Team CRC PayPal riders Sam Hill and Elliott Heap rode at the final round of the Enduro World Series in Finale Ligure, Italy, over the weekend.
Here’s the race report from Team Manager Nigel Page, who also raced in the Masters category:
Before last weekend’s EWS race, myself, Sam, Elliott and Jacy went to Dolceacqua in Italy for two days of filming. We then drove to Annecy and spent two days with the guys at Mavic – we rode with them and they gave us a tour of the facility. We met all the staff who were all super nice and made us feel part of the Mavic family.
On Sunday morning we headed to the Motocross of Nations in Maggiora – it was probably the most exciting event I’ve been to in my life, packed with thousands of crazy Italian fans!
After walking some of the stages on Monday and Tuesday, and practising parts of the course on Thursday and Friday it was time for the race weekend to start. Sam and Elliott were excited to get going on the varied stages that awaited us.
Stage one’s 2 1/4 hour liaison was a real leg warmer. Stage one was the most downhill-oriented stage of the weekend – rough, natural and loose. Sam liked the stage and he was happy to get down alive because it was so wild!
The second stage was our favourite of the weekend, packing in loads of cool downhill sections. I was going really well until a mechanical saw my back tyre flying off the wheel, wrapping around my frame and pulling the chain off. There were a few wild moments riding on the rim on the steep and rocky trail. I got back to the tech zone where Jacy managed to get a new tyre on the wheel, filed the wheel as best he could and put a tube in. I made it to the next stage with one second to spare…
This was a very physical stage with lots of pedalling on a really fun trail.
Our initial 2 ¾ hour liaison to the start of stage four was really tough, especially after a whole day of racing the day before. There was a new format to this stage – you were timed on the first section; then you got to the neutral zone where a chip paused your time; then you had three minutes to climb to the end of the neutral zone and then your time started again. It was a really fun stage – really high speed with brilliant corners and plenty of physical pedalling packed in.
This was a really physical stage – super-rocky and technical at the start, then technical and flat with a hard punchy climb in the middle which nailed you for the rest of that stage.
Probably the flattest stage of the weekend but to race it was testing for all the team. Everyone found it tough going with fatigue setting in. Following this stage, Sam realised there are super strong guys in his field – he’s fit but needs more power.
The seventh stage had a cool finish down to gnarly rocks at the end finishing over the iconic sea view here in Finale.
Sam was consistent enough to get another top-ten finish on completely different terrain. Elliott finished sixth overall in under-21 and the fastest junior of the weekend. A great result to cap off his third overall in the Junior World Cup. I eventually didn’t do too badly, finishing fourth in Masters.
Here’s the official one minute round-up video:
Looking back on how the season has gone for CRC PayPal, it’s been a mixed year.
Sam never finished outside the top ten in Elite, with 10th, 8th, two second places and a win. This was an amazing achievement for Sam’s first shot at a brand new discipline for him. As well as having fantastic results for the team, the change in focus from downhill to enduro for Sam means that he’ll need to change his preparation and training for a full year of EWS in 2017.
As well as training with cross-country specialists at home in Australia, Sam’s been taking advice from his personal downhill riding hero Nico Vouilloz, who’s passed on some training tips. Certain venues suit certain riders – downhill and natural trails are always going to be Sam’s forte, but he’s very motivated and keen to give it a good shot to be EWS Champion in 2017 – it won’t be easy but it’s what he’s going to strive towards.
We’ve had some great results and disappointing moments but we’re already looking forward to an off season of training and preparation and are looking forward to 2017 – for the first two EWS races in New Zealand and Tazmania, then the DH World Cup season kicks off in Lourdes.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to all our sponsors for their continued support. Until next season…