Practice is now done and dusted here in Aspen-Snowmass. What is clear is that this is going to be a race of two halves. For day one the tracks are not what you might expect from Colorado, with plenty of fresh cut sections, some seriously steep parts and even some soft, loamy soil. It's been an eye-opener for many as to what might be possible in this part of the world. For day two, the race reverted to more standard Colorado fare, with stage four taking in 10km of blue, flow trail that is going to be hellishly physical to race come Sunday. Talking to the Big Mountain Enduro crew, it is clear which of the two days they are most excited about and the direction they would like to push their racing in, if the complex political environment of American trail-building will permit it... (Hint: it's not on the existing trail network.)
Mountains as far as you can see here in Colorado.
Not good news for the champ. A crash on stage two in practice meant caused a mild separation to his shoulder. He sat out day two of practice, but is hoping to race come Saturday.
Ben Cruz is back at the EWS for the first time in a while. After flight delays he rolled into town late Thursday afternoon and decided that by that point it was too late in the day, so he was better off taking some time for his other passion.
Marco Osborne isn't letting his sore hand tame his riding style in the slightest.
Codey Kelley was flying solo the past few days with his usual wingman, Richie Rude, on the sidelines.
Blenki smashing tasty loose corners at the bottom of the fresh cut bits of stage one.
Loose Dog is looking rather in the American spirit.
Absolutely flying everywhere is Isabeau Courdurier, at times faster than many of the men.
Josh Carlson comes from a moto background so the super high speed open sections play right into his strengths.
Back on form and chasing podiums, Curtis Keene looks fast and confident everywhere.
Martin Maes has been going full tilt in practice, sliding about like a mad man. Will the Belgian take his first win this weekend?
Joe Barnes has been digging plenty of loose corners at home and sliding about on a daily basis. Perhaps that training will pay off here on the loose trails in Aspen.
Robin Wallner has crept into the top 20 this season with a brace of top ten finishes, despite picking up a DNF in Ireland.
Sadly this would be the only run Richie Rude would complete this weekend after a crash on his second training run separated his shoulder. He sat out all of practice but says he will give it a go for racing.
Casey Brown is back at the EWS and looking to have a repeat of her Argentina result.
Add Wyn Masters to the long list of previously injured riders making their comeback here in Aspen after a year full of mishaps and bad luck.
Nico Lau was one who spent an extra week in Colorado to get acclimatized to the altitude. Will it pay off, or will others who arrived later be able to push through the thin air just as easily?
Another local who could do well is Nate Hills. A former Big Mountain Enduro champion, he is always strong at these long and high altitude events.
New comer Teddy Hayden of Marin California is try his hand at EWS racing for the first time. At only 17 years of age he will be battling things out in the under 21 class.
Anneke Beerten looks like like hasn't missed a beat. She was doing well in Colorado last time the EWS was here, will she return with a win?
Florian Nicolai powers through the dust and epic light at the bottom of stage 6.
Killian Callaghan is putting in a solid showing in the under-21s competition and is one of the few European privateers in that class to make the trip across the Atlantic.
Mark Scott boosts one of few man-made features on stage 1. With the exception of the top half of stage 4 most of the stages here are on natural terrain this weekend.
Damien Oton has quietly been quietly getting on with the job at hand this season and has sneaked his way up to second in the overall standings, while staying pretty much under the radar.
Greg Callaghan blitzes through the flowers on stage 5.
BME pro women's leader Anne Galyean is looking to leave her mark on this round of the EWS.
Where there is fresh, soft dirt on course, Iago Garay knows how to make the most of it...
Adrien Dailly has a commanding lead in the under 21 points and is once again the one to beat in Aspen.
Andreanne Nadier-Lantheau (we'll refer to her as ALN from her on in, as it's easier on the keyboard) is looking to back up her stunning podium in La Thuile - although with Casey Brown here and Miranda Miller seeming to find racing enduro coming naturally, there is a serious Canadian contingent in the women's top tem these dats.
These two guys are psyched to be racing at 10,000 feet.
