Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
“Battling EWS, Ainsa”
It’s said that championships are won on your toughest days. Hopefully we can look back on Enduro World Series, Ainsa as two of these days. The whole team were amazing in the face of some hugely challenging trails and conditions and some adversity.
For the penultimate round of the 2019 Enduro World series we raced in the beautiful town of Ainsa in northern Spain with the start and finish each day in the amazing ancient castle grounds.
This was a two-day race with four stages on Saturday and three stages on the Sunday, plus a prologue race through the castle grounds and steep steps on Friday evening; this wasn’t counted for the overall race, just a fun event for all the locals.
The trails in Ainsa are awesome but very tough to race, as they’re more cross-country-style than any other enduro we have done this year. With every stage mixing technical climbs and pedalling. There was also some amazing descending but after doing so much pedalling before the descents it was tough to get your breath back and compose yourself for the technical descents.
Its not just the stages the lengthy transitions were tough, day one with 1782m of climbing and descending and a total of 41.1km in scorching 30+ temperatures.
Day two was a little easier for the transitions with 815m of climbing, 1272m of descending and 26.4km, but it was even hotter than the Saturday.
Sam Hill had a chance of wrapping up the series even with one round to go next week in Finale; Elliott Heap needed a good result to retain his under-21 championship lead and Kelan Grant was back racing after his big crash in Whistler. If you can call it luck, it didn’t seem to go our way this week with Elliott getting sick the week before the race and struggling with energy, power and breathing and the trails definitely not suiting Sam’s skill set.
On day 1 Elliott gave it his all and finished eighth, ninth and 10th, frustrating for him to be off his usual pace but still amazing considering how sick he had been all week.
Kelan managed 81st with a crash on the long stage one, then 37th and 23rd and 26th on stages two, three and four to claw back up the rankings.
After stage 1 Sam Hill was 12th and then suffered a disastrous front wheel puncture on the loose sharp rocks at the start of stage two to end up 128th for the stage, losing a lot of time and dropping him down down the order. It’s Sam’s first mechanical all season and just at the wrong time! Martin Maes, who is the only rider that can challenge Sam for the overall title, showed true sportsmanship and helped Sam fix his front flat before they climbed back up the mountain for stage three. Sam gave it his all on stage three and placed eighth then 10th on stage four to claw back some positions to end up 21st in the rankings at the end of day one.
Everyone was pretty tired after the first day but all the lads gave everything on day two to get the best results possible for the race. After a tough first day Elliott was determind to push and a awesome fight up the order with a sixth, fifth and third in the under-21 class to end up third overall for the race. Amazing result Elliott, well done.
Kelan stamped his foot down on the first stage of day two hyperextending his knee, but battled on to come 46th, 67th, 69th to finish 54th overall for the race. Kelan has the speed but just not finding the break he deserves this year.
Sam’s luck seemed to be against him again on the first stage of day two when he hit a rock with his pedal, bending the axle making it difficult to pedal but amazingly placed third only two seconds off the fastest time. He then placed 11th on a very physical stage six. After stage 6 riders were able to go back to the pits for the only tech support of the race. Jacy replaced Sam’s damaged crank arm and pedal and Sam was off for the long transition to the final stage of the race.
Sam gave it his all and managed a fifth place in front of the amazing Spanish crowd, making it all the way back to 11th overall in the final results. As they say championships are won on the tough days and Sam showed his true determination and professionalism in a tough race. Simply awesome.
After a challenging 2 days racing, Sam and his Mega 275c retained the overall lead in the overall and Elliott Heap amazingly managed to extend his lead thanks to finishing ahead of his closed rivals. An amazing achievement.
We now make the drive over to Finale in Italy for the last round of the 2019 championship where we have a shot at both the elite men’s and under-21s titles.
Photo: Kike Abelleria