7 Men Matt Wragg Believes Could Take the Overall EWS Title in 2018

Mar 23, 2018
by Matt Wragg  



As we head into the sixth season of Enduro World Series competition, we look set for the toughest battle yet for the men's overall title. Matt Wragg picks the seven of the men he thinks will be leading the pack this season and could come away with the overall.




The 2015 and 2016 series champion had an off year in 2017 and it's still not clear why. The most plausible explanation I have heard is that it's a question of his head. If you look at the results from the final round of 2017 in Finale Ligure, the rumour goes that his team sat him down on the Saturday night and there was something of a dressing down. It seems to have done the job - on Sunday he was the fastest man on the hill, with his worst stage result a 6th, after consistently sitting outside the top 20 on Saturday. To be fair to Richie, if you look at his life, it would be hard to begrudge him letting his focus wander. While his racing palmaries are impressive, that kind of success only comes with single-minded focus which has to come at a great personal cost. In between training, testing, and racing, where is the time to be a teenager? While most of us may take those years/memories of late teenage and early adulthood for granted, all those stupid misadventures, mistakes, and sketchy decisions are an important part of growing up, of becoming a well-rounded person. So he may need some time on a personal level - after all, there is a huge risk of burning out when success comes so early and in such a dramatic fashion. What this all translates to for the season, from the outside, is hard to guess. Only Richie can really know what is going on, but if he shows up in Chile with his game face on, I think he has to be the favourite to win anywhere and everywhere.




While he may have settled for second overall in 2017, there is a very strong argument that Adrien Dailly was the man to beat all season. While Sam Hill won just a single race on his way to the title, Adrien took three victories. Although this is a testament to Sam's consistency and ability to capitalise on Adrien's mistakes and weak(er) weekends. The worrying thing for the rest of the field is how young Adrien is - this was only his first season racing with the big boys, and it took a three-time DH World Champion to deny him the title. As he heads towards his mid-20s he is going to get fitter and stronger, and with a little more experience (and guidance from a certain Nico Vouilloz) expect to see him eliminating those mistakes that dogged his 2017 season.




Impressive hardly does Sam Hill's debut season justice. Sam joins Tracy Moseley in the exclusive club as the only two racers so far to win the EWS overall title on their first try. Yet, if we look at his 2017 results, his title was somewhat lower key with only a single win compared to the 3 or 4 Richie racked up when he took his titles. Winning the Aspen round and bagging the series title showed that Sam can be competitive on every course, not just on the tracks that suit downhillers. But, it also shows that he is beatable, although he was out of the top five only once all year. I think the big unknown has to be his progression, how is moving away from DH working for him? He is at an age where you would expect to see some fall-off in his explosive power and a lean towards endurance fitness - will that work for him or against him? I think there is no doubt that he will be at the sharp end again this year, but will it be enough?




There are very few people with a strong enough head to win a world-class race on home soil. Greg has done just that. Twice. Yet it was his third victory, in Madeira last year, that is the most telling. It is one thing to win where the style of racing suits you, but to do that on unfamiliar ground, at a race where the playing field was about as level as you will ever get is a different matter. Since the very first season of the EWS, Greg has charted an upwards trajectory, methodically building and improving each year - he has risen from a van-dwelling privateer to someone who is undoubtedly a threat every single weekend. Maybe the interesting thing coming into this season is that during 2017 Greg recognised that he was losing out to the other front-runners on the high-speed courses, so this winter he headed to California with Gee Atherton to work on that. Considering that he finished third overall last year, it seems like a pretty good bet to think that he will be in the title running come the end of the season.




It is easy to overlook Martin Maes when we talk title contenders because he wasn't in the running when the series rolled into Finale Ligure in 2016 or 2017. Yet, if you look at his results, when he makes it to the finish line he is always there, rarely off the podium. The problem is that in both 2016 and 2017 he has been injured or DNF'd at two rounds, sinking his overall ambitions. Having watched Martin racing against (and usually beating) grown men since 2011, it is hard to remember that he only turns 22 this year - he is even younger than Adrien Dailly or Richie Rude. If he can cut out the mistakes and stay rubber side down, the sky is the limit for the young Belgian.




Round seven last year must have felt equal parts joy and relief for Jesse Melamed, as he took the win at his home race in Whistler. It had been coming for a while - he had shown the speed for a couple of seasons, but it just it hadn't all come together for him when it counted. Hopefully, with the monkey off his back, he can find the right headspace and truly emerge as a consistent front-runner this year. He certainly has it all there in his toolkit, it's just a question of him putting it together over the season. Don't be surprised to see him right at the sharp end come October.




