3 Questions About La Thuile EWS

Jul 21, 2018
by Richard Cunningham  
Cecile Ravanel
Ravanel VS Ravanel

Who can beat Ravanel?

What does the world's top female trail rider do for a weekend vacation? Cecile Ravanel races World Cup downhills. Ravanel earned a fifth place podium spot, on what many call the toughest track on the World Cup DH circuit last week. Is the French enduro phenom testing the waters for a career switch? With four straight EWS wins this year, Ravanel appears to be unchallenged for a second overall title in the series. Many of us can only dream of racing World Cup Downhill, but Ravanel? I won't discount the possibility that she's using mountain biking's most prestigious gravity venue as a means to sharpen her trail riding skillset. Ravanel is living an impressive life.

Far from over, the EWS series is only at the half-way point as racers prepare for six big stages at La Thuile, Italy. Isabeau Courdurier, whose four consecutive second-place finishes have kept the Intense rider only 200 points short of the number one plate, will be riding in the shadow of Commencal's reigning Queen of Enduro, but with 400 points on the line for a win, there's still the possibility for an order reshuffle this weekend. That said, most bets at La Thuile are on a part-time World Cup DH pro and a phenomenally talented enduro racer by the same name.

Who Can Beat Ravanel in La Thuile?

EWS round 5 2018
Sam Blenkinsop VS Sam Hill

Can Sam B Beat Sam H?

Sam Hill and Sam Blenkinsop have been rivals in downhill and enduro. Of course, there's Schladming in 2008 where Sam B beat Sam H, but more recently since the beginning of 2014, the two have raced against each other 24 times, with Sam B coming out ahead in 12 of the races, and Sam H coming out ahead in 12 races. Of those races, Sam B has beaten Sam H twice in enduro races, once at the EWS in Whistler, and once at the Crankworx Enduro. In a few days, the two will face off on La Thuile's EWS tracks. Both riders have historically done their best on steep and technical downhill courses.

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Downhill is won or lost in a single race on a well-practiced course in just a few short minutes. Enduro stages are often comprised of similar durations, but practice time is minimal and the complication of racing multiple stages back to back puts a greater emphasis on concentration, creative thinking, and high fitness levels. It took Sam Hill a number of races to get his EWS game on before the Godfather of Flat Pedals returned to his winning ways. With a few promising results this year and athlete conditioning wizard Todd Shumlick running his team, Blenkinsop could also be ramping up.

Those close to Blenki speak in hushed tones about the New Zealander's trail skills, and there is speculation that enduro's extended format will help him find his flow and he'll start laying down some scorching stages. This weekend, all eyes will be on Sam H for the overall, but don't count Sam B out for one or two stage wins. It's Italy - anything can happen here.

With showers during practice it was sometime hard to stay dry and warm. It did not help Gary get over his cold and he unfortunately had to seat out the second day of racing to get over it
Thor VS Italy

Will Weather be a Factor?

Weather could be a big factor in the outcome, as the top some stages are at or close to 8000 feet and electrical storms are predicted Saturday that may coincide with stage two. Saturday's stages are the steepest and at best, inclement conditions will move the best bike-handlers to the front. If all goes wrong, however, unplanned alterations to affected stages (or a dropped stage) could alter the outcome of the race - especially for anyone who suffers a mechanical and is hoping to make up lost time.

Wet weather is expected to continue through Sunday, but by then, the race should be settled. The fresh-cut sections, however, might be treacherous - with the once powdery soil becoming lubricated fun zones for fans, and treacherous time suckers for competitors. If La Thuile is an indicator of how the second half of the EWS will play out, then fasten your seat belts - it's going to rage until the fat lady sings.

Thor or Italy, who will prevail?


