The fourth round of the EWS in Val di Fassa provided some intense racing while riders dealt with blistering temperatures. Here are five things we noticed from the sidelines:1. EWS races are shorter this year
At the halfway point in the season, it seems that riders are being given an easier time this year than last year. Yes, the weather gods have smiled on them but so have the EWS route planners, who have cut down the amount of riding considerably from last year.
In 2018, riders kicked off with four consecutive two day races however this year two of the races have been completed in just one. The fastest men had already also racked up nearly three hours of race time against the clock at this point last year, with each race averaging just over 43 minutes, whereas we've had about an hour less in total this year with races averaging around the 30 minute mark.
2. Riders from warmer climates seemed to perform better in the high temperatures
With Europe baking under a heatwave at the moment, riders faced temperatures of upwards of 36°C throughout the day. This made conditions pretty hard for everyone with not a lot of opportunity for shade and recovery. One thing we noticed was that in the hotter weather local riders and those from warmer climates tended to perform better with only a few riders like Richie Rude and ALN being the exceptions. In the Elite men's race, seven of the ten fastest were from warmer climates and the Women's was pretty similar with six of the top ten. This presents an interesting issue as the hot weather is set to continue into next weekend when the EWS arrives in France for two long days of riding.
3. Isabeau Courdurier continues her domination of the women's field
No one can argue that Isabeau Courdurier is absolutely dominating the 2019 EWS season and with four back to back wins she is on her way to matching Cecile Ravanel's perfect 2018 season. So far this year Courdurier has won 75% of the stages on offer, she has only finished outside of the top two in a stage twice and she has also taken the fastest time on all the Queen stages and grabbing those valuable extra overall points. For 2019 she has finally had her chance to show she has what it takes to perform at the highest level consistently race to race but is she as dominant as Cecile was last year?
When you look at overall race times, maybe not. Isabeau is currently pulling an average of 1.4% over second place and 3.3% over fifth, for Cecile this was 3.6% and 8.4% respectively at this point in the season. Yes weather and tracks will have played their part but Isabeau's grip over the series isn't quite as tight as Cecile's was and she'll have to keep an eye over her shoulder if she wants that perfect season this year.
4. Plenty of riders rocked new bikes to tackle the Dolomites
The biggest change of bikes for round four was Sam Hill testing a prototype Nukeproof Mega
that had more travel, slacker head angle and a longer reach. After struggling to get used to the bigger wheels over the past few seasons the new bike seems to suit him well as he finished the weekend second behind Richie Rude. Gustav Wildhaber, who finished 10th, would also be riding a prototype Cube
which looks to be a new direction for the company, although the paint job is definitely divisive.
In other tech news, Isabeau Courdurier has now made the switch to 29-inch wheels and she seems to be loving it according to her Instagram, it also isn't slowing her down either. The Canyon team were also on some freshly painted Canyon Strives.
5. Consistency is key for the EWS overall
Winning doesn't mean everything this year in the EWS with only two of the top ten riders having actually been fastest of the day. No rider has been in the top five at every race so far and only current series leader Florian Nicolai has been in it three times. The four other riders at the top of the overall standings only have six results inside the top five between them but because of consistently good results, they see themselves featured at the top of the leaderboards.
Sam Hill is a great example of this, his results of 12th, 8th, 5th and 2nd may not have yet reached the sparkling brilliance of last year but he finds himself second in the overall with Nicolai easily catchable just 220 points ahead.
• Final Results: EWS Val di Fassa 2019
• Course Preview: Unspoiled Beauty - EWS Val di Fassa 2019
• Practice Photo Epic: High Altitude - EWS Val di Fassa 2019
• Finals Photo Epic: Checkers or Wreckers - EWS Val di Fassa 2019
• Video: Course Preview With Katy Winton - EWS Val Di Fassa 2019