The Enduro World Series is all about exploring new locations and epic trails, as well as pushing the limits of the riders and the sport. Always fresh, always exciting, and more often than not with a little unknown thrown in for good measure. For the third round of the series here in Madeira, it's safe to say all of those boxes have been checked. Some many times over, especially the unknown.
A tiny island, isolated and all alone far out in the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira seems to generate its own weather throughout the day. And with so many microclimates that vary with elevation and exposure to the sea and wind, no single stage is guaranteed to be the same from top to bottom. Racers may start in gale force wind and rain on one stage, then just a few kilometers away on a different peak everything is dry and sunny. Then in about twenty minutes that will all change once again. The stages themselves are a mix of fast ridge lines, rock gardens, loamy, deciduous forest, and hard packed clay—the latter of which is slick as ice when wet, especially that of the red variety found at the bottom of Stage 1.
Practice went off in every condition imaginable other than snow (thankfully) and bikes and bodies have been taking a beating over nine stages the past few days. With two big race days ahead and a few more doses of the unknown still left to go, it's anyone's guess what will go down on the steeps of Madeira.
Grab your tearoffs, duck the roost, and enjoy this visual preview of the weekend's big show…
Clouds coming and going all day long on the ridges high up on Madeira.
The riders take to practice on some lovely single track.
Seb Claquin cuts through the monsoon that unleashed itself over the riders who chose to start their day on Stage 1.
Sam Hill was hoping for a bit more aggressive riding after day one. Hopefully day two gave him what he wanted.
What would an EWS be without a little Cody Kelley style?
Ines Thoma navigating the steeps of Stage 6 with no problems.
Curtis Keene had a rough one on day one. A big crash left him with a broken collarbone and a one way ticket home for surgery.
Five minutes earlier and Jared Graves would have had an epic view of the Atlantic Ocean from this corner.
Martin Maes trying to come to grips with the lack of grip provided by wet clay.
Nico Lau leads Greg Callaghan through the fog on Stage 1.
Thomas Lapeyrie finds one of the local ninja lines on the inside of a switchback on Stage 3.
We had a brief moment of sun on Stage 1, until the Atlantic decided to let all hell break loose on us.
Florian Nicolai slides around in the clay on Stage 1 in between monsoons of freezing cold rain.
Last round winner, Isabeau Courdurier, is one of many riders who is beginning to tire of riding around in the mud.
The views, the views. Thanks EWS.
Jerome Clementz blasts down Stage 3 during one of the brief breaks in the clouds. When visible, the views here are amazing.
Stage 8 has that iconic Madeira view.
When near the edge, manual. Always.
Some riders just do it with more style. Iago Garay is one of those.
It was pretty while it lasted.
Anneke Beerten drops into the top of stage 5. She has been off form a bit this year and would like to get back on the podium this weekend.
Between a rocky wall and a soft place. Stage 4 is nothing but loamy goodness all the way down.
Richie Rude smashing rocks like only Richie Rude can do.
Katy Winton will be looking to keep that number three plate, or perhaps go for a two.
Randy is sending it. Marco Osborne full on in the mini Champrey.
Isabeau is looking to follow up on the last round in fast style.
Eddie Maters was heaps happy with Stage 4.
After missing the first two rounds, Ludo May is back on the EWS program this weekend.
Cecile Ravanel drops into the final stretch of Stage 4 that will be the end of the first day of racing.
Damien Oton enjoying the rocks and loam of Stage 4.
Look out for Martin Maes. He's a top contender for the podium.
Casey Brown putting her freeride skills to good use on Stage 8.
This doesn't look a whole lot different to what you might find Jesse riding in his own back yard.
For the brave, the steep inside line on many of the switchback will save a bit of time.
Theo Galy looked smooth and confident in practice.
Miranda Miller is making her second EWS appearance of the season
The bottom of Stage 7 is an old DH track full of steep corners and massive roots.
Jared Graves bombs the final slick and rocky chute on Stage 7.
Stage 7 is a tricky one, and Damien Oton hiked back up a few times while trying to sort it all out.
Noga Korem finished just one spot off the podium at the last round. Can she go one better this weekend?
Robin Wallner tucks an arm around one of the many tight turns on Stage 7.
Seb Claquin somehow finding a way to wallride the bottom of a tree to avoid all the big roots in the corner below.
Found an old relic on Stage 7. Could this mean film was once shot on this corner?
Anita Gehrig trying her best to float over the mud covered rocks.
Jerome nearing the end of Stage 4.
No fuss. just raw power and a huck to flat. Richie Rude wants that win, and not much can stop him when he's hungry.
Lewis Buchanan can get a good result here dry or wet. The Scotsman has been flying.
Joe Barnes in conditions like home. This could be his race.
Jesse Melamed loving the slick rocks and roots that feel just like home.
After scaling back her race season, Hannah Barnes is competing in her first EWS of the season here in Madeira.
It's a shame Francois Bailly-Maitre isn't able to stop and enjoy the view while blasting down this ridge on Stage 8.
Mark Scott has been riding super aggressive all week and is looking like on of the top contenders here in Madeira.
Ryan Gaul goes over the TFR squads bikes with a fine tooth comb before race day. The view doesn't suck either.
Fresh tires getting prepped for a beating. We are guessing tomorrow's Stage 3 will get the best of more than a few though.
Each day here has started with a golden sunrise and finished with a similar sunset. It's the in between that's been a bit of a mess at times.