2020 must have an awfully large box of wrenches. For the EWS crew it has to feel like 2020 has thrown a never-ending supply of them into the works at every turn. Today was no different, yet once again, they moved forward and pulled off the first international MTB race of the season with grace and honor. The day started with heavy rain and thunder, and an incredibly low cloud ceiling, which meant no helicopter medic support. Then came the delays as they moved to sort things out. One hour, then near two hours. Stage three was cut, which left the second half of stage four as stage one, and stage two as the second and final stage of the day because the snow level had started to drop down to where it could easily be seen from the pits. Things definitely seemed to be teetering on the edge of unraveling. The updates from the EWS crew were coming in at a rapid pace. When it had been decided that the riders could safely race the green light was given by Chris Ball and the Trail Love Crew, the EWS got underway.
When riders reached the top of the funicular to liaise to stage one, the snow was coming down. Temps in the pits had been 5° C. Despite the heavy morning rain, stage one seemed to have significantly more grip than it did the day before. The conditions didn't make for the fast-paced racing we saw last year in Zermatt. It was more a game of stay smooth and keep the tires on the ground. At least until the flow trail. By the time we headed into stage two, the clouds were starting to break, and everyone was thankful it was no longer coming down in buckets
Jesse Melamed took the win on stage one and a third on stage two to come out on top for the day. Martin Maes took second, and Theo Galy took third for the men. Isabeau Courdurier once again proved utterly dominant with two stage wins, Morgane Charre took second, and Ella Conolly had a breakout ride to take third in the pro-women. It wasn't what everyone had in mind for the first big international MTB race of the season, but it was pulled off without major incident, and that is a huge win in these strange times. International MTB has a chance to move forward in the age of COVID, the EWS just did an incredible job in proving so. And now as we all dry out, we look forward to hopefully warmer and drier times in Finale, especially since most of the teams are headed directly there tomorrow. It's time to warm our bones.