This season the EWS stops just once in the spiritual heartland of enduro this year, France. When we talk about the history of enduro, many people don't look far beyond either the inception of the EWS in 2013, or possibly the advent of the discipline in France in 2003. Yet the roots go far deeper than that. As with any local race series, much of the beginnings of the sport are now lost, as is the way with mates' races. No good mates' race should include too much paperwork, beers and inappropriate bikes are usually a far better bet for a memorable day. If you search through the archives of the 1001 Sentiers website some traces do remain though. The one that tells that most compelling story is a weird set of results from the resort of Auron, which is more or less over the hill from where the EWS circus is sleeping tonight. In 1989 they held a rally race there - the forerunner discipline for enduro. Very clearly you can see a day's racing split into a number of timed stages, although one of them does appear to have been an obstacle course on an ice rink!

Considering that the sport only reached Europe in the early-to-mid 1980s, it's clear that the idea of this kind of race format with multiple stages is one that resonated with European, and, more particularly, French mountain bikes since the very birth of the sport. So, when we talk about enduro history in this corner of France. it means far more than in most parts of the world. In more recent years there have been two races here in the South of France that have shaped and defined the discipline here. First is naturally the Val D'Allos 10,000 in 2003, the birthplace of the modern enduro movement. The other is the Enduro des Portes du Mercantour. Towards the end of each year since 2005 this has been a monster of race in the high mountains on the edge of the Mercantour national park. This year they have invited the whole world to come and suffer with them as the 2016 edition is round seven of the 2016 Enduro World Series...



Dropping into the first of 1200 meters that make up the descent down int the valley.
Dropping into the first of 1200 meters that make up the descent down into the valley.

Stage 4 is called Grey Earth for quite obvious reasons.
Stage four is called Grey Earth for quite obvious reasons.

The views from the top of stage three are simply epic and well worth the massive effort it takes to get there.
The views from the top of stage three are simply epic, and well worth the massive effort it takes to get there.

Even at the top of a mountain you can find good food and good hospitality.
Even at the top of a mountain you can find good food and good hospitality.

It s amazing what you find up the hills in Europe. No where near any road and a few hour climb by bike is nestled this little village along the liaison to stage 3.
It's amazing what you find up the hills in Europe. Nowhere near any road and a few hours climb by bike is nestled this little village along the liaison to stage three.

The Maritime Alps are full of sharp little rocks just waiting to rip open your tire or your skin should you get things wrong.
The Maritime Alps are full of sharp little rocks just waiting to rip open your tire, or your skin should you get things wrong.

Riders are going to have tunnel vision on the extremely long liaison and climbs up to the top of stage 3 which will easily be a 2 hour effort.
Riders are going to have tunnel vision on the extremely long liaison and climbs up to the top of stage three which will easily be a two-hour effort.

The terrain on every stage here is unique to the one before it and most change considerably from top to bottom.
The terrain on every stage here is unique to the one before it, and most change considerably from top to bottom.

The steep technical chute at the top of stage 1 will certainly wake riders up first thing in the morning.
The steep technical chute at the top of stage one will certainly wake riders up first thing in the morning.

Some of the stages and liaisons are literally right through people s back yards.
Some of the stages and liaisons are literally right through people's back yards.

The is the start of stage 1 and those mountains on the other side of the valley are home to stages 3 and 4. With no uplifts to get over the hills and far away Saturday is going to be a missive day.
The is the start of stage one and those mountains on the other side of the valley are home to stages three and four. With no uplifts to get over the hills and far away, Saturday is going to be a missive day.

The Liaison to stage 6 takes riders above the treelike just outside of Varlberg.
The Liaison to stage six takes riders above the treeline, just outside of Varlberg.

Welcome to the Parc du Mercantour
Welcome to the Parc du Mercantour.

After the steep push there were a couple of kms across these jaw-dropping high alpine meadows to the start.
This is why they come to Valberg each year - it's the last chance to get some high mountain racing in before the weather drives riders lower and farther south. After the steep push there were a couple of km's across these jaw-dropping high alpine meadows to the start.

Things didn t start easy - dropping into stage one riders were faced with the most technical section of the weekend accompanied by a sheer cliff to the right...
Last year the race opened with the same first stage as this year, dropping through nasty technical chutes on your way to the town of Guaillaumes below.

Nico Vouilloz s fourth place was over-shadowed for him this weekend as his proteg Bruni took the World Champs title.
Nico Vouillioz hasn't won this race since 2012 - he could only manage fourth last year.

