Pinkbike Primer: Everything You Need to Know Before the High Alpine EWS Racing in La Thuile, Italy

Jul 6, 2021 at 17:28
by Alicia Leggett  
possible cover photo

For the fourth time in EWS history, riders will visit La Thuile for some picturesque yet brutal racing beneath Mont Blanc. Like the last EWS stop in Canazei, the La Thuile stop will feature two rounds of racing, which will be good news for the vast majority of you who answered in favor of double-header racing in our recent poll.

The EWS this year is broken into two very distinct blocks, with this weekend finishing out the first four-race block before riders have a long break - a void left by EWS Whistler - before the series resumes in September with a double-header at a new venue in France, then a stop at yet another new venue in Switzerland, then a return to the classic Finale Ligure before finishing in the Tweed Valley of Scotland.

The season opened with two stellar races in Val di Fassa. Isabeau Courdurier took an emotional victory in the first race before rising star Melanie Pugin took the win the second time around. Richie Rude and Jack Moir battled tightly throughout both races, with Rude winning less than half a second apart in the first round after 27 minutes of timed racing, the closest race in EWS history, and Moir taking the win by 14 seconds at round two.

With the next two rounds coming up quickly and racers already on site, let's take a look at what to expect.

The Venue

When you are the world number one it s hard to escape the paparazzi.

La Thuile has a reputation for being punishing, and yet it has been a consistent rider favorite each time the EWS has visited. The high alpine venue will serve up a selection of long, steep descents, stout climbs, and incredible views of the Italian and French Alps.

Racers can expect most stages to start above treeline, dropping into the woods later. The trails will be rocky, exposed, and natural, with roots lower down.

While not a consistent EWS stop, La Thuile has been used in 2014, 2016, and 2018, so most of the riders will have raced here before. The town of La Thuile itself is a ski town nestled in the Alps, so hopefully riders can find some time throughout the week to enjoy the place.

The Format

Josh Carlson smashes one of the many switchbacks that drop off the ridge line on Stage 2.

The two La Thuile races will use essentially the same format over five days as the previous two rounds: practice day, race day, rest day, prologue day to start the next race, and final race day.

The two races will take place Thursday and Sunday on largely the same course, the difference being that the final stage of both Thursday and Sunday will be raced an additional time Saturday as a pro-only prologue stage. The prologue will be included as part of Sunday's race and will undergo a few changes between races so that it's slightly different for the second race. Thus, riders will practice the four stages Wednesday, race those four stages Thursday, take a day off Friday, practice and race one of those stages again as the prologue Saturday, and race the remaining stages (including the prologue stage again) Sunday.

The Stages

Sketchy moments for Bex Baraona on the final stage of the weekend.
Once the riders get below treeline, with the trees come roots.

LA JOUX: 2.93km / 563m descent

La Joux is narrow, rough, and definitively alpine, staying above treeline for a while before dropping into the woods. It will be Stage 1 of the first race and Stage 2 of the second race, following the prologue.

MINIERE: 2.54km / 518m descent

After riding La Joux, the racers will pedal across the valley to the top of Miniere, which will drop them back into town. Miniere will be Stage 2 Thursday and Stage 3 / Queen Stage of the weekend race.

LA FRESA: 2.22km / 618m descent

La Fresa is steep, tight, and full of switchbacks. Riders will access La Fresa by riding through town, up to the resort, and to the chairlift. La Fresa is a steep, natural trail in the La Thuile bike park with some very tight, steep switchbacks. La Fresa will be Stage 3 Thursday and Stage 4 this weekend.

VERTICAL: 6.55km / 738m descent

From the top of the lift, riders will pedal a bit more to the top of Vertical, which will be the most-ridden stage of the race. Vertical will be Stage 4 and the Queen Stage on Thursday, then it will be re-practiced and raced as the pro-only prologue stage Saturday, and raced again as Stage 5 of the weekend race.

The Weather

Last time the EWS came to La Thuile, heavy rain made the course treacherous. With rain in the forecast again, we may see something similar, but it looks a tad less severe than 2018 so we'll keep our fingers crossed that the trails don't become as slick.

Wednesday, July 7
Partly sunny with a couple of showers and a thunderstorm // 16°C // 65% probability of precipitation // wind 4km/h

Thursday, July 8 - Race 1
Variable cloudiness with a heavy thunderstorm // 14°C // 56% probability of precipitation // wind 7km/h

Friday, July 9 - Rest Day
Times of clouds and sun with a couple of showers // 17°C // 65% probability of precipitation // wind 6km/h

Saturday, July 10 - Practice and Prologue
Partly sunny with a couple of showers in the afternoon // 19°C // 65% probability of precipitation // wind 7km/h

Sunday, July 11 - Race 2
Partly sunny with a couple of showers and a thunderstorm // 19°C // 60% probablility of precipitation // wind 7km/h

Weather forecast as of Tuesday, July 6 from Accuweather.

Seeding List for Race #1

EWS La Thuile 2018

La Thuile 2018 had its fair share of carnage with lots of mechanicals, some unfortunate crashes, and heavy rain that definitely did not make things easier for the riders. Still, some riders delivered stellar performances. Sam Hill took the win on the men's side, followed closely by Martin Maes and Ed Masters. On the women's podium, a predictable Ravanel and Courdurier took first and second, with Ines Thoma putting in a great performance for third.

