Photo Report: Practice Day - EWS La Thuile 2018

Jul 20, 2018
by Dave Trumpore  



When the EWS last visited La Thuile in 2016 it was voted the venue and race of the year almost unanimously by racers and support staff, and with the magic blend of mind-blowing views and even better trails that made it so popular being reinvented for the 2018 edition, you know you're in for an incredible event. While the race stats certainly look imposing with 5500 meters of total descending over six stages, it is the near perfect quality of the trails that makes all the difference. Yes, it will be long and rough, but talking to the riders it is clear that they are loving the use of terrain here, and the massive mountains will surely be a true test of both body and bike. The long stages and the steep terrain will be hard going, and whoever wins here will need to be a complete all-round racer and mountain biker, as any weakness will be savagely exploited on these high alpine slopes.

At a time when the World Cup circuit is becoming ever more TV-focused, there is an argument that some of the heart and soul of true mountain biking terrain is being lost, and it is ever-rarer to see loam or fresh-cut tracks being raced at the top level. Here in La Thuile, they are serving them up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Two of the stages are completely new and fresh top to bottom just for this race, and four others have been completely overhauled below tree line to incorporate plenty of dusty chutes and steep switchbacks. With riders only being allowed one training run per stage on constantly changing terrain, it will be impossible to memorize all the details and so it will be the rider who can constantly adapt on the fly who will certainly be fastest.

On their current form there are not too many people you would want to put your money on besides Sam Hill and Cecile Ravanel, but behind them are plenty of other hungry and capable riders. Isabeau Courdurier has won before and wants to taste victory again, while Katy Winton has proved she has the speed if she can keep it consistent and on two wheels. For the men, Richie Rude crushed everyone here in 2016 and with his form in the big mountains of Chile earlier this year and a win in France, you can be sure this venue plays to his strengths. And you can't count out Martin Maes who just barely missed out on the win last round, and has finished second more times than any other male rider on the circuit.

Right now things have been dry and dusty, but these are the biggest Alps of them all and the weather is anything but predictable. Can The Enduro Wet Series break its curse of rain, mud and slippery tracks this time around? Let's hope so.

possible cover photo
Big mountains and epic views are what La Thuile is all about

Everywhere you look the views are stunning.
Everywhere you look, the views are stunning.

Keep limber. Isn t that rule number 3
Keep limber. Isn't that rule number 3?

How does this thing work
How does this thing work?

The last time the EWS rolled through La Thuile Richie Rude smashed everyone by over a minute. Can he find that form once again this year
The last time the EWS rolled through La Thuile Richie Rude smashed everyone by over a minute. Can he find that form once again this year?

Isabeau Courdurier seems to always be the shoe in for second place but wants nothing more than to climb onto the top step of the podium again.
Isabeau Courdurier seems to always be the shoe in for second place, but wants nothing more than to climb onto the top step of the podium again.

Thomas Lapeyrie hangs on through the steep rock slabs on Stage 4.
Thomas Lapeyrie hangs on through the steep rock slabs on Stage 4.

Dmitri Tordo has been having a phenomenal season and will be looking to keep the pool going in the big mountains.
Dimitri Tordo has been having a phenomenal season and will be looking to keep the points going in the big mountains.

Mark Scott has been in the top 10 all year long and these long tracks should play to his favor. He took his first EWS podium last year in Whistler is a similar style race so he is definitely one to watch in La Thuile.
Mark Scott has been in the top 10 all year long and these long tracks should play to his favor. He took his first EWS podium last year in Whistler and this is a similar style race so he is definitely one to watch in La Thuile.

Cecile is looking forward to racing on the steep tracks here in La Thuile.
Cecile is looking forward to racing on the steep tracks here in La Thuile.

Cecile Ravanel is utterly dominant and looks to be in top form here in La Thuile.
Cecile Ravanel is utterly dominant and looks to be in top form here in La Thuile.

Sam Hill showing his crew how it s done at the top of Stage 6.
Sam Hill showing his crew how it's done at the top of Stage 6.