Away from the pressure of the EWS the atmosphere among the top riders was noticeably more relaxed as they waited together for Sundays racing to get underway.
Normally this is a more relaxed race outside the world circuit. Don't expect it to be like that this year...

The first stage of the day was in a pursuit format - so riders departed based on their times from the day before. Florian Nicolai started things off with some clean air behind him but lost ground on the 19 minute stage.
For the EWS this year there are a few changes to the race - for instance, Sunday's pursuit race is gone.

The pursuit format was based on scratch times which meant more than a few men got their egos crushed as a 5 2 smiling blonde came sailing past them as Isabeau Courdurier pinned her way down towards the valley. She was supreme this weekend and based on scratch times she finished 51st in a field of 400 men...
Isabeau Courdurier is fairly local to here and did well in 2015 - on the pursuit race they put the men in with the women and she was hunting down and passing more than a few of the men.

Carrying speed without a chain on stage six was by no means easy.
Another quirk gone this year is the chainless stage on Sunday.

Sunday didn t go Florian Nicolais way as he lost ground to both Fabien Barel and Francois Bailly-Maitre to slip back to third. Over an hour of racing he lost out to Barel by just 0.3 seconds... And with the EWS title on the line it s a good bet that Nicolai wasn t showing all his cards this weekend.
Flo Nicolai is local to here, after a slightly up and down series, could this be the race where he gets back to the front of the field?

As this is France to the winner goes the garlic...
The biggest question this weekend is whether anybody can deny Francois Bailly-Maitre his third serving of winners' garlic?


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77 Comments

  • + 33
 What's up with the pictures of the dude riding the EBIKE? Are they allowing e-bikes in enduro now?
  • + 13
 Praying it's a photographer...that's no race-size pack.
  • + 4
 to carry heavy photographic gear
  • + 0
 Here in France, yes. Although not at this race this year, but I wouldn't bet against an ebike class at EWS next year...
  • + 2
 So stoked for eEWS.
  • + 21
 I think ebikes can be very useful for journalists, event organizers, officials, and most importantly EMT, especially in remote stages that are hard to access and where a gas motorbike can't easily get to
  • + 2
 @jclnv: eeewww!
  • + 16
 @mattwragg - E-EWS - is that why Ratboy leaves Syndicate?
  • + 5
 Actually there are already e-bike specific races, usually along more mainstream event such as the Roc Series or Enduro Series.
Overall e-bike are picking up momentum in France, for many reasons. On the riviera we have beautiful mountains and it allows tourists to go there even without much fitness ( raises some issues though) and in the alps more than 50% of bikes sold are e-bikes ( according to Chambéry bike shop). It basically boils down to how steep the alps are, and so how unreachable mountains are for the average mountain bike, so people turn toward e-bikes to be able to enjoy the mountain and the downhills without dying on the uphills and while keeping a life outside the gym.
Tried it, it's not for me but e-bikes are cool.
  • + 11
 @polarproton: we all know that fat people should kill themselves not ride E-bikes. Some people should simply get gassed because it doesn't fit Bro set of values. 26 for life, foot out flat out, 100 lift days, road trip, van life, btches and booze - peace.
  • + 5
 @nicolai12: I think it's Greg Germain from 1001sentier, and indeed he is a photographer and very good biker who do not need ebike to climb believe me...
  • + 1
 @hamncheez: Now that I agree with.
  • - 2
 @WAKIdesigns: f*cking awesome.
  • + 8
 @polarproton: So what you're saying is a lot more unfit beginners will be skidding down previously hard to reach trails in the future.

Awesome.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns : You won my internet today !

@jclnv: I'm saying that tourists that kill themselves and freak people out while riding in flip-flops are an issue, yes, nut they aren't exactly looking for single-tracks.
I'm also saying that ,for people who do not train days in and days out ( or no longer at all), a.k.a my parents, e-bikes are perfect when they want to tackle a 2000+m ride from time to time, and they are light-years away from being newbies. But again you can't edit a law asking people to prove they have the skills to ride from Chamonix to Zermatt to let them buy an e-bike.

On a lighter tone, I'd be concerned if I was riding where unfit beginners go skidding. :p
  • + 5
 @polarproton: I agree that there are specific races. I watch the videos all the time on Enduro21, men and women riding machines with real motors. Graham Jarvis is my hero.I have a mountain bike and I have a dirt bike. Why would I want one that is neither?

