While their downhill and cross country counterparts are over in America for their final race week of the season, the EWS riders aren't nearly done yet and will remain in Europe, where they've been for all the other races this season. They've crossed from Switzerland to Italy now and will race the penultimate round at Finale Ligure this week before finishing the season in Scotland. This will be the third straight race weekend in a row so their bodies and minds will surely be feeling the pressure.
This season so far, we've seen Jack Moir and Richie Rude battle it out in the men's field and Melanie Pugin largely top the women's field, albeit with some serious challenges from Isabeau Courdurier, Hattie Harnden, Morgane Charre, and Noga Korem. With just two races remaining, the series overall rankings are settling into place, but they're not sealed yet, and the race for the title will be on every top rider's mind.
Rude and Moir are almost tied for first in the men's field, but things can change quickly. Moir looked like he had the title locked in, but he crashed in the Pro Stage last weekend, injured his shoulder, and clawed his way back the next day to finish 10th, giving Rude the edge in the overall. It remains to be seen whether his shoulder will hold up well enough for him to race at full speed this week. For the women's overall, Melanie Pugin looks to have it in her sights as long as she has decent finishes in the next two races, but a bad race from her could jeopardize that position. With 520 standard points, 25 Queen Stage points, and 25 Pro Stage points available at each of the remaining two races, any of the top five men and women could technically take the win, provided everyone else ahead of them has a terrible race. Stranger things have happened.
Finale Ligure, a historic Italian town nestled into the coastline of the Ligurian Sea, is the only venue that has hosted the EWS every year since the series began. At Finale, racers will find steep, loamy trails, razor-sharp rocks, and stunning views from trails that drop from high ridgelines right down to the blue-green sea. Finale really does have it all, and that's just talking about the trails. With good food, gelato, and plenty of beach time, the venue is always a rider favorite.
Like the race last weekend, this week will have just one EWS race (though it'll also have an EWS-E, and EWS100, and an EWS80 race leading up to the weekend's big one), with a Pro Stage Saturday worth extra points and a four-stage race Sunday that will include a rerun of the pro stage as Stage 4.
Unlike the last race at Crans-Montana, the Finale Ligure EWS will be entirely pedal-accessed, meaning that riders will complete a massive amount of climbing on Sunday - 2,190m / 7,185ft to be exact. It'll be no walk in the park, especially as they're racing their fourth race in under four weeks.
The StagesBASE NATO:
2.67km / 387m descent - Stage 1
The riders will begin with a stout 12mi / 19km liaison to warm up on the way to Stage 1, then will attack the first stage, a Finale Ligure classic called Base Nato. Base Nato isn't the most technical trail of the course, but it'll take fitness and finesse to make it work for the riders.CRAVAREZZA TO INGEGNERE:
4.57km / 683m descent - Stage 2
Cravarezza and Ingegnere are also both flow trails with natural berms and roots, and at nearly twice the length of any other stage, will be quite physically challenging. The steepest, most technical section will be right at the end, so it'll reward the riders who can hold on and keep charging all the way down.LITTLE CHAMPERY:
2.67km / 361m descent - Stage 3
Little Champery is a bit less heavily traveled than the previous stages and is a bit steeper. Riders will take a turn off of Little Champery halfway down to Bianca Alternative, and will have a sharp climb in the middle to break things up and keep them on their toes. Again, the fittest riders will thrive at this race.FINAL-BORGO:
2.18km / 530m descent - Stage 4 & Pro Stage
The final stage and pro stage will be raced twice by the riders, once Saturday and once Sunday. The trail is technical, tight, steep, and rocky. Its length means it's unlikely that any races will be won on this stage, but races sure will be lost.
The Enduro Wet Series may continue this week, as there are torrential rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for Thursday (best of luck to the EWS-E racers). The region has alerts out for potentially damaging wind and flooding, so the trails might face some serious damage. With so much of the course in the woods, it would be surprising for the trails to fully dry out by the weekend, but at least the weather is forecasted to clear up and even become pleasant from Friday onward.Thursday, September 16Cloudy with a couple of showers and a heavy t-storm; thunderstorms can bring flooding downpours, hail, and damaging wind gusts // 24°C // 67% probability of precipitation // wind 13km/h Friday, September 17
- PracticePartly sunny // 23°C // 25% probability of precipitation // wind 9km/h Saturday, September 18
- Prologue Practice & RaceTimes of clouds and sun // 22°C // 25% probability of precipitation // wind 9km/h Sunday, September 19
- RaceMostly sunny and pleasant // 23°C // 0% probability of precipitation // wind 11km/h
Weather forecast as of Wednesday, September 15 from Accuweather
What Happened Last Round?
