Team CRC Mavic rider Sam Hill brought gasps to fans at Round 4 of the Enduro World Series (EWS), snatching a nail-biting victory in the final run of the round to cement the team’s Championship lead.
Elliott Heap, meanwhile, gave a courageous performance in the under-21 category, earning a huge win against the odds at this new and visually stunning course.
The two-day event took place across two countries, with hosting duties shared between Petzen in Austria and Jamnica in Slovenia.
Team manager Nigel Page was trackside throughout, and brought us this report, including details of Sam Hill’s exciting final run:
Round 4 of the Enduro World Series took us to the border of Austria and Slovenia for the first time in EWS history.
The race took in two countries and an amazing underground mining tunnel to transition from stage four to five for the riders. The race stage tracks here are some of the best and most challenging the EWS has ever seen.
This race spread over two days, with three stages on each day and some big transitions. The stages were really varied with a great use of some established trails and some completely new lines.
As ever, the stages were really challenging for the riders with some very steep and long sections, especially the final phases of both days which came down from the top of the ski lift in Petzen, Austria.
These stages ended up being the real deciders for the elite men’s category. If you were not a fan of racing steep, slippery roots and rocks, then this venue was going to be your worst nightmare.
In the under 21’s category, our Elliott Heap absolutely dominated day one winning all three stages by a huge margin, ending up with a lead of over one-and-a-half minutes, and ranking fifth in the elite men’s race.
This was the best Elliott has ever ridden in the Enduro World Series by far, showing how quickly he is improving as a racer.
Kelan Grant separated his shoulder only two weeks ago, so it was going to be a big ask for him to even start the race. But Kelan showed real guts and determination to get out there, and even managed a top 30th position on stage two.
Sam Hill was on form from early on, placing sixth on stage one just six seconds behind Martin Maes. He then won stage two by six seconds to go into the big final stage of the day pretty much equal with Martin.
It was this crucial stage that presented a huge test for each rider, being so long and technical after an already huge day on the bike. The mountain was so big the riders got to use the gondola to get to the top of the course.
Sam’s riding was outstanding on this stage – as expected – but he slid on a relatively slow corner on a really steep technical section and had to jump off his bike to avoid crashing down a very steep bank. Sam jumped back on, however, and carried on down the track to win the stage over Eddie Masters and gain a 10 second advantage over Martin Maes going into day two.
Unfortunately, Sam rolled his ankle badly in the crash and an hour after the race the joint had swollen like a balloon, which was going to make things very tough for day two, particularly as it had two hours of hiking on stage transitions – let alone the tough stage races.
But Sam has proven toughness and determination, and got his ankle taped-up for support, starting the next day with complete focus on winning.
Elliott’s day didn’t quite go as well as the first day, maybe pushing a little too hard or just pure bad luck, but he crashed twice on the first stage of day two (stage four) yet still managed to win the under 21’s by five seconds. Stage five was going well, and Elliott was riding within his limits until he just lost the front-end on some slippery roots as he was turning into a steep bank. He went down hard onto his bad shoulder, which was just coming good after the last EWS in France.
Elliott was really hurt when he got back to the pits before the final stage of the race – its longest and most brutal. He still had a lead of over a minute to fall back on, however, and needed only to be able to make it down the stage. He showed huge grit and toughed it out to make it down in sixth place even though he could barely lift his arm onto the bars.
Kelan Grant had a tough second day. As he was overcompensating for his weak shoulder by using his forearm way more, his arm started giving up and he couldn’t brake hard enough with his rear braking hand, making riding the steep stages extremely hard and resulting in more crashes. Kelan still showed total commitment though and finished the race in an impressive 50th place in the huge elite men’s category. Well done buddy – your time will come.
Sam Hill doesn’t complain or let anyone know how much he is hurting, but I could tell it was going to be a tough day ahead for him with his injured ankle, especially with how fast Martin Maes was riding.
Sam, unbelievably, managed to place second behind Martin on stages four and five, holding onto a one second lead going into the final longest, toughest, and steepest stage of the weekend. I could tell his ankle was hurting but Sam had a confidence and determination I have only ever seen in the five-times Downhill World Champion and current Enduro World Champion.
Credit: Fraser Britton / Crankworx 2018
We were all nervous for Sam as Martin Maes was on top form and utterly determined to win. Sam was the last man down the Hill. Moments before, Martin Mae had crossed the line in first place but Sam shot into the finish area to huge cheers from the fans, crossing the line to win the final stage, beating Martin by nine seconds and winning the race by 10 seconds after 53 minutes of race stages.
Sam showed pure class and that he is a true champion. Unbelievable stuff buddy, we are all so proud of you.
An incredible race, right down to the wire, with the two first place finishes for the team giving Sam Hill and Elliott Heap convincing leads in the Championship at the half way stage.
Thanks to all the team and sponsors for the best bikes and equipment available, all of which was faultless throughout the weekend in super tough conditions.