TRACY MOSELEY AND GREG CALLAGHAN BOTH SHARED THE TOP STEP OF THE PODIUM FOR A SECOND YEAR IN THE ROW AT THE 2016 EMERALD ENDURO.

Photos: Duncan Philpott/EWS

However, while the destination remained the same, the journey was far more treacherous for the returning champions. Callaghan kept calm under the threat of the greatest comeback of Enduro World Series history (and a certain flat-pedal-toting legend), while Moseley had to readjust to life at the top of a sport she had semi-retired from.

The day dawned bright over Carrick mountain as the riders faced the prospect of a 50km day with 1,750m vertical – stats that would worry us on a weekend ride, never mind one done at race pace. Unfortunately, the route took its toll on the pros with punctures being the bane of many contenders – Martin Maes, Nico Vouilloz and Jared Graves among them.

Nico Vouilloz attacks in the dappled light
Nico Vouilloz attacks in the dappled light
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2016-Ireland-Race-0151
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2016-Ireland-Race-0274
Iago Garay is always one to please the crowds, race run style on stage 7
Iago Garay is always one to please the crowds, race run style on stage 7
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2016-Ireland-Race-2603
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2016-Ireland-Race-3401
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2016-Ireland-Race-9592
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2016-Ireland-Race-2839

One man to clean the course was Greg Callaghan. In front of a ravenous home crowd he kept his cool to pilot his Cube to first place. He didn’t claim any stage wins but a slew of seconds, combined with general consistency, was enough to claim the fastest time of the day.

He didn’t have it easy though with Sam Hill bringing the flat pedal thunder to Ireland and sneaking into second place on a course that really shouldn’t have suited him. The biggest challenge of the day came from Richie Rude though. He punctured on stage 2 and lost roughly 30 seconds, which left him languishing in 34th in the overall, but he won four of the next five stages, each one hauling him up the overall standings, to finish third, just 4.63 seconds off the win.

Irish fans won’t want to hear that only a puncture prevented Rude winning a record-equaling third Enduro World Series in a row but they probably also won’t care. The history books will show that this round belonged to the local hero and that’s what they’ll remember as they sat bleary-eyed and sore headed at their desks on Monday morning.

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2016-Ireland-Race-3635
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2016-Ireland-Race-3371
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2016-Ireland-Race-4034
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2016-Ireland-Race-9430
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2016-Ireland-Race-3548
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2016-Ireland-Race-3152

In the women’s race Tracy Moseley was returning to Enduro World Series action after announcing her semi-retirement at the end of last season. She carried over the strong form she’d shown in the British Enduro Series to the world stage and reminded everyone who the queen of enduro really is. Tracy took six of seven possible stage wins with only Isabeau Courdurier able to pip her on the final stage of the day.

Smiles from the semi-retired champ

In the overall ranking, Richie Rude has now extended his lead at the top of the series, with a three-way tie for second position between Damien Oton, Jerome Clementz and Florian Nicolai all 300 points behind on 1,110.

Cecile Ravanel now has such a commanding lead in the women's overall and it's  too late for Tracy to start to challenge for the overall, but you can guarantee the likes of Courdurier and Thoma will be chasing after her all season.

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2016-Ireland-Race-0767
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2016-Ireland-Race-0779
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2016-Ireland-Race-0818
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2016-Ireland-Race-0839