Back Issue | EWS 2014: Hungry for Victory
As the start clock counted down in Chile, the hunger for the championship was all-consuming for many. Racers were prepared to risk it all, take chances, and fight through the pain and fear in the pursuit of seconds.[emaillocker]
Lessons had been learned and the bar had been raised: while 2013 was a battle between those strong on the pedals and those with technical flair, in 2014 everyone was strong on the pedals! However, racing can be cruel and everything can change in an instant. When he hit the dirt in a blind race in France, Jerome knew that his campaign was over; however, it was Fabien Barel who unknowingly danced with the devil, finishing the Chilean round with a badly broken spine. Here we look back at the 2014 Enduro World Series — a season that redefined tough, taking riders to the very edge.
The season opened in Chile and the excitement was electric: it was time to see who had got fast. The big guns came out shooting but the game had changed, as winter had been a productive time for all. We saw the same characters on the top steps, but there were younger faces standing just below. When it came to Championship bids, from the beginning everyone predicted two horse races — and in the hot, red dirt of Chile, it looked like the season was going to follow that path. Jerome vs. Jared, Tracy vs. Anne Caro…it was all happening again! Then it all changed in Blausasc, as Jerome was out!
The EWS carnival moved onto Scotland, where many riders learnt that to go fast meant riding slow. The tight technical trails punished mistakes and upset the natural order. Local Scottish specialists dominated the results, and for one weekend the best in the world were caught unawares. Nico Lau has always been king of technical trails, and in the end he stood victorious in battle. While riders fought under the Larch and Pine, the ‘Valley of the Bike People’ put on an incredible show, connecting racers with the local community like never before.
Valloire marked a return to the familiar, long alpine routes on French dirt. With lift assistance, big open stages, and tough terrain, some familiarity was brought back to the season and the enduro specialists were back. Jared Graves reinforced his title campaign, but on home turf there was a new racer snapping at his heels: Damien Oton, packing a punch on his new Devinci. Valloire was also an important turning point in the women’s championship battle, as Tracy took this one (and the next one too).
Oton had almost tasted success in Valloire and was hungry for a win, hoping that soon it would be his turn. The Italian resort of La Thuile brought high mountain trails and high mountain weather. After an hour and eleven minutes of intense racing, the top three spots were separated by just five seconds, showing how close the racing has become. As the top racers sprinted through the final turns of Stage Six, it could have been anyone’s race. There was hushed silence until Enrico’s voice burst over the town: “Damien Oton is the winner!”
Long haul flights next took the racers to Colorado, where the super fast and flowing bike park trails were in stark contrast to the rounds before. Dry, dusty, and littered with rocks, this was an event that favoured the DH specialists and was to be a round painted in turquoise. On new Yeti bikes, new technology, and familiar trails, Jared Graves and Richie Rude tore it apart, taking every stage and 1st and 2nd overall — a dream result for the team. Swiss powerhouse Rene Wildhaber was just eighteen seconds off, ending the total domination by taking 3rd overall.
Just two weeks later, the legendary Whistler venue would polarize the field, epic in scale and technicality; it pushed the fittest and strongest to the very edge, redefining the limits. Many thought it was the best race of the season, while others crumpled on the huge climbs. Cecile Ravanel’s tenacious and aggressive style finally brought her a victory, long awaited after a season of 3rd place finishes. Curtis Keene finally came into form in front of a home crowd and stood on his only podium of the season, but he was not fast enough to upset Graves and Lau. It was a magnificent round, but the question had been asked: when is too much, too much?
Finally, the journey had wound its way around the globe before coming to its inevitable conclusion on the gnarled and ancient trails of Finale Ligure. Once again Enrico’s voice rang out through the fresco-painted piazzas. Jared’s position was advantageous but not safe, with the racing so tight he would still have to risk it all. Everyone expected Jared to throttle back, but with places separated by seconds there was no opportunity for an easy ride, and he was fully pinned into second place. It was Fabien Barel, however, who defied not only the odds but also human fragility, bouncing back in one season from a potential career-ending injury to take the final victory on the Ligurian Coast. Tracy and Anne Caro had been trading top spots all season, but in the end it was Tracy who reached the shores of the Mediterranean the fastest, holding on to the champion’s title for another year.
So again we have our champions, Tracy Moseley and Jared Graves, two deserving athletes whose dedication and discipline shone through. If the first year of the Enduro World Series was all about learning, then 2014 was all about growth, spanning continents, and pushing boundaries, presenting locations that defined adventure and exploration. Next year we have New Zealand, Zona Zero, and Ireland joining the party. It is going to be one hell of a ride![/emaillocker]
Words: Trev Worsey Photos: Matt Wragg