Practice was something of an unknown coming into this race. In previous years, while the Enduro des Portes du Mercantour has always been a big race, spread over two days, it has always been blind. However, at the EWS-level blind racing has been pushed out of the circuit and the rules now state that practice is mandatory. So the question for this week was - how do you organize practice for a race where the riders will tackle 3,200m of climbing during the race days?

Two days of practice was a non-starter - even for the elite riders, 6,400m up in four days would be pushing it. Even if you throw in some shuttles and a chairlift, it was still looking like a horror show. The compromise the organization decided on was to add an extra half day on Wednesday - so from 1pm stages one to four would be open, and then the same again on Thursday from 9am. On Friday riders could then hit five through to eight, assisted by the ski lift in the next town down the valley from Valberg, Beuil. Even with shuttles and two and a half days to practice the eight stages, it has still been a big week for riders, not helped by the ever-changing weather that soaks then dries the course - and with many of the pros taking multiple laps of the stages (except three, we haven't heard of anyone tackling that twice) there has been a hell of a lot of descending to do and a savage amount of climbing to come on Saturday...



The Parc du Mercantour isn t short on views and the trails are top notch.
The Parc du Mercantour isn't short on views, and the trails are top notch.

Gearing up for the big descent.
Gearing up for the big descent.

After a three hour pedal to the top of stage three it s time to have a snack and watch others drop in.
After a three hour pedal to the top of stage three it's time to have a snack and watch others drop in.

This is going to be a massive weekend but Richie Rude is the man for the challenge. Question is will anyone be able to challenge him
This is going to be a massive weekend, but Richie Rude is the man for the challenge. Question is, will anyone be able to challenge him?

With thunderstorms in the forecast for Saturday stage 2 has been canceled to allow riders the chance reach the iconic stage 3.
With thunderstorms in the forecast for Saturday, stage 2 has been canceled to allow riders the chance reach the iconic stage 3.

Francois Bailly-Maitre has raced on won before on a similar combination of stages and was looking fast and comfortable right from the start of practice.
Francois Bailly-Maitre has raced and won before on a similar combination of stages and was looking fast and comfortable right from the start of practice.

Stage 3 starts with a ridgeline traverse before plunging down though the forest for 1200 meters.
Stage 3 starts with a ridgeline traverse before plunging down though the forest for 1200 meters.

Josh Carlson drops into stage three. With practice starting at one many riders realised that the time restriction only applied to when you drop in on stage so you could make the two hour climb up to stage three before then and be ready to drop when the clock struck one making Wednesday almost a full day of practice.
Josh Carlson drops into stage three. With practice starting at 1:00, many riders realized that the time restriction only applied to when you dropped into the stage, so you could make the two hour climb up to stage three before then and be ready to drop when the clock struck one, making Wednesday almost a full day of practice.

Cody Kelley boosts off one of the steep ridge lines at the top of stage 3.
Cody Kelley boosts off one of the steep ridge lines at the top of stage 3.


Richie Rude dropping into stage three. It s about a three hour transfer to the top and it s going to hurt after an already big day.
Richie Rude dropping into stage three. It's about a three hour transfer to the top, and it's going to hurt after an already big day.

Jerome Clementz has won before here in Valberg but not for a few years now. He certainly seems motivated this week and you know he wants to climb back onto the box before he starts to wind down his racing next year.
Jerome Clementz has won before here in Valberg, but not for a few years now. He certainly seems motivated this week and you know he wants to climb back onto the box before he starts to wind down his racing next year.

Hannah barnes drops in while the picturesque Martime Alps loom in the background.
Hannah Barnes drops in while the picturesque Maritime Alps loom in the background.

Ride the spines for a wild time. The big knife edge from Trans Provence is out but the rollercoaster is still in.
Ride the spines for a wild time. The big knife edge from Trans Provence is out, but the rollercoaster is still in.