My issue with ebikes isn't the technology, but that it lowers the entry bar (look at my belly, not prejudiced against fat people, who are my tribe) It demeans the sport to playing with toys status.The same as the difference between dirt bikes and quads. There are yahoos in both, but the quatards are much more likely to be yahooing around the parking lot, riding/drinking/shooting (it's an American thing) and pissing people off and getting trails closed.
  • + 2
 @codypup: I've tried e-bikes, just for fun, and didn't like it, but I think it has a place. Being pretty new, it'll take time to settle.

Other than that I agree with you that it lowers the entry bar, but it also makes it possible for people who get older, for no longer have the time to train etc.. , so people with skills, to keep doing long and great rides. For this I think it is great.
Yet as you said, you are more likely to encounter yahoos on e-bike. Even more in touristic region like the riviera where I live. We have 2 nice mountain range, too big to be fully hickable so many tourists rent bikes.... e-bikes now. And they end up doing sh8t out on the trails, scaring people, families etc... so now basically the trails are closing, almost the entire range.
But, just as for the quad thing, would you say quad suck only because of some users? I think that would be unfair.

Overall, I'd say that the image and the relevance of e-bikes will greatly vary according to the area. In some it solves an issue, in others, it creates a new bone of contention.
Time will tell but I hope there won't be new legislation, we need freedom, and trails!!
  • + 2
 Did you see the the liaison stages, pretty freakin long to pre-ride. Only way to do it without burning yourself out before race day is to e-bike.
  • + 5
 @jclnv: yes jclnv, it was e-bikes that skid on easy to to reach trails and now will destroy remote places. Just like it's unskilled enduro bikes who make brake bumps on A-line. I advocate for a finger print activated bike starter. If you are unskilled the brake lock won't release. The fingerprint reader is connected to the Database of Skilled Riders, managed by the Major Bro Directorate in Whistler. In order to gain access to MTB, You must submit personal information and a video of you riding, as well as one where you party hard. You are then declared worthy or unworthy.

Unskilled kooks deserve to die, bloody cocoroaches ruining our trails. Sam Hill, Jared Graves ans Andreu Lacondeguy were born with immaculate skills.

Alla Joeys must toten! Das ist zeit fur Bro-Reich! Toten toten! Skills macht frei!
  • + 1
 @hamncheez: Makes sense. Saw numerous journos on e-bikes at Whistler during Crankworx this last year.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I concur regarding the fatties.
  • + 1
 @jaame: did you enjoy watching "inglorious basterds?"
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Your sarcasm has defeated me. I agree with your point that mountain biking should be as easy as finding cute kitten videos on Facebook.I didn't realize that Europe was as infected as America with the "every child gets a trophy" syndrome.
  • + 1
 @codypup - riding in the bike park is as easy as it gets. Sorry... saving people from themselves never ended up well... I cringe when I see one on trails, there are two fkng rednecks in my town riding Stealth Bomber B52 bikes. I am reluctant to throw sht at them though, because I know well enough which kind of people hate on e-bikes most. They look exactly as these two dudes I mentioned, they just happen to ride different bikes.

