Posted on July 02 2019
After a few weeks of 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 surrounded by impressive limestone peaks. The organisers had promised a variety of trail conditions from open and loose to tight, steep and technical that 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.
Two days of training would allow the riders to ride each stage once and sample what was to come on race day. Stage 1 started the weekend off with a 670-meter (2,200-foot) 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 before a fast traverse required nerves of steel with riders reaching crazy speeds. Matt was enjoying the high-speed sections, always posting top speeds through the speed traps in the Downhill World Cups and hoping to translate that to Enduro racing.
Stage 3 quickly became a rider’s favourite. 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 track’s long stages where he always performs well.
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 awkward 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 almost 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) of descending, the “Queen Stage” title was well deserved. Starting high up the beautiful alpine singletrack, it traversed a ridgeline and before dropping in the trees for some steep and technical riding. Lots of line choices and a few short punchy climbs will test the riders energy reserves after the previous four stages.
Bikes and kit were running perfectly all weekend but that didn’t stop team mechanic Kurt from giving them some love. A full clean, quick tune-up on the brakes and gears and double checking suspension settings and the bikes were ready for race day.
During practice Eddie was feeling under the weather and struggling in the heat and hoping the adrenaline would pull him through on race day. With just over 3,500 meters (11,480 feet) of descending but a relatively small amount of climbing on the transition between stage, the riders would be fresh for the timed stages, speeds and commitment would be high!
Stage 1 set the tone for race day with a long physical stage and race times over nine minutes. Any sign of sickness was soon pushed aside as Eddie came out of the gates firing with the third 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 eighth, 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 with the twelfth 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 but only losing ten 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 second fastest time, pushing him to fourth overall. This fresh track was getting rougher and rougher with each rider that 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, tenthon the stage put Matt well in the hunt for a top ten 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 ninth and eighth receptively.
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 6.5 km (4 miles) of descending, the boys needed to have something left in the tank.
Eddie sat in fourth overall and pushing for podium while Matt was in sixth, looking to secure his first EWS top ten for 2019 and Pivot Factory Racing. Matt continued his consistent day with a clean run, no mistake and letting the bike absorbed the roughest terrain. His time was ninth fastest on the brutally long stage and saw Matt slip back one place finishing in a fantastic seventh 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 five stage result saw him secure his fourth place finish.
A brilliant race day, amazing trails and good times was topped off with the news that Pivot Factory Racing was the third fastest team of the day! Eddie, Matt and Kurt deservedly shared some podium time and Champagne, the perfect ending to a weekend of racing.