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.
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.
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!
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