Laia Sanz took the gold medal at this year’s X Games women endurocross June 7 in Austin, Texas, while Mike Brown won it for the men. But what exactly is it? 

To watch an endurocross race is to watch real athleticism combined with riding skill. Speed has something to do with it, but the main focus is on finesse. The arena course is filled with tricky obstacles, jumps, banks and climbs. The way to win is to keep moving and more efficiently than your opponents. To watch a highlight reel of the sport is to watch feats of balance, jarring landings, kinetic improbabilities and careful risk taking. It’s sort of like the acrobatics of motocross.

Still, what is this endurocross and where did it come from?

Many have heard the name, and most might imagine a game of attrition, where endurance is king, but it is a little more than that.

The sport, introduced in 2000 as part of the Barcelona Trial Indoor, spread through Europe in following years, finding its way to the United States and ultimately the X Games.

Endurocross is a hybrid event, blending supercross trials with endure racing. Events are generally held in indoor stadiums, but outdoor venues are becoming more common. The odd balance is that an endurocross event is faster than a trials course but slower than a supercross course. It’s like watching both, sped up and slowed down, through an old viewmaster viewer.

Eric Peronnard is the man responsible for bringing the sport to the states, originally billed as a one-off race event called EnduroCross at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. From there, the race was expanded to the AMA EnduroCross Championship in 2007. It wasn’t until 2011 that an AMA EnduroCross race was added to the X Games in Los Angeles. By 2013, all four X Games summer events featured the endurocross races, with both mens’ and womens’ competitions featured.