After back-to-back UCI World Cup DH racing for the last couple of weeks, we’re back to Enduro this weekend for the fifth round of the Enduro World Series.
The Enduro World Series circus heads from the freshly broken ground of Petzen-Jamnica to the more familiar territory of La Thuile in Italy. Although the series didn’t bless this pristine part of the Italian Alps last year, it has been here before in 2014 and 2016. More on that in a bit. In the meantime though, we can look forward to six stages of racing over two days in Italy’s smallest region, surrounded by some of the highest mountain peaks in Europe.
This is the last stop before the mega event of EWS Whistler, and with a gruelling series of stages ahead of them, the fight for those all important points goes on despite Hill and Ravenel holding strong in their respective categories. Let’s delve into the key things you need to know before the race gets underway.
EWS La Thuile consists of six stages split over two days, totalling 66.9km, with a total elevation change of 5,918m going up, and 5,923m worth of descending.
What Happened At The Last Round
Petzen-Jamnica played host to the fourth round and, being in a completely new location for the riders, a whole heap of drama unfolded to mark the season’s midway point.
In the Pro Men’s race Sam Hill and Martin Maes battled it out against each other, with both riders taking three stage wins each. It was close to the wire going into the final stage, but Hill managed to maintain his advantage. Having gone into the last stage with a two-second advantage over Maes, he powered through and crossed the line with 10 seconds to spare. Meanwhile, Robin Wallner secured third place having had a consistent race over the two days.
In the Pro Women’s race, Cecile Ravanel once again dominated the weekend. Although it wasn’t a complete set of wins; Ravanel couldn’t beat Isabeau Courdurier’s time in the final stage. The battle for everything but first place was tight and thanks to Courdurier’s dash for the line in the final stage, she secured second place, and Casey Brown swept up the third spot thanks to a strong final stage.
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
“Here we go for race five, over the hump and starting down the season’s home straight. In the Pro Men’s competition Sam Hill has a stranglehold on the race for the title, and with the form he’s on, I don’t think there’s anyone who can beat him consistently enough to deny him the crown. I said last time out that he may hold something back in the name of consistency, but he made me eat those words. When you consider that he stormed to his first EWS podium in La Thuile in 2016 and that much of this course plays to his strengths - Robin Wallner describes part of the course under the lift like a mini Val di Sole, and that there are two new fresh-cut stages - how can you bet against him?
Pinkbike's EWS Predictionator
Martin Maes has bounced back from his early season bad luck with style and I expect him to push Hill every inch of the way for the second step. For the final spot, it’s hard to know which way to go. Oton has won here before and if he places his focus here he could even worry Hill. Robin Wallner is also one to watch. He went well here the last time the series visited and if he can avoid the mechanical woes that marred his last visit, he has consistently been at the sharp end all year. Flo Nicolai is starting to ride himself into consideration too this year, but if I was putting money down, I think I would have to back Oton. That said, my spoiler is Richie Rude. Once again I have no idea what is going on with him. After winning in Olargues he had a lacklustre race in Petzen-Jamnica, so how do you read his form? If he comes to La Thuile with his game face on, he may be unbeatable, but whether he does is something only he can answer.
In the Pro Women’s race, the first two steps are easy - Cecile Ravanel followed by Isabeau Courdurier. Those two have been in formation all year and I don’t see anyone able to dislodge them. Where it is difficult to call is at the third step. Going stage-by-stage, Katy Winton seems to consistently have the pace for third, but after a brace of messy, difficult races for her, it’s hard to wonder whether there’s a pattern emerging? I’m going to stick my neck out and say Melanie Pugin for the third step. Winton has had the edge on her just as long as she can keep it together, but Pugin is already so close to the podium and she bagged sixth here as a privateer in 2016. At this rate, she has to be a forerunner for EWS’s breakthrough of the season.”
1 // Sam HILL
2 // Martin MAES
3 // Damien OTON
1 // Cecile RAVANEL
2 // Isabeau COURDURIER
3 // Melanie PUGIN
What Happened Here Last Time Round?
We have to go back to 2016 when the EWS was last held in La Thuile. The imposing mountains saw a bevy of crashes but it was Richie Rude and Cecile Ravanel who came out on top.
The first day of racing saw these two riders smash the competition by winning all three stages, with Sam Hill coming second behind Rude each time, although in total he was almost a minute behind him. Damien Oton finished the first day in third place. The second day of racing saw Rude sail away and leave Hill and Oton to battle it out for the second spot. Hill crashed on Stage 4, gifting Oton 10 seconds going into the fifth stage. Hill wasn’t going to lie down and he raced back those lost seconds and eventually moved Oton out of second place by winning stage 5, placing Oton on the third step on the podium.
