Every September Valberg in southern France hosts the final big mountain enduro of the year. With the Autumn closing in rapidly the weather in the central Alps is rapidly getting worse, becoming too unstable to race amidst the peaks. In the south, just a few kilometres from the shores of the Mediterranean, there is still enough warmth to head back up beyond the magic 2000m mark one last time... There are no chairlifts to these mountains though, although Valberg is a ski resort, the lifts don't reach the trails, so there is only one way to reach the top: pedal. That makes this one of the toughest races on the European circuit and this year is no exception - over the two days riders face 80km, 2,600m up and 4,300m down.
Next year there will be no Enduro Portes du Mercantour, instead the Enduro World Series will roll into town and things will go up several gears. With that on the horizon many of the sports top riders headed for Valberg this weekend for a preview of what they will be facing in twelve months' time, and the start list read like a who's who of the EWS top 20 (and serves as a reminder of just how dominant the French are in enduro).