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The finale in Finale

 

Enduro World Series 2018 - Round 8 - Finale Ligure

September 29 — 2018 | FInale Ligure, Italy

Our man-on-the-ground, whip-offs World Champ, and Sports Marketing Manager Allan Cooke gave us the rundown of the final stop of 2018 Enduro World Series. Read on for more.

Last weeked marked the final race of the 2018 Enduro World Series season, and just like they have every year since its inception, the best Enduro riders in the world headed to Finale to leave it all on the track in Italy.

Finale Ligure is a small Mediterranean Village located just 115km northwest of Monaco, and because its mountain bike history runs deep, it’s one of Europe’s top riding destination for pro racers and enthusiasts alike. It's safe to say that without Finale and the local riding efforts, the modern Enduro race format (and trail bikes) would be very different. After a long season for all the teams, a pit on the beach, fine Italian cuisine around every corner, and perfect temperatures made Finale the best venue of the year.

Beachin' views for the final track of the season.

This year the race format was different from previous years at Finale and from the previous stops throughout the 2018 season. A one-day four-stage race format was to be expected, but the day of rest between practice and racing was new. This was welcomed by those who hoped to feel more rested on race day, and for others who wanted to get between the tape and on the clock, it drove some anxiety. Either way, Sunday was slated to be a tough day on the bike - it was 52km, there was no shuttling, and it was comprised of four, short full-stage sprints that made for extremely physical racing.

Practice went well. The team finished without major mechanicals or incidents and there was even enough time to jump in the sea and cool off before it was time to get the riders' rigs race-ready. It was clear that these short stages would really be full sprints. There wouldn't be much time to settle in on any of the stages. It was full gas from start to finish. All of the stages had physical climbs in them as well as a few awkward chicanes and bus stops. Once everyone's lines were dialed, the unusual day off was spent relaxing at the beach, low-key pedaling some of the local trails, carb loading, and ensuring that everything was tip-top on the bikes.

Skies out, thighs out. Mark opted for extended mobility race gear this stop.

Not only was this a special race due to the format, but it was also one that would have the riders on their own from start to finish. Unlike other one-day races during the season (with pit stops and chairlifts), in Finale the racers didn't visit the paddock for service or nutition. They had to be self-sufficient and prepared. This added another dimension to the race — longer transfers and flying solo throughout the day would prove to be physically and mentally demanding.

Nic Bean had an early start and was one of the first riders to head out for the day. This was one of the deepest fields of Junior racers of the season, and after coming off a tough race in Ainsa, Spain just a week ago, he looked to put some of the lessons learned there into practice against his competitors. He rolled out onto the track, put in four solid stages of riding, and finished the day strong. Ultimately he would finish just 2:39 behind first place and that time difference is 50% closer to the leaders than his next best race this season. 

Although the results weren't exactly what Nic had hoped for, there were plenty of positives to take away from the race. The motivation and support were there, and from the team perspective, we'll do everything we can to help Nic have a breakthrough year in 2019 - which would set him up for a shot at racing elite in 2020. In Finale it was 46th on th day and 32nd in the overall for the year in the Junior ranks. Not bad for the young gun from the Factory showroom.

Rubbing is racing. Sambo, tough as nails despite the damage.

Sam Dale came into Finale fired up as usual and when it was time to race he was excited for the big day on the bike ahead. The first two stages of the day were tight, tricky and even awkward. These types of tracks don’t suit Sam’s powerhouse style of riding, and he made a couple of small mistakes on stages one and two that added up to keep him back in the results. The second half of the day was more burly and DH-style. Sam bounced back with a top 30 on stage three and finished in 27th. This had him fired up for the final stage, although perhaps a little too fired up.

On the gnarliest section of the last stage, Sam hit the deck hard. He was shaken and battered, but it takes alot to break the bear that he is, so Sam got up and kept riding. Unfortunately, the crash cost him too much time, particularly taking into consideration how tight the racing in Finale was — the top 15 riders were all placed within the same minute. 

