The fifth round of the Enduro World Series returned to the big mountains of La Thuile, Italy, over the weekend where Sam Hill once again demonstrated why he’s the best in the world right now, taking the overall win. Elliott Heap took second in the under-21 category, while Kelan Grant recovered from a poor start to claim 36th.
Team Manager Nigel Page was trackside to bring us this report:
La Thuile was a favourite of the skilled riders back in 2016 and this time around the course builders took the stages to another level.
This was another two-day race with three big stages each day totalling over one hour of racing on the stages plus the transitions. The new tracks the Italians had built and marked out for the racers was probably the most difficult and steepest enduro racing has ever seen, testing the best riders in the world on skills, strength and stamina.
After two days of practice Sam, Kelan and Elliott all loved the tracks but knew they were going to be a challenge to race on especially if the predicted rain storms came in the night before the first day of racing, which they did!
A quick swap around of stages by the EWS organisers deciding it was safer to run stage three first following by stage two and then the newest steepest stage one last on day one, hoping that it would dry out by the afternoon.
Day one action on the steep stuff
The first stage – which was super steep and technical – was also wet from the heavy rain and made it really challenging for the riders to just get down without crashing, never mind racing.
Elliott Heap kept his great form to take the win in the under-21 category on stage one with a second place in stage two (with a crash) and first again on the third stage to lead after day one by five seconds over an in-form young French rider, Theotim Trabac. It was set to be a good battle between the two riders who were way ahead of third place and the rest of the category.
Kelan Grant, who was riding great in practice, didn’t quite get the results he was hoping for on day one with crashes on all three stages whilst trying to pass slower riders on the steep technical stages ending up with 50th, 38th and 67th.
Sam Hill, who is known for his downhill riding skills, had a quiet confidence about him on the first day of racing. Although it was his birthday and he has won three out of four rounds so far, there was a bit of pressure on him also with many other top riders giving it everything to try and beat the World Champion!
Sam didn’t disappoint and managed to go 1-1-1 in the stages to celebrate his 33rd birthday. Amazing riding Sam!
Weather plays ball on day two
The second day came around too quickly for all the super-tired riders but the rain mostly held off.
The organisers once again made a last-minute stage change and instead of racing stages four, five and six they scrapped stage five because they said it was too steep and narrow at the bottom and there would most likely be no track left by the time the later riders came down.
The racers were to do stage six first followed by stage four then a mini half minute stage in town and then up to stage six again with a slight change in the lower half of the track.
Elliott, a future champion?
Elliott started off the second day on great form again winning the first stage by over 10 seconds to extend his lead but then unfortunately got a rear puncture high up on the fast rocky stage four, losing over 26 seconds to the young French rider.
Elliott managed to pull an incredible two seconds back on the mini sprint stage going into the final stage only eight seconds back. He gave it everything on the last stage and came out of the final super steep woods so fast and then pedalling flat out into the final two high speed last corners but went down big time. He managed to get up, grab his bike and drag himself over the finish line to only lose the stage by one second which meant Elliott finished second overall for the race. He was really disappointed and angry with himself but still another amazing result for Elliott and the team.
Many people are commenting on Elliott being a future champion. Well done Elliott.
Kelan’s better second day
Kelan Grant had a much better day two with 29th, 29th 35th and 32nd to move up to a very respectable 36th overall.
This result is getting closer to the goals Kelan has set himself for his first year as a full time rider.
Sam, the greatest of all time?
Sam Hill, the ultimate racer and master of skills, stayed calm and managed two second places on the first two stages of day two, just behind a charging Martin Maes who came out on a mission on day two after finishing third on the first day behind Sam and Eddie Masters, who was also flying.
Sam then managed to only lose another one second to Martin on the flat sprint stage to go into the final stage with a 26 second lead.
The last stage was 11 minutes long and very technical so Sam had to still ride super fast. He backed it off just a touch to finish fourth and close enough to Martin who won the final stage. Sam ended up winning the overall race by over 13 seconds to win his fourth round out of five and extend his points lead in the overall championship.
Amazing work again Sam who is now becoming the best ever enduro racer of all time after only two years of racing the discipline. What a way to celebrate your birthday!
We all go home now for a couple of weeks before the sixth round takes us to Whistler in Canada before the final two rounds in Northern Spain and then Finale, Italy.
Sam Hill leads the pro men category and Elliott Heap leads the under-21 men’s category so the team couldn’t be doing any better.
Big thanks to Jacy and Ewan for keeping the bikes going all week; Salva, Kike and Ale for the video footage and amazing photos and all our amazing sponsors for the support with the best products available keeping us on top.