Jesse Melamed comes into this race hot after his stunning second place finish in Whistler. He showed in La Thuile that he can compete on any circuit so expect him to be on the hunt to back up his Whistler result.
Jesse Melamed comes into this race hot after his stunning second place finish in Whistler. He showed in La Thuile that he can compete on any circuit, so expect him to be on the hunt.

Seb Claquin is still suffering from a sore hand after his rodeo-related accident in Crested Butte. The 1 100m drop stage three is going to be a real test for him but he s nothing if not tough.
Seb Claquin is still suffering from a sore hand after his rodeo-related accident in Crested Butte. The 1,100m drop of stage three is going to be a real test for him, but he's nothing if not tough.

Cecile Ravanel squashing the jumps on the high crest on stage three. She s the clear favourite this weekend and we re not 100 sure on the math but a win here could very well seal her title for her...
Cecile Ravanel squashing the jumps on the high crest on stage three. She's the clear favorite this weekend and we're not 100% sure on the math, but a win here could very well seal her title for her...

Course medic Brice Thouret takes some time to enjoy himself high in stage three. Anyone who has raced Trans-Provence will likely know Brice as he has worked on that race too for a couple of years - he s well-renowned as a good doctor but he s also pretty handy on a bike and would show a fair few of the racers how it s done if he weren t working this weekend.
Course medic, Brice Thouret, takes some time to enjoy himself high in stage three. Anyone who has raced Trans-Provence will likely know Brice as he has worked on that race too for a couple of years - he's well-renowned as a good doctor, but he's also pretty handy on a bike and would show a fair few of the racers how it's done if he weren't working this weekend.

Anneke Beerten leaves the peaks behind as she heads for the lower parts of stage three. She has not had the season she might have hoped for most recently crashing in the finals at 4X Worlds so she is another rider looking to strike a high note in the final races of the year.
Anneke Beerten leaves the peaks behind as she heads for the lower parts of stage three. She has not had the season she might have hoped for, most recently crashing in the finals at 4X Worlds, so she is another rider looking to strike a high note in the final races of the year.

Grey Earth. Looks like an old Match Stick Productions freeride spot for trail bikes.
Grey Earth. Looks like an old Matchstick Productions freeride spot for trail bikes.

Nico Lau surely has to be the danger man this weekend The undisputed king of blind racing he has swept all before him here in Valberg on races like the Trans-Provence so he knows better than most how to go fast in this challenging and varied part of the world.
Nico Lau surely has to be the danger man this weekend? The undisputed king of blind racing, he has swept all before him here in Valberg on races like the Trans-Provence, so he knows better than most how to go fast in this challenging and varied part of the world.

We imagine this is what it would look like if Jared Graves ever got a chance to ride on the moon.
We imagine this is what it would look like if Jared Graves ever got a chance to ride on the moon.

Massive rain ruts of another era make for fantastic banked corners in modern day.
Massive rain ruts of another era make for fantastic banked corners in modern day.

Thomas Lapeyrie flowing like water down the canyon on stage 4.
Thomas Lapeyrie flowing like water down the canyon on stage 4.

Iago Garay winds his way through the corkscrew turns on Grey Earth.
Iago Garay winds his way through the corkscrew turns on Grey Earth.

Easily one of the fastest through this section was Marco Osbourne.
Easily one of the fastest through this section was Marco Osbourne.

Matti Lehikoinen threads it through the last canyon of grey earth in stage 4.
Matti Lehikoinen threads it through the last canyon of grey earth in stage 4.

After rain Wednesday night the sun began to creep through the clouds Thurday morning.
After rain Wednesday night, the sun began to creep through the clouds Thursday morning.

Nico Lau wasn t phased in the slightest by the wet conditions Thursday morning.
Nico Lau wasn't phased in the slightest by the wet conditions Thursday morning.

Jared is loving the trails even in the mud and rain and reckons if things had stayed dry this would have been one of the best combination of stages we have seen at the EWS.
Jared is loving the trails even in the mud and rain and reckons if things had stayed dry this would have been one of the best combination of stages we have seen at the EWS.