After the race a fan came up to me and asked, "Is Sam okay, I saw him crash, the ground shook when he hit the ground—it was scary. But he just got up and kept riding, I couldn’t believe it.” Typical Sam, he shook it off as no big deal, smiled, shrugged his shoulders and regretted nothing. Sam is looking to do a bit more EWS racing next year, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do and can’t wait to be there for it all.

Razor-sharp rocks and dust? Coming from Utah, it's just like home for Ropo.

Mitch Ropelato's goal for the 2018 season was to finish out the eight race series in the top twenty, and ultimately he had a great race here in Finale to cap off the season. He was able to stay off the ground, keep the bike in one piece, and finish in 19th place. Despite a few rough stages and some inconsistent individual stage finishes, he closed out the season in 20th overall for the year.

It was an exceptional rookie full-season for Mitch, and now the real question is 'where from here?' As always, this time of year the rumours start flying — from World Cup DH to Crankworx to racing EWS again next year. Only time will tell and whatever Mitch decides to do, Santa Cruz will be here to support him and minds will be blown. It doesn't matter what discipline he's focused on, there's no limit to his talent and potential.

Hands in the air for Iago's birthday. How's that for a race-day celebration?

Iago Garay was still walking on water after a season-best 20th place finish on home soil in front of his family, friends, and fans in Ainsa, Spain. He came to Italy with the momentum from Spain and the confidence of someone who's finished out their season here six times. Iago started off the day solid and consistent with a 26th on stage one and a 24th on stage two. It looked as though he had picked up in Finale right where he left off in Spain; he sat in 25th place and was only 38.84 seconds off the leader.

Stage 3 was a new stage, one that had an amazingly scenic start on a ridge high above the Mediterranean Sea. Iago felt like it was one of his strongest stages of the race, unfortunately the result would say otherwise with a 39th. Iago kept his composure saving his best stage for last with an 18th on the famed Men’s DH track. When it was all wrapped up he would finish a very respectable 26th on the day and 33rd for the season.

Marky with signature laser-like focus.

Nobody gets inside the tape like Italian race fans.

Mark was sitting in 6th place in the overall EWS rankings coming into the final stop. The goal we made just one year ago was to finish out 2018 in the top five, and it was going to take a top five finish in Finale - something he did here in 2016 - to accomplish just that.

Practice went well, confidence was high heading into race day, and the day started off similar to how they usually do for Mark — a less-than-ideal 23rd on stage one that built into a 15th place on stage two. The stage finishes were solid, but it wasn't where he needed to be to move into 5th place in the overall.

On the final stage Mark put the hammer down, sent it, and left it all out on the track, which unfortunately resulted in a huge crash on the gnarliest part of the final stage of the season. It was the same section that took Sam Dale out. Mark was okay but dazed and sore, and it took him about ten seconds to remount and keep going. The damage was done though. He was in 20th before the final stage started but the lost time during the crash would drop him back to 36th on the day.  

That 36th place finish added insult to injury. Rather than moving him up and closer to his goal of 5th for the year, it in fact dropped him back to an 8th place finish for the season. Although it might seem like a let down, it wasn't all bad news. 8th is still the best overall finish for Mark in an EWS season. His progression as a racer is on an upward trajectory, and I think some weakneses were exploited at just the right time in Finale — just the time when we're headed into the off season and we can spend time improving and working on those things that kept Mark from achieving his goal. 8th in the world is amazing, and it's something that the whole team is proud of.

Cheers! What a crew, what a season. Salute!

Overall it's been an amazing season and there's so much to be grateful for. The most important everyone is finishing the season healthy and looking forward to the 2019 season. Big thanks to SRAM, Maxxis, Industry 9, E Thirteen, and everyone who makes it possible for us to race.

-AC

Check out the team page and give the boys a follow on social media to keep up with them during the off-season.

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