It was a baptism of fire For the EWS and organizers
It was never going to be easy, was it? Pulling together a race in the middle of a pandemic on the cusp of Autumn in a high-altitude Alpine village is no mean feat and the EWS rose admirably to the challenge of putting on a race this year.
Some riders could have used the EWS-E for extra training time
Zermatt wasn't rescheduled this year so the weather would have hit regardless but there was no way of knowing that the COVID pandemic was coming when the race was first scheduled. Yes, there was a COVID scare after three people had to be quarantined and tested
that left an air of unease in the pits for an afternoon but it's worth noting that the potential contact happened outside of the EWS bubble and the EWS dealt with the issue in an efficient way. With social distancing, bubbles and masks, the race could go ahead in relative normality and bring the fans the racing we've been waiting for all year.
The first-ever EWS-E race took place on Friday with 34 riders pitting themselves and their motors against the rocky Zermatt trails. The EWS-E followed its own course, with an uphill power stage testing riders' tech climbing ability alongside the usual gravity-fed offerings we'd expect from an enduro race. However, there were some similarities between the regular EWS-E and EWS, as the Rock 'N' Roll and Lake Link (which was later cancelled in the EWS) trails featured in both routes.
This allowed some racers, such as Jose Borges and Melanie Pugin to get some extra time in on the trails before they entered the EWS race. It's a double-edged sword though as racing twice in a weekend leaves little room for recovery and fatigue can start to creep in. Jose Borges said his hands were hurting all day on Sunday but he battled through the pain to fifth place. Of course, any rider that doubled up was working well within the rules (it's just smart!), but it will be interesting if some riders turn to the EWS-E series in future for some extra trail time.This was the shortest ever EWS Race
Brits and French are dominating the women's series
With a winning men's time of 15 minutes dead and a women's time of 17:21, this was the shortest EWS race ever held. The previous shortest was Colombia in 2018, which also had stages cancelled due to weather, although that time it was mud not snow that caused the cut. Such a short race meant that mistakes were more costly than ever and any mechanical led to a rider dropping way out of contention. Some victims of this were Melanie Pugin and Noga Korem who both looked fast and posted top five stage times but had no opportunity to make up any time after suffering mechanicals on the other stages.
Prepare for a season of Wet Cups and Enduro Wet Series
In Zermatt, only two riders were able to break the Anglo-French domination of the top ten in the women's race with Anita Gehrig in fourth and Miranda Miller in tenth. The French dominating women's enduro is nothing new and we have to go back to 2015 to find a year when the overall wasn't won by either Isabeau Courdurier or Cecile Ravanel but a wave of British riders is going to be challenging them for the top spots this year.
Of course, Isabeau Courdurier is still continuing her perfect streak and took two stage wins and the race but Morgane Charre was not far behind with her new Pivot Factory ride and Ella Connolly made a great return from injury for third. Britain vs France would have made for a great Trophy of Nations but we'll have to settle for watching the riders battle it out as individuals for the rest of the season.
Welcome to the new normal. Any international racing we get this year is going to be fraught with anti-COVID measures and, probably, rain. The race calendar is just starting where it would normally finish with mountain towns beginning to gear up for the winter season. Should every race that's currently planned go ahead happen, we'll be verging on November by the time the racing finishes.
As Zermatt, the French Cup in Metabief and even Stage 1 of the Tour de France
proved this weekend, wet weather skills will be crucial for riders this year and riders from damper climates will be licking their chops for some strong results.