Iago Garay navigates the steep and slick chute at the top of stage 1.
Iago Garay navigates the steep and slick chute at the top of stage 1.

Joe Nation best his yoga on though the impossible corner at the bottom of stage 7.
Joe Nation does his best to yoga on though the impossible corner at the bottom of stage 7.

After slipping and sliding around on this practice run Wyn Masters switched to flat pedals to better deal with the endless maze of off camber switchbacks of stage 7.
After slipping and sliding around on this practice run, Wyn Masters switched to flat pedals to better deal with the endless maze of off camber switchbacks of stage 7.

Anita Gehrig is on the hunt for a second podium this weekend.
Anita Gehrig is on the hunt for a second podium this weekend.

After some hefty thunderstorms Wednesday night the riders were greeted with super slippery conditions. Mark Scott gets his slide on.
After some hefty thunderstorms Wednesday night, the riders were greeted with super slippery conditions. Mark Scott gets his slide on.

Classic Wyn masters style. Full attack mode.
Classic Wyn Masters style. Full attack mode.

Nathalie Schneitter is back racing EWS this weekend. The Swiss XC pro has racked up some impressive results at the EWS in the past and there s no doubt she s going to have the legs for a long race like this.
Nathalie Schneitter is back racing enduro weekend. The Swiss XC pro has racked up some impressive results at the EWS in the past and there's no doubt she's going to have the legs for a long race like this.

Damien Oton charging hard into the start of stage one.
Damien Oton charging hard into the start of stage one.

Yoann Barelli is undoubtedly one of the fastest riders not to have yet won a round. He was born in this area and grew up riding this sort of terrain so it would certainly be sweet satisfaction for the Whistler-transplant if he could break his duck here...
Yoann Barelli is undoubtedly one of the fastest riders not to have yet won a round. He was born in this area and grew up riding this sort of terrain, so it would certainly be sweet satisfaction for the Whistler-transplant if he could break his duck here...

Not afraid to drift about a little Martin Maes has been riding super aggressive in the muddy and slick conditions
Not afraid to drift about a little, Martin Maes has been riding super aggressive in the muddy and slick conditions

One week after DH World Champs junior racer Eliot Heap is here in Valberg perhaps to dodge another week of school.
One week after DH World Champs, junior racer Eliot Heap is here in Valberg perhaps to dodge another week of school.

Kilian Bron snakes through the local farm that makes up the bottom of stage 1.
Kilian Bron snakes through the local farm that makes up the bottom of stage 1.

Curtis Keene is having his best season ever and currently sits 7th in the overall with two rounds to go.
Curtis Keene is having his best season ever and currently sits 7th in the overall with two rounds to go.

Lew Buchanan is back at the EWS Unfortunately it s on a rather less downhill-friendly bike than he might have hoped but it s good to see him recovering well and seemingly in good spirits.
Lew Buchanan is back at the EWS! Unfortunately it's on a rather less downhill-friendly bike than he might have hoped, but it's good to see him recovering well and seemingly in good spirits.

Rene Wildhaber throws a knee out for balance on stage two.
Rene Wildhaber throws a knee out for balance on stage two.

The fire men were out taking practice today...... Best rain kit ever award.
The firemen were out taking practice today... Best rain kit ever award.

Meggie Bichard is making her second EWS appearance here in Valberg. After a summer of stage racing it s fair to say she s recovered from her horror crash last winter and could be an outside bet for a podium this weekend.
Meggie Bichard is making her second EWS appearance here in Valberg. After a summer of stage racing, it's fair to say she's recovered from her nasty crash last winter and could be an outside bet for a podium this weekend.

Nico Vouilloz fearing no weather on a cold and rainy Friday morning practice.
Nico Vouilloz fearing no weather on a cold and rainy Friday morning practice.