2018 looks to be a decisive year for the Catalan Eagle. In 2016 he showed that he could be the most consistent man on the circuit, and in 2017 he reminded everyone that he can win races, as he signed off the season with victory in Finale Ligure. The problem is that thus far he hasn't been able to be consistent and win in a single season, and that is exactly what he needs to do if he wants to lift the title. Going against him is his age, because, aside from Sam Hill, he's the oldest man in this list and will need to raise his game if he wants to look down at the young guns from the top step.


MENTIONS: @EnduroWorldSeries



82 Comments

  • + 67
 Something that makes me wonder, is how Adrian with all the success he had, remains a dark horse. Almost no videos to see him riding, hardly any interviews. I heard from a person seeing him riding live, that he is a technical wizard, jumping from rock to rock like a cat, it would be very interesting to see if it's true in some video parts. Anyway, this guy requires way more media attention that he has right now.
  • + 28
 It is a problem for a lot of the French guys, other than Clementz, they do a lot of interviews and videos in French that don't seen to get any traction abroad. This problem is even worse when they ride for a french team/brand.

Case in point, Florian Nicolai has been ranked 5th or 6th each season, just changed teams to Canyon and is coached by Barel now yet doesn't make the list...
  • + 16
 There was an interview on here with him towards the end of last year in which he says he almost shuns social media, nome of this Facebook and Instagram crap, he just rides. Which is probably why you don't see so much of him online.
  • + 2
 Yep I remember seeing similar, he isn’t on a big team either and I don’t feel he has sponsor commitments that require him to make content it’s a shame though as I am sure he would be great too watch considering his success @anyexcusetoride:
  • + 5
 Vouilloz school : he's always riding the EWS training alone, under the radar
  • + 3
 @Whipperman: Vouilloz School + BMX School = It can´t get any better...
I had the privilege to prepare and train together an EWS with both simultaneously and I still can figure out what my eyes saw...
  • + 2
 @PauRexs: It's a bird ... it's plane ... it's Vouilloz lmao
  • + 1
 @Mugen: Any way you could put me onto some French MTB publications? I like watching stuff in French. For instance, I was trying to find French content for Cedric Garcia and all his stuff on Youtube is in English. All I've really found in French is www.vojomag.com and it's not great.
  • + 0
 @Adamrideshisbike:
What is it you don't like about Vojomag?
Best webmagazine in french imho.
  • + 1
 @Adamrideshisbike: not sure all of the videos are in french, but 'Endurotribe' is a good site to follow www.endurotribe.com
  • + 1
 Jumping nimbly-nimbly from tree to tree?
  • + 9
 Homie needs to work on his English if he wants to be an 'international superstar' Love it or hate it...social media, edits, etc are part of the game now. Look at Sam even...before last year he never posted shit on Instagram...now he's all over it. Race results are important but look at guys like Curtis Keene, Yo Barelli, Rat Boy, etc...they haven't won anything in years yet are some of the biggest names in the sport.
  • + 1
 @anyexcusetoride: Yet sponsors want that exposure and regularly request it in contracts.
  • + 1
 @Euskafreez: Uh... yeah... hilarious.
  • + 4
 @MikeyMT: Depends if his goals are to be a superstar with max exposure for sponsors or just to win races/titles (and maybe his personality requires him to focus on racing to a point of not doing the social stuff). Personally, I would do the social stuff and try to get as big as possible to increase sponsorship earning potential but maybe it's not his bag.
  • + 1
 @gramboh: I hear you...sponsors are quick to forget podiums...hard to ignore impact/reach though.
  • + 1
 @Adamrideshisbike: to be honest vojomag is one of the top websites right now with endurotribe. The big community one would be 26in.fr and the mainstream one is velovert. A lot of the racers come from the alpes maritimes région which is quite well covered by 1001sentiers.fr
  • + 3
 i ride with him during the winter , we live 20 min from each others, and i can confirm what you did say .
concerning social media he is not into it at all but give him the time and you will start to see him in movies and more english interview, he is young and he just need more time to understand what is the key of sponsoring/media .

