It’s going to be a big year for the Norco Canadian Enduro Series.
The NCES spans four provinces, from B.C. to Quebec, over its eight-event calendar. This includes Enduro World Series Qualifier events, now a necessity for any Canadian that wants to race the main EWS events, and the Canadian Enduro Championships, which were held for the first time in 2018 at Panorama Mountain Resort.
Then NCES announced that its Revelstoke, B.C. race would be the sole Canadian stop on the Enduro World Series’ new North American Continental series of events. It’s an exciting development for Canadian racers, and an impressive step for a series that seems to grow and expand year after year.
I caught up with Ted Morton, who orchestrates the NCES (formerly known as CNES) with his small army of volunteers, at his home in Kamloops, B.C. Along with the NCES, Morton runs the NCES’s development team, BC Enduro Series, and several other jobs that most people would consider full-time gigs on their own. The high-energy race organizer filled us in on what all the changes to the series for the coming year and where he wants the series to go in the future.
Morton doesn’t just organize events, he also races in the EWS. “I mainly just do the events to hang out with buddies and connect with friends from around the world,” he says, but he’s no slouch between the tape. In fact, Morton finished 43rd overall at the notoriously difficult Whistler EWS, including 23rd on the first stage down Micro Climate. While he may be reluctant to call himself a racer, he adds “It is certainly nice once in a while to smash down a stage and compare yourself.”
Being at those races was part of the motivation to bring a higher level of racing to Canada, Morton says: “I saw that Canadians were really underrepresented. I know that in any town you go to in B.C., and across Canada, you have riders that could easily be in the top 50 or 60 in the EWS.” One reason you’re not seeing Canadian’s travel is the cost to get to races but, as Morton says, “Why would we leave Canada to go somewhere else when the best trails are in our own backyard?”
“I though, why not bring the EWS Continental event to Canada to encourage American and riders from other countries to come compete here,” Morton says, “and we’ll have a showcase for what Canada and our riders have to offer, and really put them on the map.” Revelstoke, with its expansive network of steep trails and alpine riding, was the first venue on the list.
“Revelstoke Cycling Association has been doing incredible work” says Morton. And, since a percentage of every race entry at every NCES event goes back into supporting local trail association, bringing the Continental event was a chance to “drive funds back to RCA, to support building trails, advocacy and to really support the community as a whole.”
Elevating the Revelstoke venue to the Continental level also helps Canadian racers. The Enduro World Series now requires riders to accumulate points to be eligible for EWS Series events. EWS Continental events are worth more than National Series or Qualifier events. “So the other point of having an EWS Continental event in Canada,” Morton explains, “is to give riders that opportunity to earn points they need. Now your stepping stones are NCES, EWS Continental, and then on to the full EWS.”
Supporting Canadian talent is a big part of what the NCES has been designed to do. In 2016, Morton took that a step further by creating the NCES Development Team. “Last year we had 12 riders that we supported through the entire season from us and coach Joel Harwood; to first, get better results, second become better athletes, and third, become better people in general.”
By the end of last season, many of these riders had used that experience to land spots on teams, or their own sponsorships from other companies. “At first I was a bit concerned, thinking that it meant they wasn’t going to be a program next year,” recalls Morton, “Then I realized that’s really the goal of the program, to be a stepping stone that allows them to make that jump to the to a higher level team. We’re the showcase for these young riders. The fact that they were able to do that is huge, I think the team served its purpose.”
This year the team is smaller and more focused. “We looked at key riders and asked what can we do to support them a little bit more.” The three racers will still be at the NCES series events, but they’ll be mixing in international racing with the domestic events. “If we can support them when they go abroad – whether that’s to the EWS or Big Mountain Enduro Series – that’s really the next step in our program,” Morton says of the change in direction. “They’ve proven they can do really well at home, now we have to make them well rounded international athletes.”
Even though enduro is now a UCI discipline with a Cycling Canada sanctioned national championships (Elite category only), like other non-Olympic racing formats, it does not benefit from the support or funding of the Olympic-track disciplines like track and cross country. ”That’s where we’ve come in as a series: recognizing that no one’s really waving the flag for these guys and girls,” says Morton, “so I though, why don’t we take that on ourselves and do that for them?”
The development team isn’t the only way NCES works to encourage young talent to get involved in racing enduro. Offering short course options at many events makes it easier to manage for youth and their parents. “We have 16 and 17 year olds that want to be part of the series, and Short Courses give that next generation a more manageable way into the events, without having to take on a full day of racing.” For parents, it means they can see their junior or young racer off at the start, get on course themselves, and still be back, ready and waiting at the finish line.
While enduro may be strongest in BC right now, with several regional series’ and one-off events filling out the race calendar around NCES events, Morton is working hard to make sure the series presents opportunities for racers across the country. NCES has put on events in Quebec and Ontario for three years now. This year, that steps up a notch with the inaugural Sea Otter Canada, which includes the Blue Mountain NCES As an EWS Qualifier event, “It’s a chance for racers out East to earn points, if they want to take that next step to race Whistler or any EWS event.”
So what’s next? what more does the CNES want to do? Morton laughs a bit at this: “That’s the deep, dark question, right? Everyone wants to know!” He can’t give details, but the tireless organizer already has started on the next steps. While Revelstoke’s Continental status pushes the elite end of enduro racing, Morton still has the grassroots of enduro on his mind. “Creating more events that are getting people excited to be out there on bikes,” whether that’s more festival type events, women’s only enduro, or something new, it will always, he says “have that community driven focus.” Which isn’t a secondary aspect, or a footnote to racing. “Over five years,” Morton says, “we’ve given north of $130,000 back to the trail community and trail clubs” wherever the races are held.
Before the series can expand, it has to get through this year. With an EWS continental event, a national championships, a national series spread across Canada, a development team and the regional BCES series all on his plate, I ask Morton how he finds time to manage everything.
“Oh man, you don’t even know my other jobs!” he laughs. On top of a university teaching job, Morton recently started as Sales Manager for Kamloops’ We Are One, a small brand creating hand-laid carbon rims in house, in B.C. Then there’s the hours of work that go into maintaining trails for the Revelstoke 3-Day heli enduro. You’ll also catch him on the other side of the tape, racing three EWS rounds this summer.
“I’ve never been on to sit still,” Morton says, adding, “I guess that shows in my riding. I love being all over the place and doing a lot.” It’s more than just an excess of energy, though, there’s also his drive to make the mountain biking community better. “Whenever I see something that I think could be done a little differently, I see it as an opportunity to pursue that,” says Morton. “I’m not one to sit there and say ‘Wouldn’t that be cool, if…’ I’m more the person that says “Yeah, let’s do that!”