Two wildly contrasting rounds kicked off the year – first in the arid mountains of Chile followed by the rainforest of Colombia. And it will be something entirely different again for round three. Set in the southwest of France, Olargues-Montagnes du Caroux is a new venue made famous by the Epic Enduro that takes place in the area annually. Two days of racing will take in over 80km of steep, rocky trails and 3665m of descent across eight stages, testing both rider’s technical and physical abilities.
All eyes will be on reigning champion and current series leader Sam Hill (Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic) to see if he can make it three out of three wins and extend his points lead over second placed Robin Wallner (Ibis Cycles Enduro Race Team). However, neither will be able to relax with a strong French field ready to play to their home crowd; Damien Oton (Unior Devinci Factory Racing), Adrien Dailly (Lapierre) and Dimitri Tordo (Canyon Factory Enduro Team) will all be looking for podium finishes on home soil.
It’s a similar story in the women’s race – reigning champion Cecile Ravanel (Commencal Vallnord Enduro Race Team) has also enjoyed back-to-back wins so far this year and will be hungry for more. Fellow Frenchwoman Isabeau Courdurier (Intense-Mavic Collective) will pose the biggest threat to Ravanel, but Katy Winton (Trek Factory Racing), Bex Baraona (Ibis Cycles Enduro Race Team) Caro Gehrig (Norco Twins Racing), Ines Thoma (Canyon Factory Enduro Team) and Noga Korem (GT Factory Racing) will all be chasing the podium, too.
In the U21 Men Duncan Nason (Yeti / Fox Shox Factory Race Team) has the slimmest of points margins on second placed Elliot Heap (Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic), so expect close racing between these two. Ella Conolly of the UK leads the U21 Women, but will no doubt be chased down by second placed Emma Bateup of New Zealand this weekend.
Karim Amour (Miranda Racing Team) has a commanding lead in the overall points, but don’t expect him to be taking it easy this weekend. He’ll be pulling out all the stops to win his home race. Chasing him down will be former series champions Michael Broderick and Milan Cizinsky. Melissa Newell and Mary McConneloug will be battling it out once more in the Master Women.
The team competition is hotting up already this season, with Ibis Cycles Enduro race Team leading Canyon Factory Enduro team by just ten points, with Cube Action Team in third.
And whilst there may still be a day of racing to go, there will be a special podium in Olargues on Saturday night. IMBA Europe will be announcing the winners of the Take Care of your Trails Campaign – with one country named the “Best Mountain Biking Community of Europe 2018.”
Chris Ball, Managing Director of the Enduro World Series, said: “It’s been an amazing start to the season and I can’t wait to see what the riders make of this new venue. France is such an iconic place for the sport and always throws up exciting racing. The local organization have created a really fun but challenging course and it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.”
To follow this weekend’s race tune into enduroworldseries.com/live for live timing and race feed.