Elite Men:

1st. Sam HILL 59:53.27
2nd. Martin MAES +0:13.15
3rd. Ed MASTERS +0:40.58
4th. Jesse MELAMED +1:20.32
5th. Damien OTON +1:24.71
Elite Women:

1st. Cecile RAVANEL 58:39.84
2nd. Isabeau COURDURIER +1:39.35
3rd. Ines THOMA +3:38.97
4th. Anita GEHRIG +4:21.24
5th. Katy WINTON +4:31.68

Note that Stage 3 was removed for the women after a crash stopped the racing.

What Happened Last Round?

Race 1:

Elite Men:

1st. Richie RUDE 27:07.32
2nd. Jack MOIR 27:07.80
3rd. Jesse MELAMED 27:22.08
4th. Matt WALKER 27:30.79
5th. Zak JOHANSEN 27:38.16
Elite Women:

1st. Isabeau COURDURIER 31:43.22
2nd. Morgane CHARRE 31:57.15
3rd. Melanie PUGIN 31:57.48
4th. Andreane LANTHIER NADEAU 32:15.75
5th. Noga KOREM 32:31.99

Race 2:

Elite Men:

1st. Jack MOIR 28:22.20
2nd. Richie RUDE 28:36.72
3rd. Charlie MURRAY 28:59.67
4th. Jesse MELAMED 29:01.99
5th. Robin WALLNER 29:02.20
Elite Women:

1st. Melanie PUGIN 33:30.62
2nd. Morgane CHARRE 34:06.13
3rd. Hattie HARNDEN 34:17.14
4th. Isabeau COURDURIER 34:18.59
5th. Ella CONOLLY 34:28.56

Pinkbike Predictions

The escalator up to stage 4 errrrr 5 was packed.

Jack Moir showed us at the last two rounds what he can do. After battling it out with Richie Rude and coming second in the closest EWS race in history, then taking the win just a few days later, he absolutely has what it takes to be consistently at the top. Richie Rude, for his part, was in great form last round and will come into this one strong once again. Last time he raced here, he DNF'd, so he'll have some unfinished business with this place, especially after taking the win in 2016. Rounding out the podium, I'm picking Jesse Melamed because he showed impressive consistency at the last two rounds and seems to be in great form, ready to take on a brutal course.

In the women's field, it's hard to pick a clear winner out of Melanie Pugin, Isabeau Courdurier, and Morgane Charre. Melanie and Morgane have risen steadily over the last few years and have now clearly earned their spots on the podium. Isabeau, too, has been working hard and even in the midst of her grief after her father's death, put in two strong performances in Val di Fassa for a win and a fourth place. I think Melanie Pugin will bring her A-Game this week, especially after crashing out last time here, and will give Isabeau some serious competition. Next, I'll pick Isabeau because of her obvious strength and skill, plus her racing experience. Finally, Morgane Charre is one of the most consistent top riders right now, and I have no doubt she'll ride a strong race.

1 // Jack MOIR
2 // Richie RUDE
3 // Jesse MELAMED
1 // Melanie PUGIN
2 // Isabeau COURDURIER
3 // Morgane CHARRE

Fantasy League

It's that time again! Pick your riders for a chance to win prizes. We recommending finalizing your team before the first round to make sure you start the season with some points.

The Fantasy Enduro League is Presented by Maxxis.


  • 57 1
 I like the double header format from a travel and a “there is more racing” perspective.

But IMO one of the cool things about EWS, is that there is not much practice, and the experience being somewhat raw.

Recycling the stages for the second race just… doesn’t feel the same.
  • 6 1
 Itd be cool to see some photos before and after race 1. Think of all the line changes at Les Gets as ruts get bedded in, then blown, holes develop, braking bumps etc. I bet the course rides pretty different for round 2.
  • 5 0
 @Jimmy0: Johno Jones put out a video on his brother Matt Jones' youtube channel showing the state of one of the stages after Race 1, the EWS60 and 100 had been run on it, but prior to Race 2. The track was well and truly thrashed. Worth a watch.
  • 1 0
 Who's yer money on.....
  • 2 4
 So the difference between exciting/raw and recycled/dull is a few practice laps?

  • 11 3
 By my estimate pinkbike seems to get about 3x the fantasy funds as the rest of us. We all know that these riders will do well -- the real article should be your picks within the fantasy constraints.
  • 8 0
 Can we have some of that rain in the northwest?!!?!!! Please?!!
  • 1 0
 Kill the forest fires!!
  • 3 0
 please give us also the liaison length....or was it written somewhere?
I find it personally interesting to know how much pedalling they have to do and the altitude as well.
  • 3 0
 Why there is no Slawomir Lukasik in Enduro Fantasy League?
Oh come on guys, he is really fast boy Wink
  • 3 1
 @brianpark - can we get him added. Dude is shredding and we got people on the list not even racing.
  • 4 1
 But who do i replace Charles Murray with ???????
  • 9 0
 Matt Walker of course !!! go kiwi go !!
  • 1 0
 Is he definitely not racing?
  • 1 0
 same problem here Wink
  • 1 0
 Are the times for the 2018 results correct? If Cecile was indeed faster then Sam Hill by a minute and ten seconds then she is the GOAT in cycling period!
  • 6 0
 Stage 3 was removed for the women because a crash stopped the racing, so yep those times are correct but the women's race was a stage shorter. Stage 3 was about 11-13 minutes for the men.
  • 1 0
 @alicialeggett: Ahhh, thanks for the knowledge!
  • 2 0
 Looks steep!
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