Curtis Keene: Enduro is Fresh

Red Bull's newest athlete talks about his enduro push in 2013 and shreds some SoCal trails.

Curtis Keene posing on his Specialized bike
Curtis Keene poses for portrait© Marv Watson/Red Bull Content Pool

redbull.com: The past few years you’ve focused on both downhill and enduro. Now you’re concentrating on just enduro. Why the switch?

Curtis Keene: Because enduro as a discipline is growing rapidly, especially in Europe, where it has been big for five to eight years. North America is finally catching on, it seems.

The guys at Specialized had raced some of the enduros in Europe a couple years prior and they just kept on raving about how rad it was -- like, “You’ve got to do this, this is the future!” They basically talked me into it because they thought I’d do really well at it considering my strengths. So we took a swing at it last year and it turned out pretty well. I won the North America Enduro Tour and had a bunch of wins and podiums on a global level.

I soaked it all in and after last year it was clear that this is what I want to do. I wasn’t over downhill but enduro is fresh; it’s kind of like a new start. All of my sponsors were elated; it was a unanimous decision that it’s going to be my sole focus for 2013.

What bike are you running for enduro?

The bikes vary; it’ll be the Specialized Enduro 29 or Stumpy 29 or Camber. Depending on terrain, location etc. But mostly it’ll be the Enduro 29.

Do you have to travel with all three bikes?

Normally I’ll travel with one bike; if I’m indecisive or if I don’t know what the terrain is like where I’m going then I’ll have the other bike shipped there, or Specialized will ship it. I’ll have the two that I think will work, then I’ll go ride the terrain and choose after practice.

What are some of the things that cross over from your downhill skills to enduro? What are some of the new things you need to focus on with your training? 

It all crosses over, without a doubt. The downhill sections that we typically race in Europe, and maybe some of the stuff in North America, is like World Cup-level downhill stuff. It is gnarly. I had to work on fitness, because you have long days; it’s not just about the three-minute sprint and you’re done for the day. You could have 5-8 minute sprints throughout the day with 6,000 feet of climbing and 35 miles of riding. There’s a different type of physical conditioning.

This winter I trained in a completely different way in comparison to years past for downhill. I had to lose some weight and some muscle mass and just become more efficient. I had to increase my sustained efforts and my durability. I needed to be able to put out multiple efforts throughout the day with a lot of riding and climbing.

Jerome Clementz and all those guys have been crushing it. So now I get to go chase those guys -- or they can chase me.

What specific training are you doing to help out with the transition to enduro?

I do a lot of intervals. I’ll go out for a 2-3 hour ride and within that I’ll have segments where I’ll do a three-minute interval where it’s 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off. I did all the base training months ago. November, December, and January I was putting in long weeks just to create that base fitness. Now I’m kind of fine-tuning, ramping up the intensities.

How many years did you race downhill?

I started late, in 2002. I was semi-pro the first year and then turned pro in 2003. I did pretty well, especially on the national level. The World Cup kind of eluded me but it’s all good; it made me who I am today.

Mountain bike athlete Curtis Keene
Curtis Keene Joins the Red Bull Family© Marv Watson/Red Bull Content Pool

Do you have a renewed fire going into this season?

For sure. Like I said, it’s a fresh start. There are entirely new venues that we’re going to, the format is new, even the bike that I race on is different.

The guys you are racing with now have basically pioneered the sport, so that has to feel good.

Jerome Clementz and all those guys have been crushing it. So now I get to go chase those guys -- or they can chase me. We’ll see what happens!

Let’s talk about your kit and being a part of Troy Lee and Specialized. You’re pretty dialed-in head-to-toe now.

It’s the perfect package, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Head-to-toe gear, bike, everything. Those guys have all been family to me over the years and now to throw Red Bull into the mix, it’s icing on the cake. To help someone like myself grow physically, mentally and on all levels is super exciting. I have no excuses; I have the best support package. I feel lucky.

What are your goals for the upcoming season?

I really hope to learn a lot again. This is my first season racing enduro so that’s going to be a learning experience on its own. I want to stay healthy throughout the year. I hope to do well, to ride at the potential I know I can.

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