The final round of the EWS in Zermatt provided san incredible end to one of the best seasons of mountain bike racing in recent memory. Here are five things we noticed from the sidelines:
Has racing ever been better than this? Just a fortnight after the heart-stopping finish to the World Cup downhill season and a totally unpredictable World Cup XC season, the Enduro World Series provided its own nail-biting crescendo in the Swiss Alps.
The bikes, coverage and spread of racing are better than ever and the reward is a truly amazing period of racing. There’s no doubt we’ll look back on 2019 as one of the classic years in competitive mountain biking with plenty more of the same still to come in 2020.
Isabeau Courdurier may have wrapped up the 2019 series title in Northstar but that didn't stop her taking a commanding win in Zermatt on a new prototype Intense (Keep your eyes peeled for full bike check on that coming next weekend in Finale).
By taking the top step in Switzerland, Courdurier matched the perfect season of Cecile Ravanel achieved in 2018. Isabeau was only beaten on 16 of the 49 stages all season, meaning she had a win rate of nearly 70% in a truly dominant season. 2020 is going to be exciting to watch with both Courdurier and Ravanel battling out.
Sam Hill’s winning margin of 40 points may seem slim but the title race very nearly ended in a dead heat. Had Sam Hill not picked up the bonus points from the Queen stage, he and Nicolai would have been tied on 3190 points. So who would have won? Well, it would still have been Hill as his result in the final race was better.
In the end, Hill would have had to have lost 8 seconds on the final stage to Richie Rude to lose the overall title but instead he beat him by 17 in a Hollywood ending to the season. Hill becomes only the second enduro racer to win three titles in a row after Tracey Moseley’s domination of the early years of the sport.
Since his return from suspension at round four in Val di Fassa Richie Rude has dominated the remaining EWS races winning three of the last five rounds. He also won 13 of the 30 stages he raced on which is nearly half of all the stages he competed on and more than anyone else managed in a full season. 2019 had plenty of drama both on and off the track but we are definitely set for some great competition next year with the likes of Rude, Maes, Nicolai and Hill all in a straight battle for the title.
“The French are good at mountain biking” is hardly front-page news at the moment but while the start of this season was dominated by Aussies and Kiwis, the French were able to reassert themselves by the end of the year in the discipline they invented.
Florian Nicolai may have been beaten in the race for the overall but he leads out a French 2-3-4-5 in the World Cup overall with Miquel, Tordo and Dailly. With only 3 spots available for Trophy of Nations teams, one of these top 5 riders won’t even get a place on the French first team. Courdurier will lead out France’s women’s team and with Charre and Pugin likely to be joining her, they will also be trio to beat.