  • + 31
 Just checking, some stages are at 8000m? Did you mean feet? Everest Enduro!
  • + 161
 RC mixed up metric, boost, and freedom units. Fixed now.
  • + 18
 @sarahmoore: 'Freedom units' - very funny, and sadly, well deserved!
  • + 9
 @sarahmoore: imperial boost is the next big thing.
  • + 3
 @sarahmoore: Boost units lmfao!
  • + 16
 8000 metres? That had to be hellable lot of effort for organizers to bring the Himalaya conditions to Europe!
  • + 4
 Changed! Thank you!
  • + 13
 It's Pinkbike...where 3ft in reality is 12ft on these boards! Wink
  • + 13
 Actually Mont Blanc has higher altitude difference between the base in Courmayeur (even bigger when measured with Chamonix) than Everest with its base camp. This information is irrelevant but it probably pissess a few people off that I brought it up
  • + 14
 @Pininator: 8000 Freeride meters
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Everest base camp is higher than Mont Blanc summit.
  • + 2
 That’s good trail building
  • + 16
 Was that a parrot in the booth with Warner?
  • + 2
 The Danny bonnaduce to Rob Warner’s Adam Carolla.
  • + 6
 Sam Hill is focused on overall he won't kill himself for a stage or event win... Blenki has nothing to lose and a lot to prove...
  • + 7
 Richie Rude must smash! Unless it rains...
  • + 2
 Seems wetting conditions can be his Kryptonite. Besides that, he just eats terrain. Blows rocks up when he hits them.
  • + 1
 @chillrider199: he is riding Yeti, what did you expect? Flawless performance of bike? Pfff
  • + 2
 Blenki will undoubtedly win a stage or two, but DH is all or nothing. With nothing to lose, he may get a bit wild and end up with a mechanical. Plus, fitness does play a role, and these are big mountains. Oton may not be a DH vetern, but he stays at the top due to fitness. Will Blenki’s DH skills give him the edge over experience and fitness? I picked Hill.
  • + 3
 Blenki is really Hill's biggest threat this weekend? As much as I like him, I'm going to guess, at very minimum, 10 other riders will best Blenki.
  • + 1
 That team video of Blenki winning in Schladming is still one of my favourite Eric Porter edit ever. It was so cool to see him get top step and massive respect from the other riders.
  • + 4
 Sam Hill for the Win clearly!!!
  • - 19
flag n1ck (Jul 20, 2018 at 10:51) (Below Threshold)
  • + 2
 @n1ck: your comment = meh
  • - 8
flag n1ck (Jul 20, 2018 at 13:00) (Below Threshold)
 @thewho07: Still meh Wink
  • + 4
 Cool concept. Keep these coming for EWS and World Cup events!
  • + 5
 Sam for the win!
  • + 3
 I miss the real Warner...
  • + 3
 True that
  • + 2
 I love the poll ! Also the old archive races are sick to see!
  • + 1
 Only went for Blenki on account of flat pedal thunder protecting the overall
  • + 1
 Wasn't Hill protecting the lead alredy in Petzen/Jamnica? Yes he did, with a win ????
  • + 2
 Big Q: Will Jared Graves ever win again? 213 first stage...
  • + 2
 Has he ever been a threat since going to specialized? Feel like that ended it..
  • + 2
 Hill has been besting Blenki since forever. Its never gonna change.
  • + 1
 I have a 4th question. Why is the lift access closed to everyone else who wants to ride la thuile but isn't racing?
  • - 3
 Sam B. is an amazing powerful rider and its making a great season in the DH WC.... but making any kind of comparation with SAM HILL, a legend, one of the G.O.A.T of All Time in mountain biking is just dumb... be reasonable PB
  • + 9
 He beat Sam Hill on an Iron Horse at Schladming when Hill was on top of his game.
  • + 4
 And read the text, you can see why they are comparing the two
  • + 1
 SAM for 1st SAM for 2nd ...the rest
  • + 2
 You need more Eddie in your life
  • + 1
 Quite a podium in blenki's first win...
  • + 1
 Justin leov!!!!!!
  • + 0
 Welcome to procore

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