Race Report: 2012 Enduro Des Nations, Sauze d'Oulx, Italy
In case you haven't already heard by now, three British riders won the first round of the 2012 Enduro des Nations last weekend in Sauze d'Oulx, Italy. James McKnight explains how, who and where...
This is just the start of things.
The Enduro des Nations is now celebrating its fifth outing, the concept being that nations from across the globe are brought together in an enduro battle as teams of three representing their countries. Three editions of the event have previously been held in France, then last year saw the Italian resort of Sauze take over the reigns for a season in a collaboration between two race promoters, Enrico Guala from Italy and Fred Glo from France.
This year the race has taken on a slightly different guise as it is being staged in both France and Italy...so how does that work? The answer is that teams wishing to contest the title of winning nation must enter into two separate races on consecutive weekends, one in Italy and one in France, with two different racing formats, after which the results from both weekends will be totted up and a winning team announced.
Not a bad setting for round one.
The Italian format for the Enduro des Nations sees individual riders pitted against eight special stages over two days ranging from three to over ten minutes, with one last head-to-head battle in the finale of the weekend – the mass start Super Mountain. Each national team has three riders whose times are all added up from the weekend giving an overall team result after racing finishes on the Sunday. Individual entrants cannot compete for the Enduro des Nations but they can race in the fifth round of the Super Enduro series which is run in the exact same format, with the same stages, but without the Super Mountain counting towards the overall time.
Sauze d'Oulx saw a huge number of nationalities unite on the Italian hillside with teams representing Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Slovenia, Finland and Portugal and individual entrants into the Super Enduro race from all over Europe and as far afield as South Africa and New Zealand. It was a truly packed entry list and it was great to see so many British riders out in force (Mark Scott and Joe Flanagan opted to come here instead of racing the Val d'Isere World Cup!).
Sauze has had quite a reputation as a top north-Italian riding spot for several years now and it comes as no surprise, the riding really is fantastico! With the eight special stages scheduled over the weekend, the race was set to be a tough one, particularly with Italian heat and most stages starting at around 2500metres of altitude – enough to make anyone's lungs hurt.
Stage one started in Sauze with a tarmac sprint followed by a series of fast, wide open turns. Stages two, four and seven were a short downhill-style track with seriously rough sections, steep turns and flat-out crests and dips. Stage five was titled the 'Long Left Line' and lived up to its namesake with the fastest time set by Jerome Clementz at 12 minutes and 12 seconds. Stage six was popular amongst riders and was the most flowing with a series of cresting, loamy right and left turns. Stages three, eight and the Super Mountain stage started up high and took in high speeds, perfect dusty turns and an interesting stream crossing that necessitated jumping off and running! Altogether I would say that the event encompassed mostly everything that makes up the sport of mountain biking, a fine blend and well done to the organisers.
A helmets eye view of the Super Mountain stage, and I am pretty sure that the rider in front of Davide Sottocornola in the earlier parts (before he pulls away) is the 15 year old wonder kid that you'll read about below...
I'm going to put this out there straight away, stand-out performance of the weekend was that of Belgian rider Martin Maes, who is only fifteen years old and put most, if not all, of the field to shame. A win on stage seven, not only against riders twice his age but also with credentials including World Championships, Mega Avalanches and numerous other titles, cemented Martin's ability, without doubt a rider to watch in the future.
An interview in French (don't worry there is some translation) with the new wonder boy, Martin Maes.
Other stages were won by Jerome Clementz, Dan Atherton and Nicolas Vouilloz, however both Jerome and Nicolas were competing in the solo/ Super Enduro category 'for fun' (according to Jerome who dominated more than anyone on the weekend). So, with Clementz and Vouilloz out of the team equation, solid, consistent results from the UK's Dan Atherton, Alex Stock and Joe Barnes put the team way out in front with a lead of over three and a half minutes over the French team of Nicolas Quere, Florian Nicolai and Remy Absalon (incidentally, France have never before been beaten in this competition). The Italian team of Andrea Bruno, Alex Lupato and Davide Sottocornola rounded the podium off in a solid third place, four minutes down on France.
Britain had a strong showing at this event, taking top honours in the team category and showing the depth of British riding talent throughout the field. Joe Barnes rode to a solid ninth place.
Dan Atherton was keeping his head down and focus on the task in hand all weekend, and certainly helped push the British team to their great result. Fourth place for Dan.
Alex Stock... Living in a van, touring all across Europe solo and on the edge of his minimal budget, but still capable of top results; sixth place here. I can't wait to see what he is capable of when he finally has the support to match his ability.
Remy Absalon didn't quite find his groove here, but you can be sure that next weekend, on home soil, he will be fighting hard and a strong contender.
In the women's race, Anka Martin, wife of photographer Sven, put in a solid and consistent ride to take the win in the individual rankings ahead of Morgane Such and Pauline Diffenthaler, both of France. The team race was dominated by the French who took victory by nearly seven minutes over Italy once the times were added up. Will they continue their destruction of the field next week? I think we can hazard at a yes, although this is enduro racing and anything can happen...
The women put on a great show, demonstrating the advancing level of riding across the board. Team France were on top of the event this time around.
Anka Martin was not part of a team but I think it's safe to say that she was happy with first place individual and fastest female time of the weekend.
At the end of it all, Jerome Clementz took the best individual time of the weekend, just under 56minutes, with Vouilloz second and Nicolas Lau, also of France, third (if you're wondering, the trio didn't make the French qualification guidelines for their national team...).
Jerome Clementz dominated the individual category and took fastest time of the weekend.
The team riders are not finished though, a victory for Great Britain is not sealed just yet! Riders are now in Valloire, France, relaxing and preparing for the second and conclusive round of the Enduro des Nations that will take place this coming weekend. Good luck to them all and RULE BRITTANIA!
Stock, Atherton and Barnes atop the men's team podium. Can they hold on to the win this coming weekend in Valloire? Here's hoping.
And last, but by no means least, the man who brought you this; James McKnight, flying the flag for Dirt magazine.
Full results can be downloaded in a zip file by clicking here