Pure excitement at the Enduro World Series #2: All the big names from all kinds of disciplines came to Val d’Allos, to enjoy some great local flair, flow trails, and fight for the podium’s top spot, of course! During the first round, there was general excitement about how good your preparation and training during the winter was (and on the courses in the weeks before), this weekend presented the riders with a whole new challenge. The race’s rhythm couldn’t have been more different from Punta Ala. We already said that there was no training, except for an untimed run before each single stage during the race.
Jared Graves during the untimed run with a GoPro to watch the run later. Look at the well-placed start number.
The result of this: quite a lot of riders changed their bike’s setup after the untimed run; others didn’t, due to their experience and feeling for the track or just because they felt comfortable. Having a lift to get to the top of the next stage again makes this race like a multi-stage long distance downhill race. This isn’t supposed to be a critique, it’s just different.
The fact that there was only one trial run was definitely an advantage for some riders that are used to race on sight, whereas others might struggle quite a bit, which you were clearly able to see, after the two first rounds. The Top 3 riders were French racers. The Italians were out of the Top 20! But all riders considered this rule of having one untimed run at each special stage as very fair. Nevertheless, it just seemed quite clear that the Frenchies could take today’s scratch podium. But nothing was clear!
Let’s begin with stage #1: A good mix of bike park sections and wild trail segments with high grass. The more riders raced down the tracks, the more “structure” and lines became visible. Stage time was under 10 minutes for the fastest riders. Jerome Clementz (Cannondale) immediately took the lead amongst the men’s class, followed by Nico Vouilloz (Lapierre), Nico Quere (Commencal), René Wildhaber (Trek) and Fabien Barel (Canyon). A positive surprise were the very consistent top-results of René Wildhaber (Trek). In the lady’s field, Tracy Moseley (Trek) took the lead right from the beginning, followed by Anneke Beerten (Specialized), Cécile Ravanel (GT) and Ines Thoma (Canyon). Big names like Nico Lau (Cube Action Team), Martin Maes (GT) just didn’t appear in the top30.
Ben Cruz (Cannondale) went down hard on stage one. On Friday, Anne Caroline Chausson (Ibis) decided that she would sit out Val’dAllos, in order to get prepared for her comeback in Les 2 Alpes next weekend (ACC crashed hard in Punta Ala).
The problem for the riders is that there is a lot of wasted time during the day, as they are waiting quite a long time for the next stage to begin. That makes it hard for a lot of riders to get into race-mode, be fully concentrated, and warm up again. It’s kind of all about hanging around in the pits where the riders check their bikes after each run (or let check by their mechanic).
Reigning Downhill World Champion Greg Minaar finished 3rd today. Still three timed runs to come tomorrow.
Stage #2 was a mix of bike park sections with berms alternating with narrow single track, containing some flat segments as well. In total, another 10 minutes on that stage that got quite physical, due to the dusty conditions, hot weather, and considering the altitude of Val d’Allos. In the ranking there were some smaller changes.
Jey, in the bottom part of Stage 3 with a punctured front wheel, losing about 1.20 minutes, making it impossible for him to reach the podium tomorrow! Well, never say never!
Stage #3 was the last stage of day one and a complete game changer. Jey, Dan Atherton (GT) or Fabien Barel made mistakes (punctures) and are now out of tomorrow’s podium contenders. This stage was very physical and technical as well. All-round talent Jared Graves (Yeti) has achieved the top-spot of today’s scratch podium. Nico Vouilloz, second, and reigning Downhill World-Champion Greg Minaar third. Seems like Greg learned a lot from Punta Ala were he finished 33th.
In the women’s field Tracy Moseley increased her lead by over one minute over Anneke Beerten in second place and Cécile Ravanel in third, separated by less than one second. Fourth is German racer Ines Thoma.
This was today’s classification but with the longest stage to come, anything can happen on this mountain: Stage 4 will be rough and extremely long; the estimated racing time is going to be around 15 minutes for the top guys. After one untimed run for training tomorrow morning the riders will race stage 4 two (!) times and then finish with a short stage five (estimated racing time is 5 minutes). Again, anything can happen tomorrow. The most consistent rider will win!
Words: Robin Schmitt (Cheers to Chris Ball & Enrico Guala!) Photos: Matt Wragg