With the World Cup DH season now wrapped up, we mountain bike race fans don’t have much left when it comes to international competitions to keep us entertained as the nights start drawing in (at least for us Northern Hemisphere dwellers). Luckily, there are still two rounds of the Enduro World Series to contend.
For the penultimate round of the 2018 EWS season, we’re heading off to Aínsa, Spain; a region which was once the home to one of the most powerful and influential families in Spanish history - the Kingdom of Aragon. The region is full of the remnants of the kingdom’s legacy, and Aínsa itself is home to a twelfth-century castle which will play host to the Prologue and the various post-race parties.
Aínsa has hosted an EWS before - that was back in 2015 and those who remember will recall the monstrous flash flooding during race day. Looking at the forecast for this weekend, there aren’t any thunderstorms foreseen, however it has been reported that there are thunderstorms - and a chance of some flash flooding - earlier in the week, which will no doubt have an impact on the trail conditions for the riders.
What Happened At The Last Round
Five long stages made up the EWS stop over in Whistler Canada last month, and despite a bit of rain the night before the race, the heat returned with vengeance, and so did the smoky skies (thanks to nearby forest fires). The dry conditions meant the stages were littered with holes and loose rocks - many of them hidden under layers of fine dirt - and there was no respite for the riders as they made their way down from the Top of the World trail to Whistler Village on the final stage.
In the Pro Women’s race, Cecile Ravanel took an early lead. Isabeau Courdurier and Andréane Lanthier following behind. With the final stage being the real showstopper of the day, Lanthier secured a good time but it wasn’t to last because Noga Korem managed to sneak in and clinch the third place spot instead. Ravanel and Courdurier would cross the line together and finish in first and second place respectively; the same order that they had finished in every race this season.
In the Pro Men’s race, Richie Rude would take the lead on the first stage and he looked strong during the second stage, but a tree mid-way down Crazy Train would put a stop to his efforts sharpish. Martin Maes then took the mantle and moved ahead of everyone from Stage 2 and would continue that all the way to the final stage. Meanwhile, Eddie Masters would battle it out against Sam Hill over three stages until Hill eventually took charge on the final stage, inching away from Masters' challenge.
To make matters worse for Rude, who given his past history at Whistler was surely up for giving Maes a run for his money to the finish line - he would be denied that chance by a puncture early on on the final stage, denying us fans the battle. Hill would make the most of Rude’s bad luck by taking second place, with Masters rounding off the podium in third.
Top five individual rider points are awarded as follows. A full rundown of points is available in the EWS Rulebook
• 1st = 500 points (Men) // 400 points (Women)
• 2nd = 450 points (Men) // 350 points (Women)
• 3rd = 420 points (Men) // 320 points (Women)
• 4th = 400 points (Men) // 300 points (Women)
• 5th = 390 points (Men) // 290 points (Women)
The Weather Forecast
“How do we talk about the Pro Men’s race without mentioning what Martin Maes has achieved since the last round in Whistler? I can’t think of a better advert for the discipline either. With his results in Fort William, La Bresse, and now Lenzerheide, he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he wanted to be, he could be a top-of-the-foodchain-downhiller. Yet when asked if he fancies switching his answer was clear - he’s having more fun riding enduro. While all that is very exciting, it drags attention away from the fact that he put more than 40 seconds into Sam Hill last time out in Whistler. Maes has won before but never in that fashion and I’m excited to see how much more momentum he carries with him into this round.
Pinkbike's EWS Predictionator
The one question mark over his form is preparedness - while he has been off shocking the downhill world, his EWS competitors have been resting, training, and preparing for the last two races of the year. There has been no question of his consistency over the last two years; now he appears to have dialled the speed up from 10 to 11, and I can’t bet against him.
Even if Maes does steamroll the competition for the last two rounds, it looks like it will not be enough to turn over Hill’s series lead, and the only man who looks able to deny Hill is, well, Hill. He holds a commanding 560 point lead over Maes, so if he can peg him to within 60 points this weekend, Hill can wrap up the title with a round to spare, and save himself a nervy weekend in Finale trying to nurse home a lead. My money is on Hill doing just that. I need to be careful with my third-place predictions as both my picks in Whistler - Melamed and Thoma - promptly smashed themselves before the race even began (sorry guys). This time out I will go out on a limb and say Flo Nicolai. He’s been building back his form all year and with his current trajectory, I think he has form on his side to finish strongly this year.
