This weekend was the kickoff to the 2017 Enduro World Series in Rotorua, New Zealand—and the 2017 Crankworx World Tour. The race took place in the lush, jungle forests where the rain and track conditions played a major role in the race results. We got this dispatch from our Sports Marketing and Events Manager (and general doer of things), Allan Cooke:
Mark Scott came into this race hungry as can be after a hard winter of training and preparation. Practice went smoothly with Mark getting at least two laps on all seven stages with the exception of the final stage. A huge part of being fit for these races is having the sustained fitness to take on big days of practice and still have the energy for race day, and Mark’s definitely among the fittest out there.
The forecast on race day was rain, on and off, and the rain decided to switch to the on position just after all the male riders outside the top 30 had finished their runs on a tacky stage 1 track. The combination of the pouring rain, plus the 50-strong women’s field down the track left the trails deteriorated, and they only got worse as more riders went down. The top 30 men would struggle to produce the times of the men that raced with a clear track—Mark came out of stage one with a 50th, not as bad as it sounds when you see the back-to-back World Champ Richie Rude in 75th.
Mark would race hard all day with the tracks a complete mess—axle deep ruts, blown out turns, and greasy roots everywhere. He managed a few top 10s throughout the day, including a 3rd on Stage 4, one of the most technical and physical stages of the day. When the day was done and all the times were in, Mark was able to crawl his way back to 10th overall, a pretty amazing effort considering the day's conditions. This puts him in a great position for the overall, since many of the other racers in the top ten weren’t full-time EWS contenders.“Tough day on the bike, stoked on the result and can't wait for the next race. I’ve never felt more confident in my program or on the bike as I do right now, looking forward to the rest of the season”
Josh Bryceland had an amazing day on the bike, with limited practice in order to conserve energy for when it counted. He took full advantage of the good conditions he had on the first stage, finishing fourth. Even with the deteriorated tracks, when the rain came Rat was able to use his unparalleled bike handling skills to stay in 4th place all the way through 5 stages. When he came through the pit before heading to stage 6 and 7 he was on the verge of cracking—I gave him a sandwich, banana, and a bunch of caffeine to get him through. Rat surprised the MTB world and was able to finish 8th overall in what was one of the toughest EWS races to date—2000m of climbing, 64km, and 7 stages of rutty, muddy racing. “That was the longest ride of my life and I loved every second of it, buzzing on this Enduro game.”
Iago was one of the riders caught out on stage one, finishing in 97th place with a tough day ahead. Always with a smile on his face, he was able to battle back up to top 50 with a 49th overall—it’s a long season and I am sure we will see Iago climb his way back up the standings as his fitness is on point this year. “That was a battle just to survive, props to Mark and all the guys who held it together. Not stoked on my end result but to be honest it was way better than I thought it was gonna be.”
Josh Lewis had tough day from the get go. During the transition from the start village to stage one he was caught off guard by some slippery roots while getting a drink of water. He hit the roots with one hand on the bar and flew into a seven-foot metal fence and smashed his hand pretty good. In typical Loose style, he laughed it off and battled through what was a character-building day to say the least. “That was hard, really hard from start to finish. Never had so much fun struggling though, loved every second of it.”
In the pits the day was as trying as it was for the racers on the track. We were working from a remote pit that we were shuttled to with limited supplies and no bike wash. All the factory teams worked together to dig holes that the rain would fill with water. We all filled up water bottles, and used them to clean the drivetrains as well as we could before the riders set back out on the track. It was a successful day in the end, with no mechanicals on any of the bikes we were servicing. CG even pitched in and was helping scrape mud off bikes and refilling water bottles in our man-made mini ponds!
Not only were we keeping Mark, Iago, Rat and Loose’s bike in one piece, we were also servicing two international free agents—Kieran Bennett from New Zealand, and Craig Evans from the UK. With 7 riders visiting the pit three times each it was non-stop busy for us working on the bikes and keeping the riders fed. In the end it was a blast and a struggle that we would all do over in a second. We really do have the best crew and team out here.