For the moment he just need to win and i trust him for that !
  • + 3
 you have to pay a lot of money to be on the ews video rota
  • + 2
 @Mugen: Even frenchies don't know him, he is a secret guy ... The real problem is that lot of this french guy don't speak one word of english. It doesn't help.
  • + 2
 @MikeyMT: I got the conclusion get into the social app thing too deep is not good for the athlete performance at long term in most cases... it can be a trap...
  • + 2
 He's a rare breed,he don't look at carving a Instagram career just rides his bike does his own thing. With maybe best coach you could ask for
  • + 46
 I think you underestimate Sam Hill. Winning EWS is all about consistency and risk management. You do not have to win any race to become a champ. Sam is a mature rider and knows that very well. I am quite sure he could win more single races taking more risks, but a couple of crashes and mechanicals can really ruin the whole season.
  • + 26
 It's interesting to think how this has changed; in the 2000's Sam was more known for being a prodigal young talent who would win world cups by 6+ seconds and then crash/struggle on different tracks the next weekend. Take for example the 2006 world cup season; Hill won 2 of the 6 rounds and had all the speed, but Peaty still beat him out for the overall by a comfortable margin (with just 1 solitary win). But over time, you can see how experience has brought Sam to be a more rounded rider, and I think you're right. He knows from experience that consistency wins titles, especially in the world of EWS.
  • + 8
 Exactly remember him talking about that before the last few races last year. Its called being smart and pushing it when you need too.
  • + 2
 so true
  • + 6
 Hiss training definitely plays a key role. Like they state above about the training. His transition is just the beginning and especially since he is one of the more mature riders that dont make shotgun decisions that impact them in the long run. You speak of peaty beating him in certain races but none the less Sam was consistent. Another thing that keeps him motivated is his family backing him. Bridget and the boys are always at the big races and she always trains along side him. Meal preps with him and the r&r always helps as well. When they say "all around rider" that means outside the competitive arena as well.
  • + 6
 As an older guy it always warms my heart to see experience and long-honed skill beat the crap out of youth and talent.
  • + 23
 I am waiting for the second coming of Steezus Bryce
  • + 3
 A talented rider for sure, but we may be waiting for something that isn't even a goal of his.
  • + 13
 Chilean rider PEDRO BURNS rode last year 3 venues, NZ, FRA and Chile and went top10 on each one, now on the Trek Factory team, stay tuned on him!
  • + 15
 Jared Graves?
  • + 0
 That guy is an up and downer.. he was one of the first to ride "enduro" style winning the sea otter on his single crown yeti back in the day.
  • + 6
 @icedemon05lrb:

The 'Specialized Curse'. Ever since the sponsor change, almost every race is just not going his way from injuries to mechanicals. He's on the bloody hunt this year though by changing up his training to focus more on skills:

nsmb.com/articles/jared-graves-dangerously-motivated
  • + 2
 @CaptainSnappy: Seems to be an an enduro thing, in all the other disciplines (including road) specialized is killing it.
  • + 2
 @greglikesspecialized: That's very true. At the Cape Epic right now, both the men's and women's teams are doing well. Especially the women's team, Kate and Annika have won every stage.
  • + 2
 @icedemon05lrb: 2nd place in SA Worlds on a single crown.

