Super Enduro Round #3 Pogno
Round three of the Italian Super Enduro series took place last weekend and came to an exciting close with ten-time downhill World Champion Nicolas Vouilloz taking home the gold, but not without a battle...
SUPER ENDURO ROUND 3: POGNO
Words: James McKnight
Super Enduro racing happens annually as a six-race series held across Italy and provides the highest level of enduro racing in Europe, now attracting participants from all over the continent. This event was no different and played host to a range of international athletes; French, British, Slovenian, Swiss, Danish... But of course, the majority of competitors were still Italian, and the race at Pogno doubled-up not only as a stage of the tour but also as the National Championship of Super Enduro racing; a battle for the Italian National Champion's jersey and to carry the coveted stripes for the next twelve months.
Al Stock railing a turn in the wet Prologue stage.
With a field of around 400 riders, the growth of the discipline was clear and the hills around the town of Pogno were set to stage one of the toughest enduro battles in the short history of the format. With names like Vouilloz, Amour and Stock on the start list, it was hard to imagine that this wouldn't be an international white-wash, especially with torrential rain forecast before the weekend, but the Italians weren't going to let this one get away without a fight.
Conditions for race day were as good as they could have been – intermittent sunshine. James Mcknight taking the right track...
With the arrival of the predicted storms, the once perfectly sculpted and flow-tastic trails around the town were turned into mud-baths and the sun-loving natives were unnerved by conditions that are rarely seen and even less often ventured out in. This left some of the international contingent with a considerable advantage, one that Vouilloz was first to capitalise upon with an absolute destruction of Stage 1 (which was held on Saturday evening before a large, enthusiastic crowd). Nico was up by twenty seconds after this stage alone...
Nicolas Vouilloz, ten time downhill World Champion, but he still had to work hard for this win.
Davide Sottocornola has been proving his worth at races across the country all year and Pogno was no exception. With a crowd of devout followers (this was Davide's home-event) there was a lot riding on his success, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that the wet conditions would play to Nico's favour. However, Davide had stated before the race that muddy is best, and he spent race day (Sunday) steadily clawing back time on Vouilloz.
Davide Sottocornola gave Vouilloz a run for his money and took home the National Champion's jersey.
With four stages scheduled for the weekend, Sunday morning's stage two was unfortunately cancelled to avoid excessive trail damage and on additional safety grounds – the rain really had been coming down all through the night leaving the track sketchy at best. So stages three and four were Sottocornola's time to shine and by the end of the event he was left a mere eight seconds back on the most successful mountain biker of all time. Not a bad day in the office by all accounts and Davide took home the title of National Champion.
Overview of the race site at Pogno.
The top three was rounded out by Alex Lupato, a local and another hugely talented up-and-coming Italian rider. Vittorio Gambirasio and Karim Amour rounded out the top five and both put in valid efforts in front of a stacked field. Britain's Alex Stock had tyre issues on stage three which hindered his assault on the enduro scene, finishing in ninth and the 2011 National Champion, Andrea Bruno, had his worst result ever in a Super Enduro to finish a disappointing eigth..
Rain, rain go away... Italians are certainly not accustomed to the conditions.
I had a great race but then took a wrong turn and rolled home in twelfth, a mistake I won't be making again in a hurry but it didn't stop the weekend being a lot of fun! I can't say it enough: get yourself to one of these races and you won't regret it! Congratulations to all who competed and see you at the next race!
For full results click: Assoluta
All About Enduro, With Alex Stock
Britain's Al Stock has been on the enduro scene for three seasons, having shifted his focus from downhill racing and general hooliganism to the scene that he had the vision to see as the 'next big thing' in mountain biking, leading the way for us Brits and perhaps helping to boost interest from our side of the pond onto a scene that has been developing across Europe for quite some time.
Al Stock is travelling Europe all year on the hunt for enduro victories.
I thought you lot may like to hear a little more from Al about Super Enduro racing, where it's heading and why you should make the effort to travel to at least one of these events. You may have seen Al in his recent Dirt interview, shredding against some stunning northern backdrops at home in England. But here he is, well and truly at home living the pikey dream...
Al, why did you start racing enduro?
Well, I didn't have much time to ride my mountain bike coming into the 2010 season but I had good fitness from riding my road bike all winter after writing my car off...
Right, but what actually interested you about racing enduro?
Just the fact that you can ride your bike all day long and you don't have to wait in lift queues at all. I thought the racing came down a lot more to your ability, your mental preparation and your fitness than purely your bike.
So why did you start racing in the Italian series?
I wanted to go to Italy and because it was stage racing – I quite fancied that as opposed to multi-rider starts. I reckon that it is the premier series of enduro, there's not much competition for it. Having said that, I haven't done one of the French series' races.
Second at Punta Ala, twice...
Ninth...was it eighth or ninth?
I think eighth is worse than ninth. Moving on, would you recommend coming to a Super Enduro, and why?
Yeah massively, definitely. It's in Italy! All the Italians are legends, all the buildings and the landscapes are absolutely amazing, the tracks are amazing... You get to do a lot of riding in two days, the atmosphere and the prologue, the taping and organisation are faultless. It's great value for money.... You're in Italy, did I mention that?
Is the competition much different to the UK series? Easier or harder?
Competition is amazing! Much harder. The tracks are also bigger [than the UK series] and taped out the whole way down.
Best racing format? Is this how a global series would be staged? There was/is talk of different formats for each event of a world series.
It's the best format that I know, and if there's one format [for a whole series] then it should be that one. I don't know any other sport where the format is varied throughout a series so they should choose one format and stick to it.
Goals for the season?
I want to win a Super Enduro and I'd quite like a solid finish in the Mega, although it is a bit of a lottery of a race. I'd like to make a few quids too...
How's the van? Resale value? How much has it depreciated in your two weeks of ownership?
Yeah it's pretty good, awesome, cruising along nicely and comfortable. Just need to get the bumper fixed (Note: he hit a deer on a French motorway at 120kph...), and the cigarette lighter and it'll go for three grand.
Cheers Al, good luck with it...