Wow, it’s been a busy year for some of the sport’s athletes – not least those taking part in the Enduro World Series, and the momentum carries into Val d’Isere, France, this weekend.
After two back-to-back events in Winter Park and Whistler the enduro circus has had a weekend to rest and – more importantly – get from Canada back to Europe for the latest race in Val d’Isere this weekend. Interestingly the event doubles up as the Enduro des Nations – a race which pitches national teams from around the world against each other to determine the winning country. Last year France took the title will the results differ in 2013?
It’s going to be tough out on those steep Alpine slopes so here’s a little insight into the proceedings. Who do you predict to take the top results?
Steep, unforgiving and monstrous. The mountains around Val d’Isere are giants: high peaks with lifts that access the very summits in places and descents that are near endless. Having ridden in ‘Val’ last year I can confirm that whoever wins on the chosen courses will need a big set of lungs, powerful brakes and incredible perseverance. That could probably apply to the entire Enduro World Series of course.
As this is a French race run under French rulings, the exact courses used can’t be practiced before the day of racing, but the course map has been published today in a rider briefing and entrants have been allowed to walk the stages to get an idea of bigger features and the lay of the land (there will be seven timed runs on a total of three different trails). Trails are lift-accessed but the (predominantly downhill) stages are so long that this is certainly not going to make things easy. The culmination of the weekend’s racing is a final mass-start stage, which is reserved for those competing in the Enduro des Nations.
There is going to be one particular absence on the start line this weekend – that of Nicolas Vouilloz. Unfortunately the Frenchman had a crash over in Canada that resulted in a broken scaphoid (if you don’t know, it’s a tiny bone in your wrist but can be one of the most problematic injuries in cycling.) The 10-time World Champion will be missed but that’s certainly not to say that there will be a lack of talent lining up for the challenge.
Vouilloz’s compatriot Anne-Caroline Chausson is one of those aforementioned talents – probably the most successful mountain biker of all time – will be looking to back up her win at Crankworx Whistler and claw back some points from Tracy Moseley’s huge lead. Tracy is up on second-placed Cecile Ravanel by nearly 1,000 points after round five and third-placed Anneke Beerten is a further 235 points down.
Aussie Jared Graves will have a tough race on his hands against the experienced French enduro racers Jerome Clementz and Remy Absalon who know the mountains, the race format and the art of riding stages blind incredibly well. That’s not to count out the supreme skill and speed of round one winner Fabien Barel though – the Canyon team rider ran out of luck over in Whistler as he was penalised for ‘shuttling’ (find out about it here) but with his downhill experience he is likely to revel in the steep and technical terrain of Val d’Isere. If his recent results are anything to go off, we’d also be foolish to count out a surprise result from Kiwi privateer Jamie Nicoll; we reckon he has it in him to beat the best if the stars line up for him.
The junior category is one to watch too – especially as Belgian Martin Maes has been putting in some incredibly strong performances that have seen him contending with the top elite racers. His style is bound to suit the harsh terrain in Val d’Isere.
And now for something completely different… So far in the series every race has been blessed with favourable weather – even with a little mud on the ground over at the first event in Italy racers were excused from racing in poor conditions and the weekend turned out to be sunny and dry.
This weekend however… things aren’t looking great. Twitter has been throwing stories of rain, storms and even snow. The official forecast doesn’t seem quite so pessimistic but here’s hoping that the racers won’t be subjected to storms tomorrow.
Finally, why not sit back and catch up on happenings in the last round of the series with the superbly brilliant coverage by our friends over at DirtTV?