I distilled this idealistic vision of many Pinkbikers that the only people who should be allowed to ride mountain bikes are skilled riders.
  • + 1
 @codypup: please make no mistake... there is a big difference between me supporting E-biking and understanding it...
  • + 1
 For those still complaining that photographers are using ebikes, take a look at the EWS practice article and the shots they were able to get...
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: I saw a video yesterday of adults on oversized,motorized Big Wheels. Maybe we can steer the ebikers that direction with the rationale that they will never be as far from beer as they would be on an ebike.
  • + 1
 @codypup: I thought that Fest, Whistler, Peatism or van life was all about staying close to the beer...
  • + 3
 @polarproton: I'm not going to get into this discussion, but I am going to call bullshit on your assertion that trails are closing on the riviera because of e-bikes. I live in the same region and talk to a lot of people who are involved in various areas and have never heard anything like this. Areas likes Valberg, Auron and Peille are going out of their way to bring in ebikes.
  • + 0
 There's VitalMX, VitalBMX and VitalMTB. I vote for Pinkbike and Pink-E-bike...
  • + 0
 @mattwragg: i honestly don't know in Valberg , Auront seems to be doing fine.
I was actually referring to le Massif de l'Esterel. It's a fact, the use of bike will be hugely restricted , officially due to over population. And in that regard, e-bikes play a role. We all know the situation is slightly more complex.
  • + 6
 Not liking this at all, because its all i now see from this atrical. Subtle pics of that e bike only suggests that this time next year its all we'll be seeing from pinkbike. Isn't Enduro supposed to be a product that's evolved from the purest form of MTB'ing? Endorsing ebikes at an enduro event is horseshit.
  • + 8
 "massive effort it takes to get there" shown riding ebike
  • - 2
 I take it you've never ridden an E-bike.... And a 1200 meter climb in the Alps is an effort to matter what you ride. The E-bike just goes faster, and you have to do quite a bit of pedalling to make them go ;-)
  • + 15
 This is a popular misconception with ebikes, that you just sit there and the bike does all the work. They're assisted, not motor-powered, so if you don't work, the bike stops. The climb to stage three took me two hours on an e-bike (with a 10kg photo pack), with an average heartrate over that time of around 150bpm.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg: Didn't you ride last year's second day on an e-bike sans battery? That must have been hell up to the top of stage 3(?).
  • + 5
 @flappie: Yeah, I managed to break the motor somehow... The climb wasn't too bad, I reckon it's not the heaviest thing I have ever pedalled up a hill!
  • + 2
 @mattwragg: Clearly I need to work on my fitness. The fun ended after the garden ravito there Razz Looking forward to seeing your shots of this coming weekend's race!
  • + 1
 There are usually many assist mode on e-bikes. Since the bike is way heavier than a regular sled, the lowest mode doesn't much more than simply offsetting the over weight. So yes, riding e-bike can be physical. It make even more sense for people who are around the race, like photog and staff. A friend of mine is in charge of designing the tracks for the Roc Series and is very happy to pack 2 batteries when he goes scouting in the alps. It just cannot be done without a motor.
  • + 0
 It seems pretty obvious that anyone who wants to ride an e bike should ride an e bike. Like being gay or vegetarian, to each their own.
  • + 1
 @mattwragg: agree with you that it is a misconception that the bike does all the work. But how can you say it is "assisted, not motor-powered", when the horsepower the motor can deliver is much higher than what even the best cyclists can do?!
For me:
-motor HP higher than human power means motor-powered bike
-motor HP lower than human power means assisted bike
  • + 5
 Im surprised UCI hasn't come out with the world championships for Enduro, or something along those lines, to try to get their foot in the door. The EWS is doing things right...keep it up
  • + 1
 they had their chance.
  • + 3
 They are totally going to try to pull something like this i can already see it.
  • + 1
 @Pauldenney: As long as it benefits the sport and be in EWS's terms.
  • + 5
 Great photos and I don't give a toss that they show an eBike. I wonder how many tosses on here would ride up with a 10kg pack?
  • + 5
 Stop trying to make E-bikes happen, they're not going to happen.





*some exceptions may apply, see retirement homes, photogs and bikepackers and fatties for details*
  • + 3
 E-Bikes are so fetch.
  • + 0
 If I could increase my ride time from 3 runs of the local 300 metre hill to 12 in a day, I'd take the humiliation. Just saying
  • + 3
 Those shale like rocks are going to wreak havoc on some tires for sure. Great photos
  • - 1
 You can probably just call them shale, since that's what type of rock they are.
  • + 2
 nah, they run mouses in their tires mate.
  • + 2
 Such A stunning part of the world to ride bikes... I rode thru on the Trans Provence a couple of times... scenery is mind blowing!
  • + 4
 Really? Ebikes?
  • + 2
 heavy photographic gear, covering an event, not racing or recreational riding, etc
  • + 5
 @hamncheez: I mean I sorta get that side of it, just seems a bit weird that they would use those photos for the series. They must have known they would get absurd amount of flak for the ebike.
  • + 1
 @ianswilson815: But they are the only riders there at the moment, so it's either this or archives. And, e-bike are still bikes!
  • - 1
 So what's next, a KTM 250, "because he's a photographer?" f*ck off.
  • + 2
 Don't worry about e-bikes vouillioz had an iPhone in each sock!
  • - 2
 pinkbike, you're great, and i want you to know this comes from a place of love: please consider hiring a professional editor. the paragraphs and captions read like photographers are doing the editing, and i am not referring to the errors in grammar and punctuation. you wouldn't ask an editor to take the pictures...
  • + 1
 I can't wait for ski/snowboard season...but according to the last poll, most of you can't wait for more of this....
  • + 1
 Picking up a new sled tomorrow for BC skiing. Can't. Freaking. Wait.
  • + 1
 Tired of biking?
  • + 3
 @MMOF: Seasons changing is such a glorious thing.
  • + 0
 imo, picking a photo with an Ebike for an article that covers an enduro race.....not a wise choice...
  • + 1
 What a stunning place to race. If only..
  • + 1
 I wish that was my backyard. Stunning.
  • + 1
 This course looks crazy... Good luck to all the racers!
  • + 1
 Amazing shots.
  • + 1
 Yikes, bikes?!?
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