The 2023 mountain bike season is well and truly underway and our supported riders Innes, Polly, Mark and Jake have all been out racing Rounds 3, 4, & 5 of the Enduro World Cup. After a long block of racing and travelling across Europe, we caught up with our racers back in the Tweed Valley to recap everything that happened over the last three rounds.
ROUND 3 - FINALE OUTDOOR REGION - 2nd-4th June
Round 3 was a monster day in the Finale Outdoor Region, with racers covering 56km and climbing over 2000m through the trail network in Pietra Ligure. A course combining short, tight & technical trails threading through rocky forest with longer more physically challenging trails made for a varied day between the tape.
For Innes, this was his first round back at the World Cups after missing Rounds 1 & 2 out in Tasmania. In at the deep end with a huge day in front of him under the blazing Italian sun, Innes managed his liaisons well across the 56km course, hitting each stage feeling fresh and calm. However, on a freshly built bike with minimal setup time, and with all his setup rides being at home in the Tweed Valley, it was bike setup that proved challenging for him throughout the day on such unfamiliar terrain.
Struggling to find the flow on the flatter stages, and undeniably affected by the heat it was a frustrating day for Innes, however a 49th position finish on a bad day gave him a great place to build from through the next two rounds.
Mark, having taken in Rounds 1 & 2 out in Tasmania came into Pietra feeling strong and managed the loose and rocky trails well, with solid performances on Stages 1-4 which put him well into top 40. As the afternoon progressed, with energy sapped by the extreme heat, a couple of small mistakes cost Mark time. Coming home in a fantastic 44th place despite “fumbling” the final two stages.
Polly, remembering the heatstroke she endured 2 years ago racing in Finale Ligure under similar conditions, conserved energy throughout the day and based her plan around keeping herself well fueled between stages. By the time she had got around to the middle few stages the already flat and unsupported turns had blown out, making carrying speed and finding flow quite difficult. Later in the day, Polly found her rhythm on the steeper and more technical last couple of stages, bringing home an amazing 16th position.
Jake struggled less with the hot conditions and felt comfortable amongst the Italian rocks from the off.
“Practice went well and there weren’t too many line choices, so I opted for a mainline with confidence strategy for race day.” - Jake Ebdon
Having been plagued by mechanicals in Tasmania, Jakes aim was for a smooth day to try and bank some points and see where he would stack up with a day of consistent and smooth riding. He achieved exactly this, with no major mistakes, mechanicals or crashes through the day taking him to a 48th finish.
Between Rounds 3 & 4, Polly and Innes headed to Schladming Bike Park in Austria. Only 90 minutes from Leogang it gave them a perfect opportunity to get some down time and ride some fast and rough descents ahead of the next race weekend. Condensing a normal weeks’ worth of riding into just 3 days in Scladming gave Innes and Polly a lot of bike time and helped them tune in to the bike park style trails that awaited them at the next round.
ROUND 4 - LEOGANG - 15th-18th June
Round 4 took riders to Leogang Bike Park in Austria and served up a mix of hardpack bike park terrain, rough and rooty technical sections and more natural, high speed and rocky alpine tracks.
Struggling with the course, it was a frustrating day for Mark, however a 52nd place finish shows the pace is there even on his off days.
Innes came to Leogang feeling happy with the trails, with a race day plan of smooth and consistent riding across all stages. Grappling slightly with confidence after a crash, his plan to ride smoothly meant no big mistakes throughout the day but left him feeling like he could have given more in certain sections.
Experimenting with a Minion DHF front tyre, as opposed to his usual Assegai, Innes was looking for slightly more rolling speed from the DHF, but ultimately stuck with the Assegai up front, paired with a DHRII out back for race day. Reassured by the larger tread footprint on trail. Mark kept his tyres consistent, as he does for almost every race, a Minion DHF and DHRII pairing at 21 and 23psi respectively.
For Jake, racing at Leogang comes naturally having raced there twice as a Junior in World Cup DH. Between Rounds 3 & 4, Jake made the change to a 31.8mm clamp, from 35mm, and raised his stem 5mm to bring weight off his hands and reduce fatigue on the steeper and longer tracks.
