Photo Epic presented by ODI
What could make an already interesting race, one with the top three separated by just a few seconds, more interesting? Rain, lots of rain that's what. After days of riding dry and dusty trails in Les Orres, racers awoke to dark skies and claps of thunder as the rains came down in the French Alps. As if racing in both classes wasn't close enough, the added moisture and mud would step the unpredictability up a notch. Racers would now need to adapt in the fly to ever-changing track conditions on some long stages they'd ridden only once prior when things were dry and dusty. Rocks and roots tend to go unnoticed when looking for the fastest lines on a dry trail, but when things get slick the whole strategy changes.
Morning thunderstorms would, unfortunately, cause Stage 5 to be canceled. A shame really as this stage started at the highest elevation of the weekend and was one of the longest and most varied trails on offer. Instead, racers would start their day a bit later in the morning on Stage 6 and race the remaining three stages originally as scheduled.
Things started off a bit tricky as the woods were still a bit damp in the first stage of the day, but by the time the final 30 men hit the track, the blazing sun had nearly dried the trails completely. Straight away Eddie Masters and Richie Rude would reclaim control of the race from Frenchman Adrien Dailly, setting the stage for a battle that would go down to the very end. In the women's race, Isabeau and Raphaela Richter pulled further and further ahead of Ines Thoma and Noga Korem. And if you looked just a bit further back you'd see Miranda Miller beginning to make up time on the top three. All of this meant that that final stage of the day was going to be a nail biter for everyone.
As Richie dropped into the final stage he was only separated by a few tenths of a second just behind Eddie Masters and knew that the final outcome would likely be decided by who beat who on the final stage. Both riders kept their composure under pressure and put down blazing times, but it would be Eddie who would emerge on top. A first-time win for the Kiwi rider and WC DH racer who has now catapulted himself into the running for an EWS world title. Richie will leave happy knowing his form is on point, finishing the last two weeks with a win and a second place after a long absence. Third would go to Adien Dailly who was surely gutted to drop two spots in front of all the French fans.
The top two spots in the women's race were all but decided, but a last run surge by Miranda Miller would push her up to third to take the final podium spot. With Raphaela Richter in second that would make two riders in the women's field climbing into the podium at an EWS for the first time.
The series now takes a month off before reconvening at the iconic destination that is Whistler.