Celebrating the Gracia way. The wild man enjoying a couple of vices after long hard weekend on the bike. In his words, "F*ck it. This is Enduro."
Someone was calling for 16 piscos. 16 glasses of the clear, hard spirit the Chileans love so much. It seemed like the obvious thing to do at 2am, because, in the words of Gary Perkin, "no pisco, no disco.
" A celebration was needed. So much work went into this weekend's racing and it was time for Chris Ball and all the guys at Montenbaik, Mathias, Eduardo, Nacho and crew, to enjoy what they achieved this weekend. Little details that you couldn't see from the outside are what made the difference. Like the hours and hours spent just searching for the trail that became stage two. Riding it before the race with Chris, he turned to me, grinning, and said, "You know you're only the fifth person to ever ride this trail?
Come Sunday evening the drinks started flowing - after the obvious pressure the organisers were under to make this work it was time to let off. The work had taken its toll on both Mathias and Eduardo as they slumped in their seats, out cold from tiredness before the booze had time to take its place. But it did work, international enduro racing came to Chile and it was a huge success. Last year was a tentative year for the EWS, a series lashed together on the fly, with the main goal of simply functioning as a series. This time there was time to plan, consider the next move and, if this is a sign of things to come for the series, its future is looking brighter than ever. This weekend put an element of adventure into high level mountain bike racing, something which is long gone from the established international series.
One of the telling details was how many people said they were having fun. From the racers, to the organisers and the media covering the race. Many photographers came straight from Pietermaritzburg World Cup, and more than a few admitted that they were happier at the EWS. With big mountains to shoot and the chance to ride the trails (even if it was with a 15kg camera pack on
), it's easy to understand why. For the riders the format is more relaxed and there is more time to really ride your bike, rather than the limited runs of a DH race or the strict energy conservation of an XC race. Enduro is never going to be the media spectacle world cup racing is and should be, that's missing the point. The fact that people enjoy being here and being part of this is why enduro is growing in the way it is - and, providing you can find the airfare, anybody can come and join in. With talk of races in New Zealand and Asia in the future, not to mention a return to Chile before long, the coming years look to be a lot of fun.
Now, some 24 hours later, sitting in Santiago airport waiting for the germtube to propel us home to the safe shores of Europe, that perfect racing and those 16 piscos seem a world away already. Even if the hangover isn't quite kicked (if you're 18 and reading this, that is what happens when you reach your 30s and get out of practice with your drinking
). So what did we learn from the racing?Graves isn't going to whitewash the series
That's not to say he isn't going to win the title this year, going by his form he's definitely at the head of the hunt, but Jerome Clementz rather wants to keep his title. Seeing how much Jerome put on the line to claw back Graves' overnight lead, it's clear he's not lost any of the hunger that won him the series title last year. That's not to mention Nico Lau, Florian Nicolai or Martin Maes. On the final stage on Sunday, only Lau and Nicolai came down the hill in less than 8 minutes. Maes scared everyone on the shorter stages, but, as we predicted in the pre-season guide, he did seem to struggle somewhat more on the longer stages. Then there is the matter of Francois Bailey-Maitre. We'll admit that we maybe should have included him amongst the 20 riders to watch and, talking to him Sunday evening, he's more convinced than ever that he has the speed to stand on that top step of the podium.ACC is back
After a disappointing year last year she's back at the top of the timing sheet. Talking to her after, she's trying not to take it all too seriously. It was a very surreal moment hearing one of the greatest racers mountain biking has ever seen confess that she doesn't enjoy racing too much, she doesn't want the stress any more. That said, Moseley isn't far behind, although she never looked comfortable on the bike this weekend. What is clear is that the two of them are still a class apart and despite Anneke Beerten and Isabeau Courdurier making progress, they are still a little way of the leaders' pace.Germans don't get enduro
We got a lot of stick in the comments for suggesting that Germans haven't really got into enduro in a big way. We stand by what we said. When as respected a German journalist as Markus Greber is willing to admit the same, then you know you're on the right lines. The simple fact is that the two biggest German teams - Canyon and Cube - don't have a single German rider between them (even if Nico Lau was listed as a German this weekend, he has a passport that says otherwise
). The two German men who came to race, Toby Woggon and Max Schumann, both admitted that they weren't fast enough this weekend and Ines Thoma slipped behind Isabeau Courdurier for the first time this weekend, a place further back than she was accustomed to finishing last year. The sport needs Germany to be involved, as it's such a huge market, but until a strong national race scene develops in Germany, we're not likely to see a German in the top ten in the near future. Does this sound at all familiar to anybody who follows DH? If you're one of the people who was unhappy with our comment what we believe is most needed right now are grassroots races - so put down the keyboard, go out and prove us wrong.It's not a good time to be an American
Ben Cruz got struck down with Lyme's disease this winter, Curtis Keene was sick as a dog all weekend, Lars Sternberg destroyed his wrist and Kyle Warner hurt his back. Not a good start to the season for US national pride. Adam Craig was the top-placed American in 18th place, although the downhill-orientated trails probably suit him less than some of the flatter, more physical courses later in the season, unless he finds some pace, he's going to struggle to hold onto his single digit number plate this season. Cannondales new signing, Marco Osborne, was the biggest ray of light for team USA, finishing in a respectable 21st place in his first EWS round. The bad news is that he won't be competing in the full series this year, just selected rounds, so his chances of a strong overall standing are not good. Richie Rude is also a great addition to the series. Sure, he may have finished outside the top 30 (35th), but it's awesome just to watch him ride a bike - the aggression and power he was showing on track was brilliant. Honestly, we find it hard to care where he finishes when we get to watch him huck thirty feet to flat off a tiny fly-off.
Fabien Barel is the toughest man in mountain biking
Barel went down hard. Smashing vertebrae hard. Yet despite that he finished the first day, including the ten minute-plus second stage. When we last saw him he was limping in the breakfast queue, clearly in a lot of pain, but getting ready to see if he could mobilise his back to finish the race. His team insisted he visit a doctor, for the sake of the insurance, which is when they discovered the break in his spine. Latest word is that his trouble moving came from some nerve damage, but we don't have any solid details. We would say Fab has earnt our endless respect for continuing racing with an injury like that, but the truth is he had that a long time ago. Our thoughts are with you Fab, we hope you heal fast and heal well. More on Fabien here
The next round of the EWS is 30 May - 1 June in the Tweed Valley, Scotland.