Enduro: Italian Style

Despite not many options, Euros still find fabulous places to race off-road.

Enduro: Italian Style

I've been to a lot of races over the years; as a former racing photographer and huge fan, I've seen more motorcycle and car races than I can remember. Most of the races I've attended have been up and down the state of California, places like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Sears Point (Infineon), California Speedway, Glen Helen, Anaheim Stadium and Long Beach. But I've traveled all around the country for events at places like Road Atlanta, Daytona, Firebird, Barber, Budds Creek and so on. I've also had the chance to see MotoGP in China and Spain (Valencia) and have been to the Bol d'Or 24-hour endurance race in France.

But it was odd to find myself at a round of the Italian National Enduro championship recently, as it's not exactly the level of event that you would fly 14 hours to see. But on my recent trip to ride Husqvarna's new TE630 and SMS630 motorcycles, our small group including off-road legends Ty Davis and Scot Harden went to see the race prior to riding Huskys the following day. This early spring round of the series is often used as a tune-up for the World Enduro Championship, which visits the same northern Italy region just a month later. So we expected to see some big names.

Enduro racing in Europe is very different than what we are used to, primarily because there really isn't that much usable off-road terrain. The round we saw took place near Varese, kicking off on Lago di Viverone (Alps as the backdrop), with special tests scattered all around the area. One of the tests was an "Extreme Enduro" with a few big jumps, mud holes, and Endurocross-style rock field. As for big names we got to watch two-time WEC champ Mika Ahola and factory Husky rider Antoine Meo, who won the E1 class at the WEC opener in Portugal a few weeks later, in competition.

The thing that stood out the most about the event was the number of competitors on two-strokes. It's interesting that there is nowhere to ride off-road in Europe, yet when they do ride, they are predominately on bikes that have been practically run out of America. All around it was a cool day and it was refreshing to see that Enduro is alive and kicking in Europe.