Another EWS race and another impossibly tight finish with Graves taking the win from Nico Lau by a mere 2.5 seconds after 51 minutes of racing! That’s a gap of only 0.1%. Compare that to Josh Bryceland’s win at Windham last weekend where he was 1.1% quicker than Aaron Gwin, and you get the picture.
These EWS races are going right down to the wire time and time again and it just shows how closely matched these riders are. While the gaps might be relatively bigger if you look at a single stage, over the course of five to seven stages, those differences seem to be averaging themselves out, ending up in the close finishes we’ve seen across many of the EWS races this year. Right then, let’s dive in an see where it was won and lost…
Top of the world? For some but not for others…
This race has to be the most topsy-turvy EWS race so far in terms of movement overall positions throughout the day; the chart looks like a bowl of multicoloured spaghetti! Local rider Jesse Melamed was looking good for a top 10 results at least until the final Top of The World stage dropped him down to 58th overall. It was this final stage that did the damamge in many ways. Maes’ mechanical problems dropped him from 1st place down to 10th overall and Graves recovered his own mechanical troubles on stage 1 to jump from 9th to 1st on the final stage. This perhaps isn’t suprising given that the the final stage took up over 40% of the total race time for the top riders, but just goes to show what a single, long gruelling stage at the end of the longest day of the EWS so far can do to riders and their bikes.
Looking at how this panned out in the time gaps, we see that the charts get even more up and down. Going into the final stage it was Maes with a 12 second advantage over Damien Oton with Curtis Keene in 3rd and Nico Lau 17 seconds back in 4th. Keene was seemingly the only rider with any consistency across the stages whilst all around him riders were shooting up and down the standings.
Maes’ mechanical on Stage 5 meant he gave away 1min 27secs to Graves, and Damien Oton also came in 52 seconds back. In fact the only man who managed to stay within 15 seconds of Graves was his own team mate Richie Rude who ran him hard and was only 1.4 seconds back. Whilse Graves and Rude destroyed the field, the big time losses of Oton and Maes also let in Nico Lau. Disappointngly for the Frenchman, the 22 second gap to Graves on Stage 5 meant Graves overhauled him by a mere 2.5 seconds on the day to take the win.
Managing your bad stages the key?
Looking at the heatmap, only one rider managed to stay in the top 10 for all five stages – Curtis Keene took 7th, 6th, 5th, 3rd and 6th. Graves has mechanical troubles on Stage 1 that dropped him to 17th and also had another 17th on Stage 4 after a crash up top, but the sheer size of his final stage win and some luck with other’s mechnicals pushed him to the top of the leaderboard. You have to feel for Martin Maes though. He’s been a threat for stage wins all year but never quite translated it into a winning performance overall. Whistler looked like it could be his day with 1st, 5ht, 1st and 4th on the fist 4 stages, only to be robbed by a mechanical. It’s becoming clear this season though, that riding intelligently, and managing those off stages is key to success. Graves is a case in point here – a blown fork on Stage 1 but still coming through to take the win.
Going into the final round it’s Jared Grave’s overall title to lose. He needs 23rd place or better in Finale Ligure to take the win. Given his consitency and skill in maanging those off stages and days so far this year, you’d be a brave man to bet against him….