Double World Cup wins
Pierron came agonizingly close to notching his first World Cup win a handful of times over the past two seasons, but the Frenchman is quickly making up for lost time by winning two on the trot in 2018. His first came at Fort Bill by just 0.27 of a second over Loris Vergier, and the second was by 0.508 of a second over Aaron Gwin on the Leogang track. Is it just me or is World Cup racing tighter and more exciting than ever?
Tracks don't get any more dissimilar than Scotland and Austria, too, proving that while Pierron's winning margins were tight as hell, he's clearly a boss on all sorts of terrain.
Joey Schusler's 'RJ Ripper' puts things in perspective
The hucking, jumping, trick-throwing video genre is so saturated that unless someone is doing something completely bonkers, it all kinda looks the same. I mean, killer riding and whatever, but now that everyone has a Canon 7D and a skilled buddy who's happy to send it, the "shreddits" have become a dime a dozen. Thank the lord for Joey Schusler, though, who knows how to tell a hell of a story. He did exactly that in 'RJ Ripper,' a mini-documentary about Rajesh Magar
, who is not only Nepal's fastest rider but also someone who has overcome odds that would have had most of us brushing off mountain biking as a fantasy. Schusler says it best: ''Since learning to ride on a beat-up clunker, to becoming the four-time National Champion at age 21, RJ’s story is one of boundless childhood dreaming and unstoppable determination, forged from junkyard scraps and tested on the rugged trails of the mighty Himalaya.''
So. Much. New. Gear.
If you're as much of a tech dork as I am, June was a hell of a month. With about a zillion bike checks from multiple World Cups, Enduro World Series events, and Crankworx, there was no shortage of gear to nerd out over, while Öhlins' long-awaited new downhill fork
was finally released to boot. e*thirteen's TRS Plus 12-Speed Upgrade Kit
is worth a mention, too, as it's a do-it-yourself shifter conversion that takes your 11-speed clicker to 12-speeds. Neato.
And speaking of 12-speeds, Daniel Sapp, a new editorial addition to Pinkbike, reviewed SRAM's relatively inexpensive NX group
, while RC checked out perpetual shredder Kirt Voreis' prototype, 27.5'' wheeled Niner
Probably the most interesting bit of tech to pop up in June was Aston's look at the carbon Sequence downhill bike
, a one-off project by Vladimir Yordanov that uses a dual-link layout to deliver 200mm of travel. It also happens to be gorgeous. Speaking of downhill sleds, Specialized's prototype
was caught by Ross Bell's camera at Fort Bill. And Fasst Company's press release for their $499.99 USD Flexx handlebar
, while looking interesting and worth reviewing, also had some of the best comments under it that I've seen in ages. Don't discount it quite yet, though, as I remember chuckling over Revolution's Suspension Grips... Until I tried them. Shoutout to Dom Wrapson's unreal breakdown of World Cup weekends
, too. If you're a die-hard racing fan and/or stats nerd, Dom's number crunching is a must-read.
World Record Swellbow
Lapierre's Adrien Dailly had a good start to the season, but it all went sour when the Enduro World Series racer went down in Peille while training, breaking his elbow badly enough that surgery was called for. Dailly posted a photo of his pre-surgery elbow on his personal Instagram
and the Frenchman might have set a new record for the best (worst?) swellbow on record - so gnarly. He also earned himself a 20-second time penalty at the Colombian round after him and two others were caught "illegal shuttling,'' although it sounds a bit like they just went up the wrong road to me.
Dailly has won before, and he's come close to winning again in 2018 with a 2nd overall in France behind Richie Rude, but it's looking like his injury will cut this year's racing short.
Specialized's EWS Team
Results that don't reflect the talent
The irony of the Enduro not being able to win an enduro race in recent times may be worth a giggle to some, but I'm sure that no one at Specialized is laughing about their team's 2018 EWS season. It's been a rough one so far, and it didn't get any better last weekend in Austria. Graves described what happened on is Instagram
: ''A weekend to forget for me. I just couldn’t stay with on my bike and find any consistency, then I had the biggest crash I’ve had all year on stage 5 and spent 10 minutes on the side of the track and being looked over by some medics further down before I rolled on to the finish, but my race was over.''
''There’s so much more to a successful EWS than people would know and that the race results show and there’s 2 sides to racing, when everything is going well and things are clicking, and the exact opposite of that.''
His season started off with two DNFs, too, followed by a 30th in France, which really underlines how fickle enduro racing can be - there are just so many variables in play that can make even the fittest, most skilled racers look like they're pack fodder. Graves certainly ain't pack fodder, though, and while the overall is way out of reach, it'd be no surprise to me if he pulled out a victory or two before the season is over.
Curtis Keene isn't having a much better time of it, either, with the American sitting in 42nd overall after a string of results that are well below what he's capable of. It all adds up to a team ranking of 25th, although that's a bit misleading as other teams have more racers contributing to their points haul at each race meeting. Either way, you can bet that Graves and Keene are a hell of a lot better than their results say, so expect a turnaround at some point soon.
A flat tire and a crash mean no World Cup wins. Yet.
Luca Shaw is going to win one of these things soon, but it hasn't been in the cards quite yet. Many have predicted that Shaw will be the next American to break out, and his first place qualifying run at Fort William confirmed that he's more than ready. As the last man down the hill, Shaw was up by a second at the first split, but this racing game can be cruel and a flat tire took away any chance of a first World Cup win. Next up was Leogang where it was the same story in qualifying: Luca in first place. Unfortunately for the young American, it was sorta the same story on Sunday; he was the last man down the course and was up at the splits, yet again, but a crash oh so close to the finish line ruled out the win.
Interestingly, Amaury Pierron took the wins in both Fort William and Leogang after Shaw went out at both races, but that's racing.
EWS + UCI = more drug testing
It's been in the works since the Enduro World Series' inception, but the announcement that the EWS will be working with the UCI still came as huge - and controversial - news to the racing community. Our interview with Chris Ball
, the Managing Director of the EWS, shed light on why it makes sense for the world's premier enduro racing series to team up with the often maligned Union Cycliste Internationale, and Ball sums it up well: ''We are voluntarily implementing neutral governance, removing ourselves from potential conflicts and ensuring the sport’s fairness. 'Did X rider deserve this penalty?' 'What’s the fairest process to determine Y?' That’s the crucial aspect for the sport, and that’s what this agreement is about. Sport, fairness, growth.''
Some fans are concerned that the UCI, which many feel hasn't done right by mountain bike racing, will only mess up a good thing, but Ball is insistent that nothing will change on the outside: ''Ultimately we remain in control of our series. Our structures will remain the same. We will help the UCI write the rulebook for enduro globally, that they can then apply to the wider National Federations.'' There's also the addition of the 'Trophy of Nations' that's essentially a Motocross des Nations for enduro racers, which sounds pretty rad.
Perhaps the biggest upside to the new relationship will be additional drug testing, which isn't cheap or easy to implement. The EWS has, by its own admission, not been able to implement extensive testing thus far in its short history, which is something I've written about before, but bringing in the UCI means that the CADF (Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation) will be testing to WADA's protocols. ''Testing costs money, and now the next step is to roll out more testing,'' Ball explained. ''The EWS will ramp up the amount of tests we pay for, and over the next 3-5 years, we’ll dramatically increase our doping controls.'' How much do you want to bet that we'll see results get shaken up and possibly some unexpected retirements? It's all for the better, though, and as much shade as the UCI catches, I'm sure that the partnership can only be a good thing.