I'm over here in Italy soaking up the atmosphere and trying my hand at riding the stages at the opening round of the first ever Enduro World Series along with Steve Jones and the filming crew of Rob and John Parkin from our sister site, Dirt.
What are my initial feelings? It's going to be tough! Having ridden some of the stages yesterday (pedalling up the mountain as opposed to shuttling in vans, an 'issue' that is the subject of much debate here) I can safely say that this event will be a real test of fitness, bike handling skills and, importantly, preparation. I was toast after just two of the uphills!
Here's the first of the DirtTV edits to come from the weekend with a walk-through of the event, the location and the riders.
It's quite bizarre to find so many incredibly talented and proven mountain bikers (we counted over 15 World Champ titles from various titles!) all wandering around the pits and collectively pondering what and who will win the race... Will the likes of Steve Peat's undeniable speed and talent overcome the enduro prowess of riders specific to the discipline such as Jerome Clementz? No one yet knows, but tomorrow's racing could quite possibly see some riders leaving with their tails between their legs. We'll have to wait and see!
Stage 2 dropped
One thing to note is that the second of the five stages has been dropped from tomorrow's racing due to forecast bad weather (not ideal on a course with numerous boulder fields and high speeds in the trees). This may play into the hands of the downhill racers who aren't as trained for a long day out in the saddle. The entire race distance still stands at over 50km with four timed downhills though, which should be enough of a test of fitness for anyone here.
In several hours' time the 'prologue' stage takes place in the nearby town of Castiglione della Pescaia, with a short, sharp blast down through the steps and streets. This one's sure to be a spectacle but don't expect the results to reflect on tomorrow's final rankings.