He's had some of the cleanest race kits since the EWS started.
  • + 7
 Honestly, this season looks wide open with so many worthy contenders fighting for wins; the consistency of Hill, Dailly the young upcoming prodigy, Rude striding back into form, the all out passion of Callaghan/Melamed, Maes with his raw pace and guys like Graves/Oton with years of EWS experience. I can't pick a winner, long live racing!
  • + 3
 Ews is always going to be a bit of a crapshoot when they race that many stages. Sam seems to avoids the mechanicals, injuries, and dnf's. 165mm cranks and flat pedals will win again!
  • + 10
 My money is on the wild one, Martin Maes
  • + 10
 Jared Graves?
  • - 2
 Ehhh. He's one of the best riders in the world but he's not THE best
  • + 8
 You forgot Jared Graves. He already beat Richie at a race this year.
  • + 3
 An indication, but pre-season tho...
  • + 3
 @MattwragThat would have been great to have some up coming racers in the 7 Men like the one for the women like Maxime Chappuis and Camille Balanche.
Watch out Maxime Chappuis, he was the fastest private last year in the EWS and was Swiss National DH champion in 2015.
Great style, great person and just f*cking fast on a bike ! He his is own mechanic on every races. Best dude on the circuit !!
  • + 3
 @MattWrag: well-written and interesting article, although, as far as I know, Oton is not Catalan, but French. Catalonia = Spain.
  • + 1
 @cool3 Yes, Damien is French, but seeing as he calls himself the Catalan Eagle, I think I'm good on this one. If you're curious, have a read into the history of Occitania, the history of this part of the world predates the modern idea of the nation state by several thousand years.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg: Thanks, Matt! I know French history pretty well being French myself (and Canadian by adoption since 35 years) but still, le pays occitan (or Occitania) covered the southwestern part of France, not what is now Catalonia, with which it shared a frontier...
  • + 1
 @cool3: That was not at all my point. My point was that there are regions across this part of the world, to which many people still align themselves, which don't appear on any modern map. The village down the valley from me has a giant "Comune Occitano" sign as you enter, the language here in Sospel is closer to Piemontese than French, and so on. So just because Damien is from France, that doesn't mean he isn't Catalan. And 2 seconds on Wikipedia would have provided a definitive answer for you: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Catalonia
  • + 1
 @marymoncorge: Sure, I know about that. I've been living and travelling pretty much everywhere in France and know what you're talking about -- this is the same in Provence or Bretagne, for example, where you can see the resurgence of old town names and regional languages. That being said, le Pays occitan (which Matt was talking about) and the ACTUAL Catalonia are different. And so you know I've made my homework and looked at the historical territories: as shown there > estivada-rodez.eu/wp-content/uploads/Carteoccitanie.png, Occitania does NOT cover what is now Catalonia and stops just north of Perpignan. That said, I agree with you regarding the fact that the "historical" Catalonia covered parts of Southern France, but Matt was talking about Occitania, not Catalonia, hence my comment.
  • + 1
 Rude and Maes seem young and talented. With their past successes they'll continue to be a force for the next several years. Sam is a more seasoned rider and knows about consistency. You can not underestimate mature thinking. I hope that we get some great race footage this season. Rylo cam on each of the top ten riders for a first hand view of the assault. I'd watch that!
  • + 1
 I hope the top guys don't suffer mechanicals wishful thinking but would be great racing.
  • + 4
 Jared Graves not make the list?
  • + 1
 Graves was ranked 18th overall for 2017:

www.enduroworldseries.com/series-rankings/#lists
  • + 0
 WHAT ??? Why is Marco Osborne not on the list ????.... For sure a Top Dog !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

www.pinkbike.com/news/marco-osborne--stage-ready-at-tds-enduro.html
  • + 2
 Top rider for sure, but he was ranked 17th overall for EWS 2017:

www.enduroworldseries.com/series-rankings/#lists
  • + 1
 I'd love to see an all out speed battle between all the top boys, particularly Hill and Rude. But I guess that would take away from the point of enduro
  • + 0
 Well would not be racing if were not few riders that could win, but in a series all about consistency, other wise Mitch Ropelato Would be in there too!
  • + 1
 Should probably do an article like this for the womens as well. That's going to be harder to pick i think.
  • + 1
 Matt agrees with you:

www.pinkbike.com/u/mattwragg/blog/2018-women.html

Or well, slightly different topic indeed. Not sure, maybe he'll do the opposite articles too.
  • + 2
 Graves IF (with a big IF) he doesnt suffer mechanicals
  • + 1
 All legends in my books. Can't wait for the action to start.
  • + 1
 Jared Graves is washed up now, no chance for a title for him......
  • + 0
 Whoever is in charge of editing should be fired, his name is spelled 'Brendon 'Shredgar' Edgar' aka The Trek Warrior
  • + 1
 It’s all about the bike...
  • + 1
 I clicked expecting all 7 riders to be Sam Hill
  • + 1
 Way off, @happymarmite is gonna take the title.
  • + 1
 Big shout out for Rat Boy!! Gir it berries!!
  • + 1
 Great article really getting me excited for this year, brrappp
  • + 0
 2 frenchs riders on the list , not bad
  • + 0
 I'm doing one EWS. Technically I have a chance of winning the series.
  • + 1
 For now, at least
  • - 3
 Graves Dailly Maes or Rude, if these 4 avoid mechanical issues I don't expect to see hill oton Callaghan up there.
  • + 12
 I expect to see a hill regardless
  • + 3
 Your assumptions ignore physical and mental health or 90+% of the equation.
  • - 2
 Ritchie Rude needs to go back to 27.5. It’s not rocket science.
  • + 1
 *Richie. (Spelling isn't rocket science either).
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