Racing -

The Big Picture – EWS Round 1 Opens For Practice

The season is finally upon us – Crankworx Rotorua is going off in a big way and the 2015 Enduro World Series has begun! Yesterday as slopestyle riders battled it out in the whip-off worlds, enduro racers took to the hills to begin the start of the phased practice for Round 1 of the EWS. The rich rain forest of Rotorua provided a dramatic backdrop as racers worked up to speed under the thick canopy.

With a heady stench of volcanic sulphur in the air, the 2015 seasons is already shaping up to be as exciting as ever.
With a heady stench of volcanic sulphur in the air, the 2015 season is already shaping up to be as exciting as ever.
Rotorua is a location that burns with Mauri culture and history
Rotorua is a location that boils with Mauri culture and history
After a long off-season racers look pumped to get onto the stages
After a long off-season racers look pumped to get onto the stages

Using a new format, over the three days allocated to practice the organisers will be opening up the stages on defined days – today it was the turn of Stages 7 and 1 (in that order). Racers were eager to get started but there was some trouble ahead for some.

Maybe it was the tricky, full gas jumps on Stage 7, or over-enthusiasm brought on by the opening round – but there were casualties in the first few hours. Stage 7 normally serves as a national downhill track and surprised a few with big gaps (there are easier alternatives) and challenging chutes, Canyon rider Ludo May broke his collar bone, Greg Minnar went down hard and Ibis rider Conor LaVelle is left with two broken fingers and a tough decision after an incident on a slippery bridge. Anyone expecting the same two horse race as 2013 will have been shocked at Jared’s announcement that he cannot race the opening round, after a quick test here he knew his damaged shoulders were not ready.

Many riders are opting to use the very efficient shuttle service to reach Stage 1 practice
Many riders are opting to use the very efficient shuttle service to reach Stage 1 practice
The Cube team were super efficient at practice - riding as a team and looking fast on their first runs
The Cube team were super efficient at practice – riding as a team and looking fast on their first runs
The 'other Maes', will this be the year of the fast juniors
The ‘other Maes’, will this be the year of the fast juniors?
New kit, same distinctive style, Jerome Clementz will be holding it back until Saturdays racing.
New kit, same distinctive style, Jerome Clementz will be holding it back until Saturdays racing.

After the flat out speed of Stage 7, Stage 1 was a different beast entirely, tight technical and very steep. The first half tests riders fitness with a lot of pedalling in the slick mud, while the second half drops wildly down – resulting in a fall line rut that tests both nerves and tyres. The drying conditions were also proving challenging, with a thin layer of grime making traction unpredictable. Most racers will be crossing their fingers for either lots of sun to dry it out, or lots of rain to wash it down – and with a changeable forecast anything could happen!

With soft, slick conditions - the trails were changing throughout the day
With soft, slick conditions – the trails were changing throughout the day
Whoever wins the weekends racing, it will be the NZ trails that will steal the show
Whoever wins the weekends racing, it will be the NZ trails that will steal the show
It's a big race for sure - but the atmosphere was all fun and games
It’s a big race for sure – but the atmosphere was all fun and games
Jared is out so it's up to Richie to fly the Yeti flag. He looks like a different animal this year - slimmed down and fully pinned
Jared is out so it’s up to Richie to fly the Yeti flag. He looks like a different animal this year – slimmed down and fully pinned
Despite the distances involved- all the usual suspects are in attendance. Sam and Joe Flanagan cut loose in the undergrowth
Despite the distances involved- all the usual suspects are in attendance. Sam and Joe Flanagan cut loose in the undergrowth
Whistler downhiller Sarah Leishman looked very at home on the enduro terrain
Whistler downhiller Sarah Leishman looked very at home on the enduro terrain
James Shirley was on hand to show the fastest line down this vertical roller
James Shirley was on hand to show the fastest line down this vertical roller
The man the legend - Jamie Nicoll. Fresh from a big win, he will be wanting to impress in front of a home crowd
The man the legend – Jamie Nicoll. Fresh from a big win, he will be wanting to impress in front of a home crowd
Joe Barnes has been out in NZ for some time now and looked very at home chasing his tache down the tough trails
Joe Barnes has been out in NZ for some time now and looked very at home chasing his tache down the tough trails
There were many fast NZ racers charging hard, Raewyn Morrison was running at full gas
There were many fast NZ racers charging hard, Raewyn Morrison was running at full gas
Cedric goes in for some guerilla marketing - in this case it worked
Cedric goes in for some guerilla marketing – in this case it worked

At the end of the day everyone was in agreement that NZ is epic, and racers could not wait to find out what was in store for stages 2-6.

Words and photos: Trev Worsey