Altitude widens the gaps
After two incredibly tight EWS rounds in the European Alps, the thin air of the North American Rockies ushered in some larger gaps with Richie Rude coming in nearly 25 seconds back and over minute separating the podium places. Graves and Rude took the top two steps on effectively their home fixture with the Yeti team but where did they find the seconds on the rest of the field, and how did it pan out between the two of them. Lets take a look shall we?
A ding-dong battle – until stage 5…
Looking at the overall positions after each stage, there wasn’t much movement at the very top but it showed a tight battle between Rude and Graves for the top spot. Rude led for the first four stages after which his more experienced team mate grabbed the lead and never relinqushed it. The battle for the podium was a tight affair as well. Rene Wildhaber managed to get himself into thrid spot in by stage 3 and held on until the end whilst Mitch Ropelato was never out of the top 5 for the whole weekend either.
Joe Barnes will surely be feeling disappointed after fighting his way up from 17th on stage 1 to 4th place on the penultimate stage only to drop back three places overall on the final stage to finish 7th. The winner of round 4 also had a hard fight to get himself into the top 10 in Colorado with 31st on Stage 1 but he gained steadily to salvage a top 10 finish by the end of three gruelling days in the thin mountain air.
So what did those positions look like in time gaps? To start with we see that it was nip and tuck between Graves and Rude for the top spot for the first day and a half with Graves only pulling out a gap on Rude, and the rest of the field on Stages 5 and 6. Rude was 10 seconds up after stage 2 but Graves reeled him back in and then charged off into the distance at the end of day 2 and the start of day 3. So much so that he was able to cruise the final stage and give back 15 seconds on the final stage, safe in the knowledge that he could ride in safety first mode and still take the overall win.
Further down the top 10 the gaps were still pretty tight. After stage 5, whilst Graves was 42 seconds up on the 4th placed Ropelato, there was only 14 seconds between Ropelato and Bryan Regnier in 9th. Although Cedric Gracia lost time on Stage 5, the rest of this bunch were still really tightly packed with only 13 seconds between them going into the final stage. This was where Joe Barnes missed out, one of only two of the top 10 to lose time to a cruising Graves on the last stage and dropping off the podium to 7th in the process.
The heatmap shows the dominance of the two Yeti riders over the course of the weekend, sharing all seven stage wins and both only outside the top 3 once. Rene Wildhaber was the only other rider to take six top tens to go third overall. Whilst Justin Leov could only manage a best of 10th on day 2, his 3rd place on the final stage was enough to pull him up onto the podium as Joe barnes could only finish 35th on stage 7. This round’s inconsistency award must go to Yoann Barelli who mixed up a 2nd, 4th and 7th with a 31st and 44th on his way to 11th overall.
So with two rounds to go, Graves has lengthened his lead over Damien Oton in the overall to 190 points. With the difference between a win and second place being only 50 points, Graves is in a commanding position. Graves admitted that he was more at home on the North American terrain that the tighter Euro tracks but there’s still one of those Euro tracks to come so who knows what the final two rounds will bring if Oton can keep up the pressure in Whistler…
If you want to check out DirtTV’s coverage of the event the hit the video links below: