If you're going to make predictions, you need to stand by them. In the build up to the EWS season we published our list of 20 riders to watch
, so consider this our end of term report on those predictions. In this article we're going to take each rider, look at how their season has gone and then it's up to you to decide whether we were right or not to include them. And yes, there were lot of riders we missed. First amongst those is Damien Oton, who is now the number two-ranked enduro racer in the world. We'll put our hands up and admit that we didn't see that one coming. We also slept on Justin Leov, Rene Wildhaber, Francois Bailly-Maitre, Joe Barnes and probably a few others...
Yes, this year didn’t go to script for 2013's defending champion. Chile was a strong statement for anybody hoping to take his crown from him, signaling that the new boss was the old boss. Then a clipped pedal in a national race put an end to his defence, totaling his shoulder and leaving him on the sidelines for the next five races. He took his time coming back though, didn't rush things and his return performances were a sure sign that he will be a force to reckon with in 2015.
Jared Graves is your 2014 Enduro World Series World Champion. There's nothing else that needs saying.
To say Nico Lau had a disappointing season says more about what we believe he's capable of than what he achieved. In pre-season testing with Fox he was beating Gee Athertons times on the test track... Quite simply, he's one of the fastest men on the planet on a bike, regardless of discipline. So to reach the end of the season and with a maiden race win, a handful of stage wins and fourth overall in the series would be a huge achievement for most riders, but we believe there is much more still to come from him.
How Fabien Barel came back from breaking his back at the first round, to win the final round this year is nothing short of incredible. Even a man who has achieved as much as he has could barely seem to believe it. And have no doubt that over the years he's taken more than his fair share of big hits, so he knows more than most people about injury and recovery. What it also means is that you should discount Fab as a force to be reckoned with next season at your own peril.
We would say we got our prediction for Martin Maes was on the money this year. He racked up a decent collection of stage wins over the season, and on a couple of occasions got tantalisingly close to race wins. When things didn't go his way it was plain to see his raw frustration and hunger to win. And then there was his victory in the Juniors category at the Fort William DH World Cup. Eighth overall may not sound that electrifying, but you need to remember that he's still not even 18 years old. This season has only helped to cement his reputation as one of the biggest up-and-coming talents anywhere in mountain biking.
At times you could start to suspect that if Ben Cruz didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all. Coming into the season he contracted a potentially career-ending case of Lyme disease. It's testament to his cast-iron constitution that he shrugged it off in time to come racing. Then mid-season his truck flipped, leaving him on the sidelines with an ugly concussion for the Winter Park race. To cap things off, he wrecked his shoulder in practice at Finale Ligure and had to sit that race out too. On track things weren't a whole lot better either - he had more than his fair share of mechanical problems this year. Yet when his bike was working, he proved that he has, without question, consistent top ten pace and should be a serious contender for the title of fastest American in the EWS.
Right now Remy Absalon is probably sitting at home asking himself some serious questions. When you talk of the origins of enduro, it was him, Clementz and Wildhaber who were the dominant riders in the early years, yet as we come to the end of 2014, Absalon finds himself more than ten places behind his old rivals in the series rankings. Coming into this season expectations for him were high, with his own team and a raft of hand-picked sponsors. Talk was of top five placings, or better. Yet this year he has only cracked the top ten once, with an eighth at the opening round in Chile. He is a rider who knows how to win, but he's going to need to thoroughly examine his training and preparation if he wants to get back to the kind of rankings many people expect to seem him holding.
Jamie Nicoll must have had a world of pressure on him coming into this season. Last year he was the biggest surprise in enduro racing, showing up on an old bike that at times barely seemed to be holding together, and smashing his way to stunning top ten finishes. Yet it hasn't seemed to come together for him this year. Talking to him mid-season, he was struggling to find the source of his problems. With a factory team came a trainer and he says that he had trained harder and in a more structured way than every before coming into this year. Yet somehow he was finding himself feeling flat, without energy. Anybody who knows Jamie would attest that it was never going to be any question over his work ethic and commitment, but that must have made it all the more frustrating - putting in all that hard work and not seeing the results he had expected.
13 is unlucky for some. Florian Nicolai isn't one of those people though, and the 13 plate he has carried with him through the season doesn't seem to have slowed down his progress, rising from a talented kid to one of the sports top riders. While the highlight of his season may have been his third place in Chile, what is more impressive is his fifth overall in the series. He has built on his results from last year and shown he has consistent speed no matter where he goes. He has a very clear trajectory and we wouldn't be at all surprised to see him in the fight for race wins next year.