Ines Thoma is another rider who has had something of a mixed season so far, yet despite this she has been consistent enough to be sitting third in the overalls.
Anneke Beerten missed the last round while fighting off an infection but is back at it this weekend to round out a very strong women's field.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda. After Ireland Greg Callaghan had something to prove in La Thuile, to hush any whisper of his form only really showing on home turf. Unfortunately, despite some seriously impressive stage results, mechanicals left him leaving La Thuile with unfinished business. He certainly has the engine to do well here in Colorado, and is a rider worth keeping an eye on this weekend.
Hannah Barnes is fully recovered from the concusion she suffered a few weeks back and it's great to have her fun loving and positive presence back on the circuit.
After a broken wrist suffered while racing the WC at Fort William, Martin Maes has finally been cleared to race here in Aspen. Admittedly a bit down on upper body strength, his fitness should still shine through on the physical Aspen stages.
Graves speeds down towards the town of Aspen below, he enjoys racing in Colorado, so he will almost certainly be in the mix come Sunday evening.
Martin Maes and Marco Osborne are almost teammates (GT and Cannondale are both part of CSG, plus they share most of their sponsors) and both have injured right hands. Maes makes his return this weekend and Osborne tries to restart his campaign after retiring from La Thuile.
Rene Wildhaber is loving his new Remedy.
Jared Graves gets up close and personal with one of the local residents.
Jerome has fitness and raw speed but has yet to really show his full potential this season despite sitting third in the overall.
Anita Gehrig leads out her sister on stage four.
Also back in action after sitting out the last round in La Thuile is Yoann Barelli.
The iconic Maroon Bells as see from the top of stage 4
Jerome Clemntz showing that effortless light style on stage two.
There are plenty of dusty loose corners here in Aspen to slide around.
After a shoulder injury sidelined Rae Morrison in La Thuile a few weeks back, she is healthy and back on the gas here in Aspen.
Matti Lehikoinen is one of the few riders in the field here that raced here at Snowmass the last time internation racing came here - for the WC DH in 2006. Stage six shares quite a lot of track with that course and he looked fast in practice.
Local Colorado shredder and former DH racer, Chris Boice has been looking quick as well out there. With much of the series abroad so far this year, this will be the first time we see a large influx of American riders mixing it up with the EWS regulars.
Miranda Miller is back for another crack at this enduro gig after he impressive finish in La Thuile. She was flying through the meadows in practice.
Speeding through the lovely aspen groves of Aspen. Aspen.
Greg Callaghan might find the conditions here in Aspen similar to how they were in Wicklow, except for the altitude. Greg could well take a podium here.
Damien Oton is due for a win, will this weekend be the one?
Ines Thoma comes to grip with the loose corners of stage three.
Look closely at Seb Claquin's right hand. He broke those two fingers at the rodeo on Wednesday night, but can still ride like this despite that...
Theo Galy may be behind teammate, Damien Oton, in the standings right now,, but he is having his strongest season so far this year and is eighth overall right now.
Curtis Keene tackling the steep, loose switchbacks of the monster sized stage three.
Maes looks a shoe in for the win, But Rude has most of his movement in his shoulder. This one will be interesting.
Ray Syron slides into the loose catch berm at the bottom of the drop filled stage six.
Alex "Krunkshox" McGuinness has been privateering to all of the rounds of the EWS this year.
Keegan Wright on the path of destruction.
Nico Lau is looking on the gas this weekend and he loves long, demanding stages.
No one drifts it though the corners like Iago Garay.
Jesse Melamed looks like he might be taking lessons from Florian Nicolai in the style department.
Wyn Masters has no issues with loose riding. Here he charges the drops like only a Kiwi can.
Remi Gauvin making easy work of the fly-off at the end of stage six
We've seen a lot of sliced tires and even a few sliced body parts, most notable the forearm of Francois Bailly-Maitre who headed to the hospital for lots of stitches.
The dust isn't kind to camera gear.
It's race day tomorrow. Time to get a good nights rest.