Chris Hutchens raced the last Enduro World Series on the Portuguese island of Madeira and brings us his insight into what riders can expect for the 2019 event.
It’s not long before the Enduro World Series Madeira kicks off for the third round of the 2019 series. Will we see continued dominance, fresh attacks from off form riders in the opening rounds or a change of the guard?
There’s a clear dominance at the top of the EWS so far this season. Racing kicked off in the Southern hemisphere a few months ago and now heads to the tiny island of Madeira. This place stamped it’s mark a couple of seasons ago as a real test of nerve.
Racing alongside sea cliffs scared many and racing was certainly exciting. Bikes let riders down and consistency was key in the end. Will the next EWS round see continued dominance and a need to tactically race as in 2017?
The series is currently being led by Maes and Courdurier. They’ll be looking to continue this dominance and extend their leads, which is extensive given the new Queen Stage that’s been introduced in 2019.
Madeira has seen plenty of coverage over the past couple of years. It’s a bit of a riding mecca now. Most recently, or certainly the most memorable, media to come from the island has to be Brendan Fairclough’s Deathgrip movie. The EWS won’t see jumps like this but it will have heart racing trails and descents.
Having raced the EWS the last time I can only remember the punishing stages from the weekend. Stage 1 from 2017 was a monster, thankfully this isn’t featuring this time around but stage 1 will again be the longest of the weekend at over 3 km long. That’s a lot of trail.
The course has a total of 8 stages over two days of racing and with almost 70 km in the legs through the race days alone it’s in the classic EWS territory. Riders will benefit from a little uplift to squeeze out nearly 5500m of descent. Those hands will be hurting by the end of day 2 I think.
Stage 7 will be the Queens stage this round. As the season progresses and riders leads appear further out of reach these stages will become more and more critical. Will we see the likes of Sam Hill try to catch Maes and defend his title by snatching these stages.
Could practice give some clues away with riders being more analytical than usual at the Enduro World Series Madeira?
Liam Moynihan has been out there for a week already filming with James Shirley and has winged us a few photos from the stages during the past weekend walking them.
The tracks are looking pretty special already. If stage 2 is what I remember riding a few years ago while out there with Cut Media’s Stu Thomson and Danny MacAskill then it’s got some vicious corners and switch backs on it. The views are sensational so it might be worth slowing it down to appreciate them for a minute… or a second.
So far the other stages appear to feature some of the amazing loamy soil that featured on Stage 4 in 2017. Things got very loose down these sections. This was a Stage fellow Scot Lachlan Blair excelled at grabbing a 9th place stage result. Hopeful we’ll see more UK riders grabbing those sort of results this weekend.
What are my predictions then?
Well I think wins will continue for Maes and Courdurier but they’ll not extend them as much as they want. Sam Hill will improve and move up the leader board and the on fire Jesse Melamed will be looking to take the win after his disappointing finish in 2017. This sort of terrain will suit him well.
We’ll also see how young Mr Barnes, who’s not long a father either, will fair as he races his first EWS of the year on board a new team. His own Hazard Racing. We can’t rule out Greg Callaghan either for the win this year, or certainly a strong result. He’s riding well this year and won the Enduro World Series Madeira round the last time it was hosted. Maybe a change of rider is due if you’ve got a fantasy team running.
I suspect that Bex Baraona will grab another podium along with Charre but not challenge for the top step. Miss Winton is unfortunately still sitting things out. This all depends however if Jill Kintner and Rowena Fry make an appearance. They had storming runs in Tasmania. Will this see them come back for more podium action. What’s for sure it that the women’s racing this year is going to see some fierce battles.
Watch out for Christo and I over the weekend as well. It’s our first EWS for the year and 68th and 51st respectively last time.
Finally we’re sending healing vibes to Ruaridh Cunningham who’s sitting things out after finding out that he’s suffering from a suspected spinal fluid leak. Wishing him a speedy recovery after a solid start to the season.