After a few weeks training and recuperation in Morzine, the team headed to Italy for round 4 of the Enduro World Series.
Val Di Fassa is in the heart of the Dolomites and is surrounded by impressive limestone peaks. The organizers had promised a variety of trail conditions from open and loose, to tight, steep, and technical, which would challenge every aspect of man and machine. The heat wave across Europe hit Italy, and the bright sun and blue skies made for epic scenes.
Thursday: First day of Training
Two days of training would allow the riders to ride each stage once and to sample what was to come on race day. Stage 1 started the weekend off with a 670m descent, heading down an existing bike park trail that quickly turned off into fresh-cut tracks and some super tight corners. Creative line choice was needed to open up the corners and keep the speeds high.
Stage 2 was the shortest of the weekend, but what it lacked in length, it made up for in speed. Starting below the tree line, there were plenty of roots to catch riders out before a fast traverse, requiring nerves of steel because of huge speeds. Matt was enjoying the high-speed sections, always posting high speeds through the speed traps in the Downhill World Cups and was hoping to translate that to his enduro racing.
Stage 3 quickly became a rider favorite. Freshly cut for the EWS and never ridden, this track offered high speed and tight, technical, steep sections. Hidden rocks on the track required pinpoint control and commitment. Eddie was enjoying the tracks here and the long stages on which he always performs well.
Friday: Second Day of Training
Two stages to practice on Friday gave the team a relatively relaxed day and some time to enjoy the sunshine and the spectacular views.
Matt described Stage 4 as “classic Enduro jank.” Lots of awkwardly placed rocks and turns, and some little rises made for a physical test – top to bottom.
The final stage for the weekend was the longest, with analmost 1000m descent, the Queen Stage title for this stage was well deserved. Starting high up, the beautiful alpine single track traversed a ridge line before dropping into the tree line for some steep and technical riding. Lots of line choice and a few short, punchy climbs will test the riders’ energy reserves after the previous four4 stages.
Bikes and kits were running perfectly all weekend, but that didn’t stop team mechanic Kurt from giving them some love. A full cleaning, quick tune-ups on the brakes and gears and double-checking suspension settings – the bikes were ready for race day.
Saturday: Race Day
During practice, Eddie was feeling under the weather and was struggling in the heat. He was hoping the adrenaline would pull him through on race day. With just over a 3500m descent, but a relatively small amount of climbing on the transition between stages, the riders would be fresh for the timed stages, and speeds and commitment would be high!
Stage 1 set the tone for race day with a long physical stage and race times over 9 minutes. Any sign of sickness was soon pushed aside as Eddie came out of the gates, firing with the 3rd fastest time! Hitting his lines well, he was chuffed to start fast and the confidence was flowing.
Matt had an equally good start. A solid run down the long stage saw him finish 8th, only 20 seconds off the winner and setting a great benchmark for race day.
Stage 2 was almost one third of the length of stage 1 and riders had to adapt to the significant change in stage length. Sometimes the shorter stages can be the most physical, requiring high intensity and no room for errors. Matt was riding smart and a 12th fastest run with no mistakes kept him well in the hunt.
Eddie made a little mistake, stalling on one of the punchy climbs, finishing in 21st. osing 10 seconds on the winner wasn’t ideal, but kept him well in the fight.
The mistake from the previous stage was all the motivation Eddie needed as he lit up stage 3 with the 2nd fastest time, pushing him to 4th overall. This fresh track was getting rougher and rougher with each rider who passed through and Matt knew how the track would cut up. He was looking for lines to avoid the big holes and anything that would slow him down; 10th on the stage put Matt well in the hunt for a top 10 overall finish.
Stage 4 ended up being arguably the most physical of the weekend. With punchy climbs, tight corners and awkward rock, a mixture of agility and strength was needed to post the best times. Eddie and Matt both had good runs carrying speed when it counted and finished the stage 9th and 8th, respectively.
One final test awaited the riders, but it was the biggest of the weekend. Stage 5 was the Queen Stage, an iconic descent in the region and over 6.5km of descending. The boys needed to have something left in the tank.
Eddie sat in 4th overall and was pushing for podium while Matt was in 6th looking to secure his first EWS top 10 for 2019 and Pivot Factory Racing. Matt continued his consistent day with a clean run, no mistakes, and he let the bike absorb the roughest terrain. A 9th fastest time on the brutally long stage saw Matt slip back one place overall, finishing in a fantastic 7th overall.
Eddie pushed hard all stage to gain the last few seconds he needed to make the podium. A wild run for Eddie made sure he didn’t leave anything on the hill and another top 5 stage result saw him secure his 4th place finish.
A brilliant race day, amazing trails and good times were topped off with the news that Pivot Factory Racing was the 3rd fastest team of the day! Eddie, Matt and Kurt deservedly shared some podium time and champagne – the perfect ending to a weekend of racing.