Looking at the results sheet it's hard to know what to say about Josh Carlson. After another difficult season 26th in the world doesn't really do his talent justice. Talking to the riders he trains with, their respect for his pace is apparent - in Chile they reckon he was faster than everyone else on track in practice. Too fast though, and his weekend ended up on the sidelines rather than the top ten. In the final round in Finale it looked like it was all coming together for him, but a cruel final stage saw him dropping three and a half minutes - propelling him from a solid top ten result to 80th. The reasons we marked Josh as a rider to watch are not diminished, we just haven't seen him reach his potential at the EWS yet.
2014 was not a good year for Manuel Ducci. At home in Italy Marco Millivinti established himself as the top Italian racer, leaving the other riders in the field trailing in his wake. On the international level the best we have seen from him was a 34th in Chile. After breaking his ankle at round two in Scotland his results suffered even further, and the highest he finished after that was 59th at his home race in La Thuile.
Ok, we're a touch biased towards Greg Callaghan, and we stand by calling him our Unofficial Privateer of the Year
. For a man without factory support, who lived out of a van for much of the season to consistently beat riders on factory contracts is simply impressive. 16th in the world is a great result and has been on top 15 pace all season, with the top 10 looking very much in reach for him. Rumour is that Greg has bagged himself a factory deal for next year and we would say it's well-deserved.
Yoann Barelli is a rider who has made great progress this year. Last year he showed promise and, after a slightly slow start in the first couple of races, he has begun to establish himself as a bona fide front runner in the last couple of races of the season. He took his first stage win in Whistler, and was leading the GC on Saturday night in Finale Ligure after blitzing the whole field on the gnarliest stage of the weekend. This winter he is relocating to the North Shore as he says he wants to learn more about riding in the wet, and he is definitely another rider we can add to the ever-growing group of potential race winners
Tracy Moseley faced a tougher battle for the series title than she did last year. With Anne-Caroline Chausson healthy and fast all season it went all the way to the wire between the two of them, in fact you could argue that it came down to Chausson's puncture in the final stage at Whistler. That's two for two for Moseley, and next year promises to be an equally thrilling battle as she tries to make it a hat trick.
The fastest woman ever to ride a downhill bike is only the second fastest woman ever to ride an enduro bike, as things stand. Anne-Caroline Chausson gave everything at the final round, dominating the race, but the puncture that dropped her to third at the previous round had given Moseley enough of an advantage to finish second and still take the title. While Anne-Caroline may be tiring of racing somewhat after more than 20 years of international competition, we suspect that the racers instinct that served her so well over the years will want to get its hands on the World Champion title...
Ceclie Ravanel made progress this year - taking her maiden race win was a huge moment for the sport as it was the first time someone other than Moseley or Chausson had won a women's race. If we're honest, it looks like she still has some ground to cover before she's consistently going toe-to-toe with those two, but she made progress this year and hopefully that trajectory will continue next year and we can see a good three-way race for the title.
2014 must have felt familiar to Anneke Beerten, taking a brace of third place finishes, and consistent fourth places at the rest of the rounds. She looks to have the women behind he covered, but for now doesn't seem to be quite closing the ground to Ravanel and the two ladies in front of her. Yet with each year she's learning about the sport, honing her fitness and technique, we don't doubt that she will have her sights set on increasing her podium count next year.
Ines Thoma held her ground this season - repeating her fifth place in the series this year. While we're sure she will be somewhat frustrated by this, she is nearly a decade younger than many of the riders ahead of her and we think she is setting herself up to be a future race winner.
Isabeau Courdurier probably didn't quite have the season she was hoping for. Breaking her elbow in practice for the Whistler was undoubtedly a low point for her, but her fourth in Valloire, one of the toughest races of the season, shows her potential and she gets a bit older and develops the endurance fitness that comes with age, we would expect to see her at least on the podium in the future.
When we wrote about Lorraine Truong in the pre-season we said that she was struggling to find a sponsor - in the end that search proved fruitless for her, and she went through the 2014 without any real support. When she did get to the races she put in solid top ten finishes each time. Her case highlights a standing problem in the women’s competition - with a season costing around 30,000 Euros per rider in expense alone, many talented women are finding themselves in similar situations. Fortunately for Lorraine, we know she has support sorted for next year, but there are a number of women in the top ten who don't have deals sorted yet., which is a problem that surely needs addressing as the sport develops.
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