Three riders, six stages, sixteen stage wins between them. This weekend Richie Rude, Cecile Ravanel and Adrien Dailly were superlative, utterly dominating the racing. But it wasn't just the riders that were nearly perfect, the race itself was a masterpiece, a reminder of everything that made so many of us fall in love with enduro in the first place. Long, technical stages on fresh cut tracks in one of the most stunning backdrops on any racing calendar.
One last glorious morning in the Alps above the Aosta Valley.
Sitting top ten going into the final day, Curtis Keene prepares to push it to the limit and gain a few more places.
Lorraine Truong is still sidelined after her brain injury at Samoens last year, but she wanted to come and watch this weekend. It is sobering to see how much this invisible injury has changed a once energetic and outgoing girl. She's still fighting to get back to where she once was, but the road looks to be a long one for her.
The EWS has been testing out some new technology from Quarq Race Intelligence, essentially real time GPS tracking of every rider to provide stats through out each stage
If you look closely, you can see just how much speed Rude picked up on stage one, and who may have gained or lost time on the punchy climbs or steep tech sections throughout the day.
Issabeau Courdurier's SUNN polished up and awaiting a day of thrashing over three incredibly long stages.
SRAM may have had one of their busiest race weekends ever. Cheers boys for keeping the racing going.
// UNDER 21 RACE
Jumping into the meat of stage four this morning.
Adrien Dailly stretched out his lead over Seb Claquin today to take the top spot in the U21 race.
Seb Claquin makes the most of his podium. Although this weekend didn't go his way, he still retains the series lead.
Adrien Dailly is getting in plenty of practice for the podium, which looks like it will come in handy when he makes the jump to the senior competition.
// WOMEN'S RACE
The top women take to the stage as they wait for their start times.
All systems go!
Issabeau had another strong day on stages four through six, but was still a long way off the dominant pace set by Cecile Ravanel.
After her nightmare start to the season Andreanne Lanthier-Nadeau showed everyone why Rocky Mountain betted on her with a podium in her first race as a professional enduro racer.
Cecile Ravanel was on fire this weekend, putting 2.34 into the competition.
Away from the limelight, Melanie Pugin arguably put in the ride of the weekend. She has no sponsors, she works full time so she has no time to train, but still managed to put in an amazing sixth place finish this weekend.
Louise Paulin is another privateer in the women's competition who did herself proud this weekend. Tenth for the mother of two and mountain bike guide against a world class field.
Anita Gehrig could almost taste the podium this weekend, holding third last night, but seeing it slip out of her grasp as today went on. By the time she crossed the finish line she was clearly gutted that she was not making her first trip onto the box this weekend.
Sixth for Miranda Miller in her first European EWS; she seems to be a natural at this kind of racing.
Innes would finish an uncharacteristic 8th today, struggling with injury on some of the longest stages of the entire season.
First on every stage and in a league of her own here in La Thuile, Cecile Ravanel put on a clinic in the women's race.
It was anything but easy out there this weekend.
Second today for Issabeau, and her best EWS finish to date.
The grin on Cecile Ravanel's face at the finish line says everything you need to know about her weekend.
Your women's podium: Cecile Ravanel, Isabeau Courdurier and Andreane Lanthier-Nadeau.
// MEN'S RACE
Flo Nicolai wasn't too pleased with himself this evening, he felt he could have done much better this weekend. That he feels like this when he's finishing in fifth says a lot about where his sights are set these days
Stage five wound down the side of the mountain towards the forests below.
Smashing his way to another win. Richie Rude could afford to take it easy today, but he still put he time into everyone but Hill on stage five.
Nico Vouilloz retired after the first stage this morning. He said he just wasn't able to recover. Next stop for the champ is the doctor for blood tests, here's hoping it's good news.
Jack Moir was maybe the surprise of the men's field today, taking time out from the World Cup to put in a stunning eighth and only missing out on the final stage win by a hair.
In racing you win some, you lose some. Jesse Melamed definitely got the rough end of that deal today.
Jesse Melamed has come a long way as a racer in the last couple of years. A crash early on today has dropped him back from sixth the twelfth and he slipped one spot further back on the final stage. What speaks volumes is that he was angry with himself, when not so long ago a top fifteen would have been a weekend he was very happy with.
After a rough season to date, Joe Barnes finally turned things around to grab a place within the top ten.
Curtis Keene brought the heat today.
Curtis dug deep today, finishing 4th on the final stage and pushing all the way up to 6th in the over all.
For "just training," Brosnan had a hell of a weekend. Troy took 16th in the overall.
Cody Kelley points it through the rock garden as the crowd starts to build at the bottom of stage six.
Flying Flo had some loose moments this weekend but held it together to take fifth place.
Robin Wallner has been flying a bit under the radar on the EWS circuit so far, but after his 7th place finish in La Thuile we imagine people are gong to begin to take notice.
It was another rough EWS for Jared Graves who retired after a flat tire on stage four.
Marco Osborne may be off the track this weekend, but he's got his spectating game locked down - ice cold Leffes trackside and some good, old-fashioned heckling.
Thomas Lapeyrie didn't have the best weekend, but he certainly gave it all on track this weekend.
Francois Bailly-Maitre was right there all weekend, he was rewarded with a fourth place this evening.
Jerome Clementz is still the master of reading the terrain - few other riders spotted this high line that kept him out of the chattery rocks below. Ninth this weekend for the 2012 champion.
Sam Hill had a few moments today, including a massive crash on stage 4, losing almost 17 seconds to Damien Oton. He clawed back much of it by winning stage 5, and then laid it all on the line on the final stage of the day Eventually besting Oton by almost 7 seconds to secure the second step on the podium.
Sam Hill's classic look of confidence, where without saying a word you know he's about to do something special. It's been great having Sam in the mix and on the podium the past two rounds and can't wait to see what the future holds for him in the EWS.
After missing most of 2015 with an injury, Damien Oton has come roaring back. Taking third here in La Thuile and also sitting solidly in 2nd for the season overall with four rounds to go.
Where most get hung up, Richie just charges on. It is mind boggling to witness the sheer speed he carries down the track, visibly faster than anyone in every single section of track. On another level almost seems like an understatement.
Even with a massive lead after day one, Richie had no intentions of letting up. His goal has been to the first male to make a clean sweep of all stages on an EWS weekend, but a charging Sam Hill on stage five foiled his plan by less than one second.
The team podium is always a slightly crazy end to the weekend - it is the chance for the mechanics and team managers who work so hard to get the riders out there and racing to join them on the stage and take their moment in the sun.
There is no "I" in Team, and Richie has some of the best in the business in his corner week in and week out.
Richie Rude, Sam Hill, and Damien tackled the monstrous La Thuile EWS and came out on top.
This view never gets old... Ciao Monte Bianco