For the third round of the EWS 2018 season, we head to Olargues - Montagnes Du Caroux in south western France. A completely new venue for the EWS, Montagnes Du Carous has held the highly respected Epic Enduro for a number of years prior to the international circus arriving in town this weekend. Olargues - the main village in the areas - is the epicentre of the mountainous region that is bestowed in history going back to medieval times and beyond. Mostly dry and rocky trails welcome visitors on bikes, but as the mountains naturally whip up all sorts of thermal fun, they too have a tendency to roll out the thunderstorms. These play havoc on the mind as their rumbles reverberate around the valleys, leading you to wonder...will the trails be dry for me today?
As we move from South America to Europe, there are a number of questions to ask; Will Montagnes Du Caroux be the venue that sees Hill and Ravanel continue on their paths to domination? Can Ravanel’s countrymen take advantage of being on home soil to spoil Sam’s seemingly unassailable quest for victory? And what about Ravanel herself? Will her mixing up EWS with the UCI DH World Cup catch up on her? Or will she keep leaving her competitors nothing but dust?
These classic southern French trails have stood the test of time so far, and with the world’s best-humans-who-ride-Enduro descending on them this weekend, the ground will no doubt shake with their ferocity, and no doubt another chapter will be laid down in EWS history.
EWS Montagnes Du Caroux consists of eight stages split over two days. Day 1 will see riders take on four stages, covering 45km (10.5km race stages and 34.5km liaison), while Day 2 will see 36km broken down into four stages (12.5km race stages and 23.4km liaison).
These are long stages in ancient French countryside, with lots of diversity thrown in (ancient twisted-looking woods with some serious rock gardens and boulders thrown in), and just for good measure there’s a short urban stage that wraps the first day of racing.
What Happened At The Last Round
Completely new venue, same rain. EWS Manizales was a feast for the eyes for those competing and spectating. The Colombian rain made the dark, rainforest-fed earth a difficult beast to tame, but the seven stages that made up the weekend of racing were unforgettable. Although the urban stage was blessed with fair weather and huge crowds, the weather decided to dump what must have felt like an ocean on the mountainside in time for the next day of racing. Those wobbling through the tricky mud sections were no doubt relieved that the organisers decided to cancel stage six because of the conditions.
Although he had the hometown advantage, Marcelo Gutierrez was unable to capitalise (although reigned supreme in the urban stage of course), relinquishing the win to all round gnarly-condition-tamer Sam Hill. Sam won four of seven stages and took stage two by 25 seconds. Over in the women’s field, it was Cecile Ravanel leading yet again and took the win from Isabeau Courdurier and Katy Winton in third, despite them winning stages five and seven respectively.
Top five individual rider points are awarded as follows. Full rundown of points are 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
“We’re heading to just the third round of the year, but already we are arriving at a make-or-break point for the whole season. With two wins from two rounds in the bank, Sam Hill has unquestionably established himself as the man to beat this season; his ride in Colombia was little short of mind bending.
As we head back across the Atlantic to France, we reach crunchtime for the French contingent. If they want a chance to lift the title in five month’s time, they need to beat Hill on track, and if they can’t do it here at home, where else can they beat him?
For the top step, it has to be Hill. Talking to a local
Pinkbike's EWS Predictionator
racer, he was certain that the course - with high speeds and plenty of rock - would suit Hill, so that’s an easy call with his early season form. For the second two steps, I think the French will step up and mount a strong fight and Damien Oton and Adrien Dailly will be leading that charge. Oton particularly, as he lives only an hour and a half away. While we’re talking locals, we need to remember Theo Galy, who actually lives in Olargues. He’s been racing EWS since the very beginning, but until last season had never bagged a result that befits his talent. With a new team this year that seems to be working for him and a home-field advantage, I think he could be a spoiler this weekend.
Before we get to the women, I also need to mention Robin Wallner and Youn Deniaud. Wallner has earned a spot in my list of men to watch this season, he has been very consistent over a whole season and with his first podium at the opening round, I think top five overall should be well within his grasp this year. Then there’s Youn Deniaud. The privateer French racer has embarrassed many of his compatriots so far, holding on to a very impressive fifth in the overall so far. He’s certainly an early contender for Privateer of the Year.
In good news for the women’s field, it looks like Cecile Ravanel will be contesting the whole series this year (although she will also compete at Fort William and Vallnord DH World Cups). That makes predictions for the women’s race very simple; I think the podium will be the same as in Colombia. Ravanel is untouchable right now. Isabeau Courdurier has the second step locked down, and Katy Winton the third.”
1 // Sam HILL
2 // Damien OTON
3 // Theo GALY
1 // Cecile RAVANEL
2 // Isabeau COURDURIER
3 // Katy WINTON
Must Know, Must See, Must Do
The area that creates the Montagnes Du Caroux overlook is acclaimed to be one of the most beautiful villages in France - Olargues. Just 40km from the town of Béziers (famous for its bullfighting - yes it’s not just the Spanish that do it), Olargues - Montagnes Du Caroux has seen its wealth of occupiers in its time; from the Romans, to the Vandals, to the Visigoths. Olargues has seen invaders come and go, but in the end, its rich earth and mountain fed waterways provided where war could not; wealth and contentment through agriculture and craftsmanship.
A notable place of interest is the 12th century Pont du Diable, or ‘Devil’s Bridge’. The village itself is built along the Juar, a winding river which almost encircles Olargues completely. Folklore tells how the three-arched stone bridge was the meeting place between Olargues villagers and the devil himself. These days it just makes the village even that much more picture perfect.
Olargues has its own medieval castle (or at least remains of it), cobbled streets, and a mix of timber and stone buildings, some featuring marble doorways and beautifully made stone staircases that would probably make modern stonemasons weep with joy. The village acts as a base in which you can explore the surrounding 'Parc naturel régional du Haut-Languedoc'. The Parc is a vast expanse of nature full of mountain-hardy creatures (including the mouflon, a curved horned sub-species of sheep, thought to be one of the two ancestors of all domestic sheep), caves, springs and sweeping valleys. Explore around because there are some real gems to be found, including Peiro Escrito, a Bronze-Age cave painting, as well as various farms that sell tasty cheese and vineyards that sell just as tasty wine.
If you’re visiting for a bit longer, the Mai festival is held this month (May) which is all about embracing the spring and the traditions of the local area. There’s a torchlight hike where you’ll be told ancient tales while traditional music is played to really get you embracing what is one of the most untouched areas of France.
The ScheduleThursday 10 May
• 09:00-13:00 // Training - Stage 5/Stage 6 (EWS Members)
• 13:00-17:00 // Training - Stage 7/Stage 8 (EWS Members)Friday 11 May
• 09:00-13:00 // Training - Stage 1/Stage 2 (EWS Members)
• 13:00-16:30 // Training - Stage 3/Stage 4 (EWS Members)
• 19:00 // Rider BriefingSaturday 12 May
• 07:00-17:00 // Race - Stages 1-4Sunday 13 May
• 07:00-17:00 // Race - Stages 5-8
• 18:00 // Awards
Pinkbike will be providing you with the best daily coverage from our team of photographers and videographers, as well as the official EWS video crew in France this week. There will be content coming in from training on Thursday and Friday, and race day action recaps on Saturday 12th May ( Stages 1-4 ) and Sunday 13 May ( Stages 5-8 ), with the final rider crossing the line around 1700 CEST (local time). You can catch the riders’ times as they progress through the stages on both days via the EWS live timing feature