For Ravanel's second day, she continued to fly just like Rude. Her nearest competitor was Isabeau Courdurier, but after ending the first day a minute back it would be a hard fight to gain that time with such a dominant Ravanel taking all the stages. Courdurier had to settle for second place on the final day, with Andreane Lanthier Nadeau hustling up the order and taking third after a number of strong stage results.
Previous Winners In EWS La Thuile
2016 // Richie RUDE // USA
2014 // Damien OTON // FRA
2016 // Cécile RAVANEL // FRA
2014 // Tracy MOSELEY // GBR
Must Know, Must See, Must Do
La Thuile is a cosy town tucked up in the Aosta Valley in the far northwest of mountainous Italy, close to the French and Swiss borders. The Aosta Valley provides the best location to see the highest and most imposing peaks in the European Alps; Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso, Cervino and the granddaddy of them all, Mont Blanc.
History-wise, before the Romans, the first known dwellers of this region were the Celts and the Ligures. Their influence is still noted in some of the names of the areas within the Aosta Valley region. It was the Romans who made Aosta after having conquered it around 25 BC because of its strategic importance as a starting point for a navigable route through the Alps and into new to-be-conquered territories further north. This was around the time of Emperor Augustus, hence the literal translation ‘Valle d’Aosta’ means ‘Valley of Augustus’ in homage to the first ever Emperor of the Roman Empire. Over the years, the Romans built vasts swathes of infrastructure, from bridges to roads, to aqueducts, some of which you can still see today.
In the 11th century, the area was fortified in response to titles given to prominent landowners - particularly from the House of Savoy - from Conrad II, the Holy Roman Emperor. With a series of forts and walls, the region slowly became autonomous. This autonomy lasted pretty much intact for several hundred years until Emperor Napoleon had his way. As with similar areas, this region was handed over to the Kingdom of Sardinia, which eventually joined the Kingdom of Italy in the mid 19th century. In the early 20th century, La Thuile, in particular, saw its landscape change; from farming on the mountain to farming the mountain itself for coal. With the discovery of the mountain’s undercover bounty, the population of the sleepy town rose to around 1,400. After the Second World War, it wasn’t that long until officials realised that the mines weren’t sustainable and instead started to invest in tourism and sports. In 1948 the first chairlift for La Thuile was put into action.
Nowadays the spread of chairlifts and other improvements to the infrastructure has given the Aosta Valley and towns like La Thuile the recognition they deserves for being one of the best places for summer and winter sports and relaxation in the Italian Alps.
The area has managed to maintain its links with the past and there’s plenty of history to see while you’re here, from ancient Roman and Medieval-era bridges (including the impressive 3 BC Pondel Aqueduct bridge), crypts, fortifications, walls and watchtowers, to the imposing and intriguing ‘Castello di Fénis’ castle (there are other castles available to see as well, including the Savoy Castle in Gressoney-Saint-Jean being the home of an Alpine Botanical Garden). The city of Aosta is a good place to tour landmarks of bygone eras, with the Arch of Augustus, the Praetorian Gate, and the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta being top things to tick off your list.
For those wanting to enjoy the greener side of the region, there’s plenty of mountaineering, hiking, and nature-watching to do. The region also has one of the oldest National Parks - the Gran Paradiso - where you can see marmots, eagles, ibex and chamois. If you’re looking to ride your bike while you’re here then there are over 1,000km or trails to keep you entertained as well as La Thuile Bike Park, although some of its trails will be closed for the weekend.
If you want to sit back and relax, the food and drink is a delight. The regional foods are suited to people working out in the mountains so there’s a lot of cheese, meat, and potatoes involved. There are lots of regional specialties (some of which are protected by law), including Fontina and Fromadzo cheese, with the latter being produced in the Aosta Valley since the 15th century. As for drinks, the area’s local wines includes a white from Morgex and reds from Arvier and Gamay. It's recommended that the Gamay should be drunk straight away as it's not one for keeping in the storeroom.
The ScheduleThursday 19 July
• 09:30-14:30 // Training - Stage 1/Stage 3
• 12:30-17:00 // Training - Stage 2Friday 20 July
• 09:30-14:30 // Training - Stage 4/Stage 6
• 12:30-17:00 // Training - Stage 5
• 18:30 // Rider BriefingSaturday 21 July
• 08:00-17:30 // Race - Stages 1-3Sunday 22 July
• 08:00-17:30 // Race - Stages 4-6
• 18:00 // Awards
As per usual, we’ll be providing you with the best daily coverage from our team of photographers and videographers, in Italy this week. There will be content coming in from training on Thursday and Friday, and race day action recaps on Saturday 21 July ( Stages 1-3) and Sunday 22 July (Stages 3-6), with the final rider crossing the line around 17:30 CEST (local time). You can catch the riders’ times as they progress through the stages on both days via the EWS live timing feature