how it’s done at the pointy end of the field when they’re racing for money.”
Josh’s goal is to finish the event and take away some valuable lessons, including the knowledge of how the pros manage everything – food, energy levels, when to go hard, and when to back off: “Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses so I want to learn what mine are and work out how I’m going to race later on down the track.”
Josh would love to take his riding up to the professional level, but dismisses it as more of “just a dream” at this stage. There’s no doubt he loves everything about bikes and thrives out of helping others to embrace saddle time – something that is even more inspiring after the devastation of 2010.
“Mountain biking in particular has really become a part of me… my old man passed away a few years ago – he crashed his mountain bike, so being on my bike is really special,” tells Josh, who would regularly head out on the south-east Queensland trails with his dad.
“A lot of people have asked, ‘How are you still riding?’ or ‘Why are you still riding?’; but I don’t think Dad would want me not to ride and it’s always a spiritual experience being on my bike – I feel like he’s there with me.”
Josh will be channelling this as he spends a month in New Zealand, also racing in Christchurch and Queenstown and generally embracing his two-wheel passion.
So does this talented rider have any parting tips for other downhill or Enduro enthusiasts? “Ride as much as possible, ride with people who are better than you and don’t be intimated by them because, at the end of the day, everyone’s human and if you can learn off of them… just embrace the experience and have a bit of fun while you’re at it.”
Four facts about Enduro mountain biking
- Enduro mountain bike racing is a format where there are a greater proportion of downhill sections, which are timed, to uphill and cross-country sections. This aims to test rider’s technical bike handling skills, as well as endurance.
- With riders restricted to only one bike and one pair of wheels for the race, tactics play a major role with physical effort, careful equipment choice and preservation being crucial to success.
- The Enduro format selects numerous ‘Special Stages’ that riders race on against the clock, ensuring the best sections of the mountain are chosen to compete on. These are predominantly descending and the race result is calculated by adding all of the Special Stage times together.
- Liaison stages link up the Special Stages. These are not included in the total competition time, but can include a chairlift or climb that the rider has to tackle themselves.
If you like the sound of this format of racing you can get involved at a local level with Rockwheelers’ Gravity Enduro Series – the first is on Sunday, March 22. Like a traditional Enduro without the mountain/long downhill sections, Gravity Enduro is a modified version suited to less mountainous locations, still using the same format of timed downhill sections with untimed uphill connecting legs. More info here.