Still the man to beat. Sam is happy with these tracks even if they are going to be vastly different tomorrow.
Still the man to beat. Sam is happy with these tracks, even if they are going to be vastly different tomorrow.

Iago Euro tables off of next to nothing on stage one.
Iago Garay euro tables off of next to nothing on Stage 1.

Can Jared Graves get away unscathed this week in La Thuile
Can Jared Graves get away unscathed this week in La Thuile?

Adam Morse enjoys the only smooth part of Stage 1 before heading into some of the steepest woods we have ever seen at an EWS.
Adam Morse enjoys the only smooth part of Stage 1 before heading into some of the steepest woods we have ever seen at an EWS.

Lewis Buchanan leans over as he drops into town.
Lewis Buchanan leans over as he drops into town.

Bex Baraona navigates the rocks Slabs on what will be the final stage of the race on Sunday.
Bex Baraona navigates the rocks slabs on what will be the final stage of the race on Sunday.

Jerome Clementz isn t racing this weekend but is here riding the all the stages and providing support to Matt Simmonds and Marco Osborne.
Jerome Clementz isn't racing this weekend but is here riding the all the stages and providing support to Matt Simmonds and Marco Osborne.

U21 rider Adam Robbins coming to grip with the speed on the bottom of Stage 2.
U21 rider Adam Robbins coming to grip with the speed on the bottom of Stage 2.

Katy Winton has not had the results everyone knows she is capable this season due to a few crashes and mechanicals but the speed is definitely there. If she can keep things upright and in order she will be a threat here in La Thuile.
Katy Winton has not had the results everyone knows she is capable this season due to a few crashes and mechanicals, but the speed is definitely there. If she can keep things upright and in order she will be a threat here in La Thuile.

Cody Kelley adds a bit of style to your day.
Cody Kelley adds a bit of style to your day.

The Sultan of straight lining absolutely slaying stage five.
The Sultan of straight lining absolutely slaying Stage 5.

Richie Rude drops into stage four. He s had massive results here before can he make it win number two this weekend
Richie Rude drops into Stage 4. He's had massive results here before, can he make it win number two this weekend?

Greg Callaghan in the high alpine of stage four.
Greg Callaghan in the high alpine of Stage 4.

Matt Simmonds traverses the narrow and exposed ridge line at the top of Stage 4.
Matt Simmonds traverses the narrow and exposed ridge line at the top of Stage 4.

Ruaridh Cunningham want s to follow up that fourth place in Petzen Jamnica with another top finish.
Ruaridh Cunningham wants to follow up that fourth place in Petzen-Jamnica with another top finish.

It gets steep from here on out.
It gets steep from here on out.

Martin Maes chilled and having fun in practice.
Martin Maes chilled and having fun in practice.

Chloe Gallean drops in to Stage 6 as the clouds begin to build over the Alps.
Chloe Gallean drops into Stage 6 as the clouds begin to build over the Alps.

Rae Morrison on the high alpine style terrain that makes up the start of most stages.
Rae Morrison on the high alpine style terrain that makes up the start of most stages.

The view from the top of Stage 4. Mont Blanc looking a bit more moody than during the previous days practice.
The view from the top of Stage 4. Mont Blanc looking a bit moodier than during the previous day's practice.

The first day of practice went off under blazing sun but as day 2 wore on the heavy clouds began to move as thunderstorms began to linger in the distance.
The first day of practice went off under blazing sun, but as day 2 wore on the heavy clouds began to move as thunderstorms began to linger in the distance.

Joe Barns leans it over up high.
Joe Barnes leans it over up high.

Ratty could do well here in La Thuile especially if it rains.
Ratty could do well here in La Thuile, especially if it rains.

Jared Graves has done well on the long EWS stages over the years and La Thuile has some of the biggest stages of them all.
Jared Graves has done well on the long EWS stages over the years and La Thuile has some of the biggest stages of them all.