Classic style from Jerome Clementz in the wet. A frenchman could win this one but could Jerome be that man
Classic style from Jerome Clementz in the wet. A Frenchman could win this one - could Jerome be that man?

Florian Golay was the king of Valberg for four years straight in the early years of the race. These days he has stepped away from full-time racing to run his own bike shop back home in Switzerland but he still loves coming here to race.
Florian Golay was the king of Valberg for four years straight in the early years of the race. These days he has stepped away from full-time racing to run his own bike shop back home in Switzerland, but he still loves coming here to race.

Isabeau Courdurier looking to take another podium here in Valberg. Can she take the wind out of Cecile s sails
Isabeau Courdurier looking to take another podium here in Valberg. Can she take the wind out of Cecile's sails?

Justin Leov takes a wet run on stage six as the rains recede.
Justin Leov takes a wet run on stage six as the rains recede.

Jared Graves started stage six later than most this morning to wait for the worst of the weather to pass and the ruts to have settled in somewhat.
Jared Graves started stage six later than most this morning to wait for the worst of the weather to pass and the ruts to have settled in somewhat.

Can this man continue his domination of long alpine enduro stages once again this weekend
Can this man continue his domination of long alpine enduro stages once again this weekend?



55 Comments

  • 107 0
 Wallpapers. Wallpapers everywhere.
  • 30 1
 Everyone complaining about that ebike in the last article, but man if that helps get us images like these, I'm all for them!
  • 10 0
 That pic of Graves in those shale corners is the best pic I've seen in age.
  • 7 1
 picturwe of Sam Hill please
  • 19 0
 Guys, the pictures you publish are so sharp, balanced... perfect that when I look at mine I'm like 'meh, why do I own a dslr? ' I'm curious about the percentage of pictures that are good v/s trash. Does it take 200 riders to get one perfect or do you roughly have 1 good example for every racer?
Cheers, and keep up the amazing coverage, you're kind of teachers/guru for me when it comes to pixels. :-)
  • 2 1
 C'est un métier .... plus tu bosse plus t'es bon comme pour tout
  • 35 1
 I'd say it's not so much good photos v. Bad phots and more so good v. bad angles. We test a lot if differebt angles for variety and some work and others don't at all, but it's that search that leads to more unique stuff. Once an angle is nailed down it can be repeated over and over.
  • 1 0
 @davetrump: Word!
  • 13 1
 I really hope yoan breaks his duck too. May the duck be with you.
  • 8 0
 Both Jesse Melamed and Seb Claquin still on the RM Altitude and not the new Slayer? Would have thought the Slayer would be more appropriate for these trails (they don't look too smooth...).
  • 4 0
 The bike was release couple weeks ago, they have their habits on altitude so i think ....
  • 3 0
 Altitude is still a super capable bike, maybe they've decided the horrendous transfer stages warrant a bike that is more pedal friendly. Braaap either way!
  • 7 0
 The mix Road Cycling with Enduro shoes chosen by Lewis Buchanan is pretty interesting.
  • 5 0
 ex511 for richie? where have i been? wc downhillers still using ex471 though? i am so confused
  • 1 0
 @barcolounger: haha i guess i did totally miss that.

