While the Enduro World Series may be kicking off its season in Rotorua for the third time, it really may as well be a different venue for 2019. Why you may ask? The answer is simple and can be explained in one simple word. Dust.
Having raced in the wet the past two visits with where conditions ranged from downright slippery with zero traction to boggy and energy sapping slow, it's quite shocking to see dust hanging thick in the forest air. And while there is an ever so slight chance of a rain shower or two in the forecast it's nothing that should do anything to ruin the current state of flow. Really the biggest issue will be visibility as the combination of patchy forest light and dust makes it nearly impossible to see where you are going if even remotely close to a rider in front. This should be no issue on race day as riders run in a proper seeding order but during the open practice, it could turn into quite the junk show. With only one run per lap in training, it is going to be imperative to be able to see where you are going. Additionally, there will be four stages that will be raced as part of the EWS for the first time, two of which have never even been ridden at all.
So who would we put our money on?
For the women, it has to be Isabeau Courdurier in the absence of the currently injured Cecile Ravanel. But the rest of the podium could be anyone's guess, especially when you look at the variety of names who finished there last season. Katy Winton, Noga Korem, Andreane Lanthier Nadeau, Caro or Anita Gehrig, Ines Thoma, etc. It really is anyones guess and the same could really be said for the men's field as well. Sure, Sam Hill will come to the front of most peoples minds, especially with things as dry, loose, and blown out as they are now in Rotorua. But he will surely be pushed by the likes of Martin Maes. Then there is the return of Adrien Dailly who could steal the show if he has recovered from injury enough to have the same form of previous years. Or last season's standout privateer Youn Deniaud now with the support of Giant's factory effort. The list really is almost endless when you add in Robin Wallner, Kevin Miquel, Florian Nicolai, Jesse Melamed and on and on down the line. Maybe we'll even see a Kiwi on top as we did with Wyn Masters in 2017.
We will be bringing you all the (hopefully) dry and dusty action from Rotorua this weekend so be sure to check back in to see how things unfold as the 2019 Enduro World series gets underway.