GONE FULL ENDURO
GONE FULL ENDURO
The Santa Cruz | SRAM Enduro Team
March 19 — 2019 | Worldwide
This notion of pedal-powered exploration with your mates—disguised as a bike race—is arguably why enduro is so popular. It’s also why Mark Scott, Iago Garay, and Alex ‘Krunk Shox’ McGuinnis are where they are and do what they do. Now in its sixth year, the Enduro World Series represents the pinnacle of enduro mountain bike racing, pitting the best riders in the world against each other on an ever-changing series of venues. With the 2019 season upon us, we sat down with Mark, Iago, and Krunk Shox to discover more about who they are and what makes them tick.
The Flying Scotsman
Mark’s recently relocated from Edinburgh, where he spent his childhood “building wooden pallet jumps and stupid shit to jump off”, to the Scottish mountain bike mecca that is the Tweed Valley, but this is just the latest step in a path toward professional mountain biking that goes back over 15 years.
From ripping around the trails at Glentress in 2003 to his first year racing in 2005, Mark’s love for the sport was strong, but his results less so. That would all change the following year. “I went from being sixteenth to third in the space of six months” recalls Mark. By 2007, he’d won every downhill series championship in the UK and would leave that year with the Juvenile national champions jersey.
The following year, Mark made his mark on the Junior circuit, winning a Maxxis Cup in Portugal and entering his first World Cup in Maribor, Slovenia. Had there been a World Cup Junior category in those days, he would have climbed his first World Cup podium. In a stacked field, Mark was stoked to qualify and make the final amongst the fastest mountain bikers on the planet.
After two years in the Junior category and still dabbling with school, Mark hit a brick wall when he entered the elite ranks aged 18. “I was privateering hard and not really getting anywhere in the results”, he explains, “I'd been racing for a good eight or nine years at that point—you just you can't really sustain it without proper support.”
The Stylish Spaniard
Madrid’s ancient trails have served its population for generations, from agriculture to recreation. For Iago Garay, his father’s love of the outdoors would introduce him to mountain biking, although it wasn’t love at first sight for Iago. “We used to go on XC rides all the time, but back then, I wasn't really into it. I'd go mostly because my parents made me, until one day somebody told me about this sport which consisted of only going downhill.” It wasn’t long until Iago and his father found an event in Spain with a designated kids DH race. They hit the road and headed north to the ski resort of Pajares for a stop on the prestigious Maxxis Cup.
“I remember jumping off the chair lift with my little Bianchi 24-inch hardtail and sending it down this gnarly track in the rain” recalls Iago. Crashing five times in his run and eventually rolling across the finish line to an array of bemused onlookers, Iago, aged 11, had just ridden the same track as the elite men. “The kids' track was on this grassy field with about six corners!”
Going Full Enduro
The path from downhill racing to enduro is a familiar and well-ridden one, especially for early adopters like Mark and Iago. While Iago’s route came via a a modeling gig, Mark’s push came from the person who’d had his back throughout his downhill racing career: his father.
While at the Val-d’Isère World Cup in 2012, Mark’s dad, witnessing first hand the struggles of privateering at such an elite level, lost it after discovering that the privateer pits were a mile from the main pit area, used by the factory teams. “He was like, “this is bullshit, there's no help for privateers!” recalls Mark. But as fate would have it, there was an alternative close by.
Having packed his brother's trail bike for the trip to France, Mark and his father loaded their Transit van and bounced over the border into Italy. Their destination was Madesimo and a round of the Super Enduro series taking place the same weekend. “It was a big move, packing up and leaving the World Cup like that [because] it's all I've ever wanted to do.” His decision would pay dividends as he finished on the podium that weekend.
Iago’s transition was a bit more serendipitous. Though he’d been dabbling in the burgeoning enduro scene, it wasn’t until we needed a rider to sub in for the injured Chris Johnston on the Nomad 3 photo and video shoot in Chile that Iago drifted onto our radar. Iago, recommended by Bike Comp, SCB’s Spanish distributor, wowed everyone with his style and skill on the bike. The photos from the trip, shot by Gary Perkin, have become iconic, and it’s also where Do You Even Drift, Bro got its start.
Enduro’s arrival on the world stage came at just the right time their career trajectory as bike racers. After racing downhill for so many years, the switch was refreshing. “I really like the fact that you get to see more of where you go. When you’re at a downhill race, you see the race track and the road from the hotel back to the race track, and that's it,” says Iago.
Mark chimes in, “a lot of it is just the variety—we get to go all over the world and explore new places, and not go to Mont-Sainte-Anne every year, or places like that. The DH scene seems to be stuck in a rut as far as venues go”. Mark loves long days on the bike now, far from the lift queues and the waiting around often associated with downhill racing.
“Don't get me wrong, I [still] love downhill and there's nothing like the feeling of putting down a solid race run!” insists Iago. He also explains that upon arriving at new venues, the local Santa Cruz riders are all too keen to share their trails with the tourists, in town for the race that weekend.
But who the hell is Krunk Shox?
For the past four seasons, the team has been managed by Allan Cooke, a former professional BMX rider (with an X-Games gold medal to his name) who joined SCB in 2014. This year, however, Krunk Shox is on the road with the boys.
Alex McGuinnis, or ‘Krunk Shox’ has been part of the Santa Cruz family for a couple years now. Why Krunk Shox? “Team Krunk Shox was an amalgamation of real NFG shredders from Colorado. Fast forward a decade and along comes Instagram. I seized the moment and chose the handle @krunk_shox and owing to Instagram’s omnipotence, the name stuck,” confirms Krunk.
Oh Captain, my captain.
While studying to be an elementary teacher in Oregon, Krunk was a regular on the thriving enduro racing scene, and came in contact with our Factory Racing team. A shared style and approach made the team feel like a second home, and in 2017, and Krunk officially joined Santa Cruz Bicycles, where he met Mark and Iago.
Tight Ships and Strong Sailors
“My goal is to run a pretty tight ship with Mark and Iago,” according to Krunk. His new role requires many hats: soigneur to chef to spirit guide, keeping things upbeat and fun when the pressure is on and it’s time to go full send. “If you can't laugh at Krunk, then there's just something wrong with you,” says Mark.
“Anybody who knows Krunk Shox, know he runs a tight program and I think he's a great addition [to the team]” confirms Iago. For both Mark and Iago, this is a big year for them: a new team dynamic, a brand new bike—the result of their feedback—and a focus on performance. And style. Or in Mark’s words, “Our goal is to get on the box and do it our own way.”
Krunk keeping things both sick and 'tight.'
Krunk’s familiarity with the boys, alongside their respect for him as a fellow bike racer, forms much of the foundation. “These guys are in their mid-twenties, right, and I'm 30. So there isn't some sort of a subordinate operational role here. We are very much peers and cohorts” says Krunk, “I think there's mutual respect between us all so I don't think there's any tension.”
“You know, Mark hasn't missed an EWS round since the genesis of the format and Iago loves this stuff and has been professionally racing for years,” he continues.
Asking Mark about that stat (he’s one of only a handful), “I’d never really thought about it until about two years ago until someone told me and I was like, ‘f**k aye I have!’...I always finish the race.”
“When it comes to race time, these guys are just outright professionals. It's indicative because that's why they've gotten themselves to where they are” says Krunk, who evidently isn’t nervous about the pressures of his new role and the upcoming race season. “It's going to be very successful no matter how it ends up looking because these guys can handle their shit.”