thanks man
  • 1 0
 @jaycubzz: check EWS Pit Bits on homepage of Vital. Second pic shows a 511 on front of his rig now.
  • 4 0
 This coverage is outstanding. hats off to all the photographers killing it out on the hills. you really get a scope of the varied terrain. keep up the amazing work.
  • 3 2
 Whats the point of the handguard on an MTB? Especially for a pro. We've all seen Nico V. use then and now Matti Lehikoinen use them. Is this going to be the next fad in MTB? Now that these Pros are doing it, are we going to see enduro racers sporting these things? God I hope not!
  • 10 0
 I don't always wear gloves and at a recent enduro my hands got smashed open by a bramble bush. Hand guards would definitely have stopped it. Enduro courses aren't manicured like dh/xc ones.
  • 5 0
 Recently I clipped a tree with my handlebar/ knuckle and the impact was enough to snap a bone in my hand. I'm all for handguards if they can stop that happening again.
  • 6 0
 These guys covered it already but the point is to guard your hands. I like the idea. I even think they look cool. What's the problem?
  • 1 0
 Branches pulling your brakes are fun... No, it was about time we got handguards for mtb, we aren't all riding on groomed trails here.
  • 3 0
 Pardon my ignorance but that looks a lot like charcoal they're racing on. Captain?
  • 2 1
 It's actually a mix of clay and chalk. It's usually light grey but gets much darker when wet ... and that the photo is post processed ( not offence at all ) .
But... yeah, it looks strange at first.
  • 22 0
 Geologist (and local) here. No coal there, only deep-marine marls (very fine-grained sediments) carrying a few organic matter giving this dark colour. And the wetter, the darker, obviously. These marls alternate with thin turbiditic layers (deep-marine sandy deposits) very similar to those bearing oil in South Atlantic. But nothing producible is known here (except a few gas maybe).
  • 1 0
 @polarproton: No chalk here bro Smile
  • 3 0
 @Matt-Pau: Thanks for the insight! I didn't know so went on the internet and found the chalk/clay composition for the Terres Noires around Dignes. I'm more used to red rocks than black earth. :p
  • 2 0
 @polarproton: You're welcome! Chalk is only made by microscopic shells, while marls have fossils (ex. ammonites, belemnites and sea urchins) but are mainly composed by both clay minerals and carbonates. The clayer it is, the muddier it is when it pours! Moreover, chalk make (white) cliffs (ex. 'Falaises d'Etretat'), while marls erode in badlands, = slopy terrains (just like in the famous Green River videos). Smile
  • 1 0
 @polarproton: Je suis de Draguignan moi ! Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @Matt-Pau: Oui j'étais un peu étonné de voir 'calcaire' .
Moi je suis Raphaelois, pas très loin donc! Même si je suis parti, études obligé.
  • 1 0
 @polarproton: Pareil, ya rien à faire chez nous ! Je suis dans les Pyrénées-Atlantiques moi...
  • 1 0
 @Matt-Pau: Thanks for the explanation- been wondering...
  • 4 0
 has the EWS gone transplanetary?
  • 5 0
 Enduro WorldS Series !
  • 3 0
 I came for pictures of Sam Hill. Where are they? And Matti Lehikoinen's hand guards are absolutely enduro!
  • 3 0
 That place is unreal looking, added to my wish list of bike trips
  • 4 0
 You can ! There is a relatively famous raid/enduro as well taking place in the same area mid June, the Enduro/Raid des terres noires. It's hard but beautiful and full of lines in that kind of playground.
  • 2 1
 Second to last photo of Jared Graves: might only be his tires that are baked with mud, but it looks like he's riding a 6Fattie!
  • 2 0
 Wow those are amazing photos ! / shots?!
  • 2 0
 I think they can catch up to Richie Rude while he is sleeping
  • 2 0
 Absolutely stunning photography!
  • 1 0
 Hopefully Sam Hill take the top step on the podium this race. It's became boring to see Richie Rude win almost every race.
  • 1 0
 This looks like the coolest enduro race course I've ever seen! Top section looks so rad!
  • 3 1
 richie rude bikecheck!
  • 1 0
 looks like enduro rampage.
  • 1 0
 Trails looks very nice great rock drops
  • 2 0
 Wow!! Great work lads.
  • 1 0
 Glad to see Lewis Buchanan back on his bike , a true machine !
  • 2 0
 gorgeous shots
  • 1 0
 Really nice shots, as always
  • 1 0
 This just looks amazing. That is all! Can't wait for race coverage!
  • 1 0
 which shoes are isabeau and cecile rocking?
  • 1 0
 hannah barnes is nice no doubt, but i think my grandma is faster

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