Cooper Ott placed first in the pro/open women’s category in last year’s Moab Scott Enduro Cup race. [Photo courtesy of Sean Ryan]

Professional mountain biker Cooper Ott used to race cross-country, but now prefers Enduro racing — where only the downhill stage of a race is timed. She’s returning to Moab to compete for a third season in the Scott Enduro Cup race, Saturday, May 5, at the Klondike Bluffs Trail.

“I really like the atmosphere of Enduro racing,” she said. “You meet more people — you get to hang out on the climbs (when riders are not being timed). It’s like a trail ride with a bunch of friends.”

Professional and expert riders cover four stages of the race for a total of 29 miles; amateur and junior mountain bikers compete in three stages for a total of 25 miles.

“Each rider has a plate with a timing chip, attached to the front of their bike, that automatically records their time,” Scott Enduro Cup communications manager Eli Davis said.

The Enduro Cup tour begins in Moab, followed by races in Angel Fire, New Mexico; Durango, Colorado; and Powderhorn Mountain Resort on Grand Mesa in Colorado. The tour ends August 26 at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, where the overall season winners are to be announced, along with the stage winners from each stop along the tour.

“One of the things about Enduro (is that) the rides are all so different from one another — there are a variety of terrains,” said Ott, of Crested Butte, Colorado.

Ott, 26, was a top contender in the pro/open women’s category during last year’s Moab Enduro Cup. This year she will be rooting not only for herself and her husband Phil, but also for the Crested Butte development mountain biking team she coaches in Colorado. They will be competing in the Junior Enduro category.

“Enduro does a great job of supporting junior and up-and-coming racers,” Ott said. “I’m super excited. Moab is a good warmup to the Enduro season. It’s challenging, and a fun atmosphere. It’s a good kickoff to the season.”

Moab’s Enduro Cup is capped at 300 participants, and while it’s too late to sign up to compete in this year’s Moab event, it’s free for spectators to watch the race along the Klondike Bluffs Trail.

“It’s a fun time for family and friends to gather to watch and it can get pretty rowdy,” Davis said.

Professional riders compete for cash prizes. A $5,000 purse is split between the winners, with first place receiving $1,000; second place, $750; third place, $500; fourth place, $150; and fifth place, $100. Amateur riders receive prizes, too, in the form of trophies and an array of bike accessories, Davis said.

While many professional riders travel to compete in all of the Enduro events to collect as many winning points as possible, many of the amateur riders attend only the local events, Davis said.

Enduro bike racing originated in Europe. Founder Ali Goulet introduced the sport in the United States about 10 years ago, eventually partnering with Salt Lake City-based Mountain Sports International.

“We’re excited to kick off the season with a sold out crowd,” Davis said. It’s the third year the event has sold-out.

Scott Enduro Cup tour stops in Moab

“It’s a fun time for family and friends to gather to watch and it can get pretty rowdy.”

When: Saturday, May 5 (check website for start times)

Where: Klondike Bluffs Trail

Cost: $139 – event is sold out in Moab; Free for spectators

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