The last round had a bit of a shakeup when Jack Moir crashed in the Pro Stage Saturday and lost quite a bit of time, then fought back to finish 10th. Richie Rude put down a dominant performance and came out on top, followed by Jesse Melamed nipping closely at his heels and Martin Maes returning to the podium just barely behind Melamed for the first time since Maes became a father.
The women's race saw Melanie Pugin pull 10 seconds ahead of Morgane Charre, followed by Noga Korem, with less than 30 seconds separating Korem from first-placed Pugin. Hattie Harnden and Estelle Charles were just barely behind the top riders as well, clearly reminding us that this is the tightest, most competitive women's field we've ever seen.
1st. Melanie Pugin: 31:31.57
2nd. Morgane Charre: 31:41.33
3rd. Noga Korem: 32:00.56
4th. Harriet Harnden: 32:07.24
5th. Estelle Charles: 32:09.18
1st. Richie Rude: 26:36.00
2nd. Jesse Melamed: 26:42.64
3rd. Martin Maes: 26:45.66
4th. Slawomir Lukasik: 27:01.77
5th. Kevin Miquel: 27:02.38
What Happened Last Year?
Last year's race at Finale Ligure saw essentially the same top players as this year, with the exception of Richie Rude, who remained in the U.S., and Hattie Harnden, who was busy dominating the junior women with times that would have gotten her onto the elite podium. Morgane Charre took a narrow lead over Melanie Pugin, with Estelle Charles, Katy Winton, and Anita Gehrig all extremely close behind. Jesse Melamed was on a roll last year at Finale, and he won the men's race ahead of Florian Nicolai, and Jack Moir, Theo Galy, and Ed Masters rounded out the top five.
Many of the European riders flock to Finale to train during the winters so they tend to be quite familiar with the terrain, but of course it's possible for any of them to take the win.
1st. Morgane Charre: 25:02.66
2nd. Melanie Pugin: 25:33.15
3rd. Estelle Charles: 25:46.39
4th. Katy Winton: 25:53.66
5th. Anita Gehrig: 25:55.20
1st. Jesse Melamed: 21:21.60
2nd. Florian Nicolai: 21:30.58
3rd. Jack Moir: 21:34.71
4th. Theo Galy: 21:41.34
5th. Edward Masters: 21:57.17
Overall Series Standings
With 520 points allocated to the race winner and 25 points each to the Queen Stage and Pro Stage winners, a rider could gain up to 570 points at any given race, so there are up to 1140 points left to be won left in the season. That covers, conveniently, the top five riders in both the men's and women's categories. In the event of a tie, so the higher-placed rider at the most recent race takes the win, so if Miquel were to tie Rude (which would require Rude DNF'ing or placing lower than 115th at both of the remaining races), Miquel would take the title. In the women's, if Pugin were to lose her lead, it would be a tight battle among Charre, Harnden, and Courdurier for the overall.
Right now, it looks as if Pugin will most likely take the women's win and Rude or Moir will take the men's, but these next two races are bound to be exciting, and it's not over 'til it's over.
1st. Melanie Pugin: 3490
2nd. Morgane Charre: 2905
3rd. Hattie Harnden: 2905
4th. Isabeau Courdurier: 2900
5th. Noga Korem: 2645
1st. Richie Rude: 3610
2nd. Jack Moir: 3520
3rd. Jose Borges: 2510
4th. Jesse Melamed: 2500
5th. Kevin Miquel: 2470
It's no secret that Richie Rude and Jack Moir are battling back and forth on a knife edge, with Rude pulling ahead last week when Moir had a rough race. Rude has tons of experience at Finale and had a great race last week, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him continue the streak. Moir may or may not have what it takes to make the podium this week, but considering he pushed through his injury last week to fight back from 37th all the way up to 10th, I think his fitness and pace can carry him to another solid result. Lastly, I'm choosing an underdog to round out the podium. Slawomir Lukasik is one of the quickest privateers out there, and his results this season have continued to improve at an impressive rate. We'll likely see him on a factory ride and on the podium very soon.
Last year, Hattie Harnden's time in the junior women would have put her second in the elite women, behind Morgane Charre but ahead of Melanie Pugin. Hattie is clearly a threat on this course, and she's only getting faster. This is her breakout season, with two elite wins already under her belt, and I think she can snag another. Next, Pugin does have the momentum of her win last week and has the overall title riding on her shoulders, so she'll have the motivation to go fast, though she likely won't want to be reckless enough to throw it all away. Finally, Morgane Charre has shown up so, so consistently this season and has succeeded here before, so there's a good chance we'll see her on the podium again.
1 // Richie RUDE
2 // Jack MOIR
3 // Slawomir LUKASIK
1 // Hattie HARNDEN
2 // Melanie PUGIN
3 // Morgane CHARRE
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