Sam Blenkinsop is racing his first EWS of the season and his World Cup DH skills should come in handy on the long track in La Thuile.
Sam Blenkinsop is racing his first EWS of the season and his World Cup DH skills should come in handy on the long track in La Thuile.

Martha Gill on the fresh cut Stage 1.
Martha Gill on the fresh cut Stage 1.

Quietly going about his business Damian Oton is always a podium threat.
Quietly going about his business, Damian Oton is always a podium threat.

It s the King s birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday Sam.
It's the King's birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday Sam.

The weather was looking good at the close of practice but there are some possible big storms predicted for the weekend. Let s hope this is not the case.
The weather was looking good at the close of practice but there are some possible big storms predicted for the weekend. Let's hope this is not the case.

Kick up yer feet race day is almost here.
Kick up yer feet, race day is almost here.



41 Comments

  • + 119
 Predictions:
Hill; 1st place overall
Rude: Wins 1-2 stages, then mechanical
Graves: Mechanical when leaving the Specialize tent
Keene: Gives bike to Graves, whom promptly has another mechanical before starting the transfer to stage 1

Back in the Specialized HQ they throw more pure Mongolian virgins into their FSR sacrificial pit...
  • - 3
 These Alps are so amazing. It's going to be a bit of a letdown next year when the series visits Northstar?! I had no idea til I looked at the 2019 schedule. Sorry, guys n gals, it's gonna be super dusty! We'll try to do our best. Since it's just up the road a few clicks, I'll be checking it out for sure!

24–25 August 2019 Round 7 – Northstar, California
  • + 9
 @Junk2016 we like your predictions
  • + 5
 Yes... Genuinely laughed out loud.
  • + 13
 Graves: Throws bike and walks out of specialized tent in a fit of rage.Goes straight to the Yeti tent and grabs an sb6 and wins the last 3 stages to take the race.
  • + 2
 @TobiasHandcock: i can get behind this haha
  • + 1
 quite funny...
  • + 3
 @pinkbikeaudience: wait, the pinkbikeaudience is replying to a comment from the pinkbike audience? what is this?
  • + 6
 Holy shit, are you psychic? Stage 1 done and graves is in 210th miles off the pace with a mechanical
  • + 1
 @humoroususername: yeah disaster again for Specialized right on stage1..what the hell is going on there
  • + 1
 @chainzuck: crazy. He needs a fresh start somewhere else to reset his head. Anyone would need a change if I had that much bad luck.
  • + 1
 i think so too...its getting to a point where there must be something else than just bad luck, the bad luck must be empty some day
  • + 1
 Hilarious...but likely true...
  • + 14
 Sam looking like a sly dog!
  • + 8
 This confidence is his eyes ...
  • + 1
 browns eyes are always on fire!!!
  • + 7
 iago garay & cody kelley = bike yoga
  • + 6
 Photographers earning their EWS “holiday” yet again!
  • + 4
 Adam Morse picture is just wooow! Magnifique!
  • + 1
 Superb !!!!
  • + 3
 Sultan of Straight Lines hahhahaha
  • + 3
 Yeah Adam Robbins!! Ripping it up on the ESC. Look good man!!
  • + 1
 Meadowlilly represents.
  • + 3
 sam dale eating some damn kale?
  • + 5
 Santa Cruz Enduro crew are all on the vegan program!
  • + 2
 Hopefully Rat and Sambo kill it at this race. They both like a bit of downhill and it's fookin' downhill here like
  • + 4
 Sam Kale
  • + 2
 I thought Limber up was rule number 18? Wink
  • + 1
 Great scenery, but the tracks are hideous! I'd be crying to let go of the brakes. Good luck to 'em!
  • + 1
 Stunning photo work again! (and Bonus for lining up the rim decals on that last shot Wink
  • + 1
 Happy birthday to king Sam! Hopefully he can reach a birthday victory...!
  • + 1
 Happy birthday Sam Hill.
  • + 1
 ALN will place top 5
  • + 1
 My monies on the Rat!
  • + 1
 dirty dog
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