It’s getting nervous at the top of the Pro Women’s field now too. The problem for Cecile Ravanel and Isabeau Courdurier is that the gap between them and the rest of the field this year has been so emphatic that they have finished one-two in every race. So while Ravanel may hold a perfect six-for-six this year, that has only allowed her to build a 300 point lead over Courdurier, and Katy Winton is still close enough to mug Courdurier for second overall if things go wrong. If they do hold formation - which I’m betting on them to do - then Ravanel would take the overall this weekend, as even if she sat out Finale after winning Aínsa, Courdurier could only draw level on points and Ravanel would take the titles as she has won more races. As for third, I’m again going to back Melanie Pugin. Maybe I have harped on about her here too much this year, but the fact that a rider who narrowly missed the podium twice and DNF’d while holding third at La Thuile did not have the supper to race in Whistler (Pugin works full time and couldn’t get time off) is not good for the series, especially when so many of the top teams don’t have a single woman on their rosters.”
1 // Sam HILL
2 // Martin MAES
3 // Flo NICOLAI
1 // Cecile RAVANEL
2 // Isabeau COURDURIER
3 // Melanie PUGIN
What Happened Here Last Time Round?
The crowds of Spanish fans were out in force at every stage of the race when the last EWS was held in Aínsa back in 2015. The weather also wanted to party…
In the Pro Women’s race, Tracy Moseley took one less stage win than second-placed Cecile Ravanel, but with but with a 25-second lead, Moseley was untouchable. Isabeau Courdurier wasn’t far behind her two rivals and slotted into third place.
In the Pro Men’s, it was Richie Rude who secured all four stages on Saturday but he wasn’t able to match his performance on Sunday and failed to win any of the remaining stages. Despite that, he was still an impressive 20 seconds up from his nearest rival Yoann Barelli. Barelli would take second and Martin Maes would finish up in third.
Of course, it's worth noting that despite it being an eight-stage race, the last stage was never raced due to torrential rain which then led to a flash flood turning the track into a fast flowing river.
Previous Winners In Aínsa
2015 // Richie RUDE // USA
2015 // Tracy MOSELEY // GBR
Must Know, Must See, Must Do
A town of just over 2,000 people, Aínsa is a town lies south of the Pyrenees mountains in the Aragon region of northern Spain.
The Romans managed to make their way to the region during their expansion across the European continent, and stayed until the 5th century AD until the nomadic tribes of Germanic peoples - the Visigoths - turned up. The rugged mountainous region made it difficult for the Visigoths to maintain their hold of the region, and they were soon replaced by different ruling families.
The area would see another invasion force on its doorstep, this time in the form of the Moors, and its architecture reflects this, as the old town - which is intact still to this day - is based upon a citadel design. During the Middle Ages, the area was governed by the Moors for a few years and then it went back under control under the ever-expanding Kingdom of Aragon, which was the foundation of the Empire of Argon, and after that, the Kingdom of Spain.
Walking around the town itself takes you back to those founding days of Spanish royal history. The historic part of Aínsa is formed by a group of tightly packed stone houses, all snuggled up against an 11th-century tower that is the landmark for the town. You can take the view in from the top of the tower for a small fee. The castle in Aínsa is also a must see if you want to fully experience learning about the history of the area, and the remaining walls are a great way to see the view over the surrounding landscape.
Dotted around the historic part of the town are statues and other nods to the town’s living memories. There’s also the 10th-century church of Santa Maria which has been designed with influences from the town’s Roman connection in mind.
As well as riding the trails in the area, there’s also plenty of watersports on offer, including rafting. Alternatively, there are a number of museums in the area, from those dedicated to educating visitors about the traditions of the Aínsa region, to those to do with the local wildlife and ecology.
If you're there to watch the race, then you might want to opt for the 40 Euro Festival VIP pass. The pass gets you a free and priority boarding on the bus to the start stages on Sunday, an EWS branded tee shirt, a wine bottle from the Somontano Winery, access to the VIP bar, and more.
The ScheduleThursday 20 September
• 08:00-15:00 // Training - Stages 1-4
• 20:15-22:00 // Welcome PartyFriday 21 September
• 10:00-17:00 // Training - Stages 5-7
• 16:00-19:00 // EWS Exhibition Urban Prologue
• 19:00-21:00 // Sausage PartySaturday 22 September
• 07:00-18:30 // Race- Stages 1-4
• 19:00-22:00 // Post Race Concert Sunday 23 September
• 07:00-19:30 // Race - Stages 5-7
• 17:30 // Awards
• 18:00-20:00 // Post Race Paella Party
It goes without saying that Pinkbike will be the place to go if you want to catch all the action from Aínsa this weekend. There’ll be content from training on Friday and Saturday, and race day action recaps on Sunday. There might even be a report on the Sausage Party.
You can also catch the all the riders’ times as they progress through the stages on both days via the EWS live timing feature