Winter Park, Colorado's Trestle Bike Park has seen an influx of world class riding this week, as mountain bike athletes from around the world have converged in anticipation of the fourth stop of the Enduro World Series. A keystone event at the Colorado Freeride Festival, enduro will feature top-calibre, down-to-the-wire racing by riders from all around the globe.
The contest to become the first Enduro World Champion remains tight with just 160 points separating the top three ranked Enduro World Series leaders, Jérôme Clementz (Cannondale OverMountain), Nicolas Vouilloz (Lapierre) and Jared Graves (Yeti).
The top five male riders, including Remy Absalon (Commencal) and Fabien Barel (Canyon Factory Enduro Team), will all make the trek Stateside for the fourth stop of the World Series. The additional influx of the top-ranked North American enduro racers to the series, including Mark Weir (Cannondale OverMountain), North American Enduro tour leaders Aaron Bradford and Mason Bond, and Enduro Cup leaders Ross Schnell (Trek Factory Racing) and Joey Schusler, only increases the possibility of another shake-up on the podium.
In the women's series, while Tracy Moseley (Trek Factory Racing) has consistently dominated the top step, US Enduro Cup leader and fellow Trek Factory Racing team rider Heather Irmiger will join Cecile Ravanel (GT Skoda) and Ines Thoma (Canyon Factory Enduro Team), who are currently rounding out the Enduro World Series top three, as challengers. Anne Caroline Chausson (Ibis) will also be looking to re-establish herself amongst the Series front-runners, coming back from an injury sustained in Punta Ala in the first round.
The top-ranked teams are also in a tight contest, with Lapierre just ahead of Trek Factory Racing, followed by GT Factory Racing. GT Factory Racing's Dan Atherton will miss the next two rounds of the Series as he nurses a dislocated shoulder, leaving the quest for team points in the hands of undefeated Junior rider, GT Factory Racing team-mate Martin Maes.
With a base at 9,000 feet above sea-level and start gates for the five-stage course at over 11,000 feet, altitude will play a factor in this weekend's three day contest.
"We're sensitive about the altitude," said General Manager of the Colorado Freeride Festival, Bob Holme. "There's significant lift support for the majority of the altitude gain, but there are some untimed pedal transitions to gain additional altitude for starts. So we want to make the racing short and intense, and allow afternoons for recovery for the athletes."
Each day at noon, the next day's stages will be announced, giving racers until 7:00 pm to reconnoiter the course. However, the course will remain open to the public, so the only chance to ride the courses at race speed will be on race day.
Designed with input from Colorado-based enduro athlete Ross Schnell, organizers have aimed for a race that is balanced from course to course. "Riders will experience the most technical courses of our bike park and the raw, rugged, high-alpine singletrack of the upper mountain," said Holme.
"We didn't want to have one single course that would create a big separation that would be difficult to overcome. It's been designed so that the person who comes out as the winner will literally be the best mountain biker in the bike park over that weekend."
Enduro World Series Managing Director Chris Ball said, "We have arrived at the Colorado Freeride Festival after three incredible rounds of racing in Europe. With a format and altitude that will once again test the riders in a whole new dimension, the three days of racing we have ahead of us here in Winter Park are going to be monumental. Add in some top US riders who have not yet raced an EWS this year and we've got even more potential for surprises."
The racing begins today.
Atherton to miss round 4 and 5
Dan Atherton (GT Racing) will miss rounds 4 and 5 of the Enduro World Series in Colorado and Whistler after having dislocated his shoulder.
Atherton was riding in the notorious "Mountain of Hell" race in Les Deux Alpes this weekend when his shoulder came out of joint as he dropped off an off-camber road. Despite intense pain, Atherton managed to put his shoulder back into joint and continue with the race to take third place, but after consultation with Doug Jones from Harris & Ross, team coach Alan Milway and Red Bull Injury Management Specialist Darren Roberts, Atherton has taken the difficult decision to sit out the next two rounds to focus on rehabilitation. He will have further scans this week to assist the specialists in mapping out his return to racing.
"It's the second time in recent months that Dan's shoulder has dislocated and we've learnt from experience that it's better to treat these kinds of injuries before they escalate," said GT Factory Team Manager Dan Brown.