The long-awaited first round of the EWS has finally arrived… As it was being run with the Italian format I already know, I wasn’t too nervous. To share this experience with the strongest athletes on this planet and to ride with them was great, but the best thing was to find that all of us, from the first to the last, shared the same emotions and fears.
The race was due to be 62km with five stages and very tight transfer times. At the last moment the organisers decided to cancel a stage and lengthen the time of the transfers because of the weather conditions. Me and the other women welcomed this news positively, otherwise it would have been truly tough to finish this race with the distance and pace needed, it would have been more like a marathon XC race than an enduro! Especially in the wet.
Enduro riders need to be complete athletes, being able to ride long distances and push all the way on the descents, but its true nature is the spirit of friendship, to be able to share the experience with other riders and even make new friends on the transfers, if the timing is too tight you will lose this spirit.
Despite being a world-level race, the atmosphere was very calm, I had the chance to make new friends and have a lot of fun. I think that all the women who participated in this event are the real winners, as we had to complete the same length race in the same time as the men. This doesn’t happen anywhere else, not even in World Cup XC, and despite everything we always smile. But, I do think there is too little consideration for our efforts, both in the media and from the organisers. Things are good for the mens race and the women should have the same consideration… As things are, I don’t think it encourages women to become involved in the discipline.
My week in Punta Ala began on Tuesday with some uplifts of the route in dry conditions. I had a good feeling with the trails, but there was so much dust I was worried about the times in between the women racers, as we only had 20 second gaps between us. I was worried that if I caught someone I wouldn’t be able to see anything in the dust. In the end, I didn’t need to worry about this as in the following days it rained and completely changed the course! All the training in the dry didn’t help. On Saturday we rode a few laps in the mud to test the conditions, and we found out that the special stage they had removed is one of the ones we liked most.
Finally it was time for the prologue… We moved over to Castiglione della Pescaia, 10km from Punta Ala for it, a beautiful medieval village overlooking the sea. The race was to take place on the cobbled streets inside the town walls. Wow, what a sight and the crowds who came were amazing!
Race day… Wake up early, a good breakfast and down to the paddock for the last checks on the bike. Standing on the platform before starting the EWS of the story, wow. Then it was out into the first transfer. Fortunately the sun was beginning to come out and I knew that we would find trails wet in the morning but would get better through the day. I was able, in spite of the mud in the morning, to push hard from the start, unfortunately some errors in the longest, most physical special stage kept me out of the top ten, but I am still satisfied with my thirteenth place and I placed first among the Italians!
Although I spent a week totally immersed in the EWS, today on the day after the race I still cannot unplug it, I’m still comparing the timing sheets and talking with Manuel about sections of the race. The adrenaline runs through my veins again, this enduro is like a drug, I just finished a race and cannot wait to participate in the next race and meet my traveling companions with whom I enjoyed it so much again… It was a great weekend and I think everyone involved can say the same thing!
As I was leaving I heard that Anne Caro Chaousson was injured in a bad fall in PS1, I send her my best wishes for a speedy recovery and hope to see you again as soon as possible in the saddle!
Photos: Matt Wragg Words: Valentina Macheda
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