With a six week break under their belt and the final race of the season in sight, Iago, Josh “Ratboy” Bryceland, and Mark Scott headed to Finale, Italy. Finale is a small Italian village right on the Ligurian Sea and it’s by far one of the top five mountain bike locations in Europe. It’s the perfect place for the world’s best riders to battle the terrain and each other for the last race of the season.
Finale is the ultimate test of riders and their equipment; technical sections are littered with sharp, nasty rock gardens and both the timed stages and liaisons are physical tests. Off the track, the pits are set directly on the beach and the accommodations are in a village where the local community welcomes racers with open arms. This is the dream location for any race, and as soon as we arrived it was clear why this has been the final race of the Enduro World Series season four years in a row.
Practice runs kicked off a shortly after arrival and training went smooth for the crew. To preserve the tracks only one practice run was allowed for each of the seven stages. With 500 riders queued up to practice or race, the adjusted practice format relaxes the schedule and reduces the impact on the terrain, so it was something we could get behind. Between the shuttle outfits, bike shops, and restaurants that cater to the MTB clientele, there’s a ton of local economy that relies on the trails (and the health of these trails). Props to the race organizers for taking this into account.
Throughout the week there was a race within the race amongst the Santa Cruz team—a crew that had grown by race day to include Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar, Luca Shaw, and Loris Vergier. At the previous EWS round at Whistler, Rat and Iago battled the whole day only to finish half a second apart—this time around Rat was focused and on a mission to even the score. The two traded stage wins over both days of riding and with each of them giving it their all, it was nearly impossible to predict how it would end. After 52 total minutes of racing, Iago managed to edge out Ratty on the final stage, taking the win of the race within the race and leaving Rat hungry to continue the battle next season. Watching the friendly battle and the comradery was a treat to say the least.
Mark was on a high after leaving Whistler with a third place finish and the first podium of his young career. It kick started a mission to train hard for the six weeks before arriving in Italy, and despite raining for more than half of the time he was home, it didn’t stop him from getting out and doing the work he needed to. He rolled into Finale feeling strong and when the clock started, he was ready.
Stage after stage, Mark layed down clean runs but the times just weren’t there. I suspect that the eight month season and the last six weeks of training all had take their toll. Mark is never one to make excuses or throw in the towel. He absolutely left it all on the track in Finale and ultimately ended up with a respectable 20th overall on the week and 9th on the season. Our goal at the end of 2016 was to finish 2017 in the top ten and for next season we’re aiming for the top five in the overall. Mark is more than capable, we can’t be more stoked about how his racing has progressed, and I can’t wait to be a part of getting him there.
Huge thanks to the people that make racing possible for us. We couldn’t do this without support from SRAM, Rockshox, Maxxis, Industry Nine, e*thirteen, and Fabric. Prep for the 2018 season starts in a month. Expect to see us up front next year. - AC