After the long mid-season break the Ibis Cycles Enduro Race Team reunited in La Thuile, Italy this past weekend to get back on track with the Enduro World Series. Under the shadow of Mont Blanc the series picked up where it left off in a venue that surely will rank as one of the rider's favourites this year. It served up everything you could hope for from the Italian Alps: stunning scenery, long, punishing descents, top-notch organisation and a warm welcome from the fans.
As the team rolled into town it looked like the weather had decided to repeat the harsh conditions of 2014 when riders tackled winter conditions on the higher slopes of the resort. Certainly warm clothing was much in demand for the first day of practice, but as the action hotted up, so did the weather and come Sunday's finale it was an absolute scorcher.
With some descents covering over 900m of vertical drop, some changes to the team's HD3s were needed. First off, the X-Fusion Metric forks were taken out from 160 to 180mm of travel and the tyres were switched to Maxxis' full DH casing. Our mechanic, Jake Law kept the bikes ticking over for us this weekend as the bikes took a real beating, but he kept all five of our riders mechanical-free over the four days.
Although the distanced pedalled this weekend was relatively short, the long, physical nature of the tracks required a fine mix of skill and the fitness to ride at the limit all weekend. After the first day of racing it was looking positive for the team, with Robin Wallner inside the top 20, the Gehrig twins in 3rd and 5th and Pedro in the top 10 in the under-21 competition. Gary Forrest's bad luck continued to dog him this weekend as he succumbed to a fever Sunday morning and the team decided it was best he not jeopardise his recovery by riding past the point of fatigue.
Come Sunday the physical nature of the race started to take it's toll on the field and there was a big shake-up of the classification through the day. Robin Wallner was one of the big winners in all this, showing how hard he has been working to move up to a stunning seventh overall as other riders at the front faltered. That is now his second top-ten result this year, in a field that is undoubtedly stronger than ever. Despite his DNF in Ireland he still moved up into the top 20 in the overall standings.
Pedro also put a charge on and by keeping it consistent he moved up to 5th overall this weekend. Although it's not quite what he hoped for, it was a solid result that maintained his third in the overall standings.
Both Anita and Caro Gehrig found the second day of racing hard going, dropping back to 4th an 7th respectively. They won't let this setback get them down though and that first podium is surely closer than ever now.
The big news for the team is that these results were good enough to take second in the team rankings this weekend. What makes that news even better is that the result propels the team to number two in the world right now.
The series now moves across the Atlantic to Aspen, Colorado in just over a week's time. With the ocean-hopping the team will be reunited with our sixth member, California-based under-21 shredder, Dillon Santos - our Ginger Chihuahua. Coming off the back of such a big weekend we can't wait for it all to start again!