Come race day, Jake struggled to gel with the course making the long 9hr day in the saddle a tough one to contend with. Smooth riding and key lines hit, Jake was doing well until a crash on Stage 2, his favourite, saw him lose a good chunk of time, bringing him home in 61st.
Coming straight to Leogang, with Innes, from Schladming, Polly got on well with the Stages and managed to get her best Stage result of this block, a 13th on Stage 2. Clean and consistent riding gave Polly a day of no major mistakes or mechanicals and took her to a 14th finish.
Mark & Jake took the scenic route to Round 5 in Val Di Fassa via Kronplatz Bike Park in South Tyrol, North Eastern Italy. With 1300m of elevation drop and less ridden trails, Jake and Mark got some well deserved R&R in the bike park and hunted out the best local coffee spots!
ROUND 5 - VAL DI FASSA - 24th-25th June
For Round 5 our racers headed back to Italy, this time to Canazei in Val Di Fassa. Greeted by steeper and more technical trails in more familiar feeling terrain, our team all reported feeling more at home on the tighter and steeper sections of the course with dirt to dig their tyres into and overall more built and well supported trails. This familiarity didn’t give them time to breathe however, with the stages in Val Di Fassa being regarded by most racers as the most physical ever included in a world level enduro race thanks to long sprint sections and the race venue being at high altitude.
Innes, recognising areas for improvement on his bike, used practice as a chance to dial in his suspension setup for the coming race weekend. Swapping out to a Rockshox Super Deluxe Ultimate air rear shock to increase the progression of the rear suspension and removing a spacer for his fork let him find the sweet spot in his suspension, keeping his bike riding high in its travel.
The plan for race day was to identify key areas of track where time could be made and build confidence and pace throughout the day; a plan he implemented conserving energy through Stage 1 and the liaison to Stage 2. Stage 2, the longest of the day, was split into two technical sections, separated by a 2 minute uphill sprint.
“I rode the top ok, conserved energy in the middle before the uphill and emptied the tank on the climb. After that I just gritted my teeth and kept the pace going to the end. 15th on Stage 2 and 16th on Stage 3 is a much better representation of where I believe my riding is at and has given me the energy and motivation to keep maintaining the upward trajectory!” - Innes Graham
A favourite venue for Mark, he came into Val Di Fassa off the back of a week of relaxed coffee shop rides with Jake in Kronplatz, building confidence and speed in the physical and rough terrain. A day of mixed riding meant he was struggling to pace the race stages, confusing matters further was his worst feeling stages producing the best results. A highly experienced rider and racer, Mark kept pushing all day and comes back to the Tweed Valley with a fire burning to improve his bike setup and show what he is capable of in the remaining rounds of the Enduro World Cup.
For Polly, this was her fifth time racing at Val Di Fassa, over which time she has had her fair share of ups and downs.
“It was cool to race it in the dry and they had done quite a lot of work to the tracks which really helped make it flow better. I struggled with the heat and altitude and the sprint on stage 2 was brutal! I was just pretty happy to finish this race and hold onto 16th in the overall.” - Polly Henderson
Val Di Fassa is a favourite venue of Jake’s. Last year’s race saw some of his best riding until a big crash took him out of the running. Older and wiser this time around, he purposely didn’t check stage times at all during racing, instead focussing on each stage as it came up.
“At this round I wasn't checking times as I just wanted to focus on each stage and have no thoughts on if I was doing well or not. Probably the most physical five Stages I’ve ever done in one day, with lots of line choice to make things more challenging.” - Jake Ebdon
After what he felt was a solid day of racing, Jake finished the day in 54th position.
Results per location:
Round 3 - FINALE OUTDOOR REGION (02-04 JUNE)
Innes - 49th
Polly - 16th
Mark - 44th
Jake - 48th
LEOGANG (15-18 JUNE)
Innes - 42nd
Polly - 14th
Mark - 52th
Jake - 61st
VAL DI FASSA (24-25 JUNE)
Innes - 21st
Polly - 23th
Mark - 55th
Jake - 54th
Overall standings after Round 5:
Innes - 57th
Polly - 16th
Mark - 44th
Jake - 52nd
The next round of the Enduro World Cup takes racers to Loudenville in France on the 1st-3rd September. Stay tuned for more updates from our supported riders!