Finale Ligure EWS Finals 2014 – Race Day 1
The dust has settled and the sun has set on what turned out to be a monumentally tough day for the competitors here in Finale Ligure, Italy, for the first of two days of racing that will conclude the 2014 Enduro World Series and see its champion crowned.
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We’ve been out on course all day – that is, in between coffee stops (when in Italy etc.) – and have been witness to some incredible displays of technical riding skill on what is a test of riding prowess to push every rider to the limit. The day of extremely technical riding and cramp-inducing transfer stages had a distinctly French stamp on it, with seven of the top ten riders flying the blue, white and red flag. Watching riders such as Yoann Barelli, who finished the day in the lead, and compatriot Florian Nicolai, sitting in fifth, turn what looked like near-impossible rocky challenges into little more than a walk in the park was truly a sight to behold.
But while Barelli’s speed on the track was astonishing – he looked pinned absolutely everywhere – more of a surprise perhaps was the tale of the comeback kid. Fabien Barel has a fierce competitive drive and few would have counted him out of the running pre-race. Having recently overcome the broken back he sustained in Chile for the first round of the EWS, even Barel himself couldn’t have wished for his day to have gone any better. Winning the first stage was a tad above his own goal of breaking into the top 10, and riding consistently fast throughout the day eventually put him in second place, just a fraction of a second behind Barelli. With the sort of riding Yoann was showing today, that is no mean feat.
The other comeback rider today was none other than Jerome Clementz, but although the 2013 Enduro World Series Champion put in solid performances and looked more than exciting on track, he wasn’t able to match Barel’s supreme speed and finished up the day in seventh. It’s all about consistency here, and although some of the sport’s superstars couldn’t get to grips with the racing – Greg Minnaar, Steve Peat, Cedric Gracia and Nicolas Vouilloz all failing to make it into the top 25 at close of play today – downhill’s Junior 2013 World Champ Richie Rude showed that his lack of years will not affect his chances. The American has perhaps been denied his chances at breaking onto the World Cup DH circuit properly this year, but seeing his speed and skill today, together with consistent riding that never saw him outside the top five in the stage results, it is clear that Rude could go on to become one of mountain biking’s greats himself. A well deserved third place in the end, and if he keeps as consistent tomorrow we wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the podium when racing finishes.
In the women’s category, Tracy Moseley reportedly suffered with a flat tyre, but there is no denying the form that we saw from Anne Caroline Chausson today. There was a lot of time to be made up in the beyond-tight turns of Stages 1 and 2, and the Frenchwoman put every bit of skill that has taken her to so many titles throughout her career to flow through where others struggled to even stay on the bike. Chausson was fast through the tech, electric when things opened up for Stage 4 and the high speed ‘Men’s Downhill’ trail down to the shimmering blue sea. Cécile Ravanel has gathered momentum throughout the season and that trend shows no signs of changing. She stayed well and truly in touch with the two previous Downhill World Champions and battled to a close third place in the end. She’s breathing down Tracy’s neck, whereas Anne Caro strides ahead by 58 seconds…
It’s going to be an interesting day tomorrow, with 45km total riding compared to today’s 50, and two stages as opposed to four today. Riders were looking punished at the end of the day, so who knows how they will cope with the almost equally as tough ride tomorrow. Just remember that Graves pretty much just has to hold it together and finish within the top 23 (that’s if Damien Oton wins too, after finishing today in ninth) to seal the deal and win the series. Things are closer in the women’s and everything is to play for.
Stage 6 is the long and brutally physical clincher to what has been an awesome season of racing, but right now we simply cannot imagine how the day’s events will pan out. Who’s your money on?
Results day 1
1 Yoann Barelli
2 Fabien Barel
3 Richie Rude
4 Jared Graves
5 Florian Nicolai
1 Anne Caroline Chausson
2 Tracy Moseley
3 Cécile Ravanel
Full results here.