The EWS Mega Roadtrip: EWS Round 4 & Megavalanche

7月 01 — 2018 | Petzen - Jamnica, Austria/Slovenia

Petzen - Jamnica: The Beginning

The EWS Round 4 dispatch from Allan Cooke, Sports Marketing Manager and Do'er O' Things.

A couple of weeks ago the team headed to the border of Austria and Slovenia, another new venue for the Enduro World Series. When heading to a place no one has ever raced there is always an added level of excitement. Half of the racing takes place in Austria and the other in Slovenia. The transfer from stages four to five was a twenty minute ride through a tunnel starting in one country and ending in the other—pretty cool stuff.

On hand was the full cast from the Santa Cruz x SRAM Team: Iago Garay, Josh “Loosedog” Lewis and Mark Scott, along with two friends who were also repping Santa Cruz: Mitch Ropelato and Francois Bally-Maitre. The tracks that the EWS crew put together for round four were some of the best we've ever seen. Steep, long, physical, and there were a ton of fresh cut sections to keep the riders on their toes all race. Early in the week it looked like the weather was going to play a big role, but as practice ended the forecast cleared up and the stage was set for an epic battle between rider, machine, and trail.

Leaner lines.

Welcome to the juuungggllle!

Iago

Iago rode a consistent race and into 33rd position at the end of the weekend. The conditions were mixed across each of the stages, and this had Iago scratching his head a bit when it came to tire choice—dry tires, wet tires, mud spikes?!

Iago went back and forth between Assegai and Shortys during practice and during the race. You could tell that he never quite found his comfort zone during the week and this impacted his riding. With the technical, steep, rooty and wet tracks comfort is something that is mandatory in order to push hard on stage. While he didn't have many mistakes all week, he never really found his groove, either. 

Had to pack a few extra supplies this round.

For the second year in a row Josh Lewis celebrated his birthday at an EWS race.  Happy birthday L-Dawg!

One foot, more fun.

Loose Dog

As usual, Loose came into round four stoked. His EWS schedule is part time this season, so he hadn't been between the tape since round two in Colombia and he was eager to get out on track the moment we arrived. Loose is one of the most recognized and approached riders at the EWS. With his social media and web presence as the Captain of the 50/01 crew, people know that with Loose anything can happen. 

Many times when he comes through a section at a race he'll go out of his way to throw a no-footer or fastplant just to please the crowd. During this race things turned from unorthodox to weird in a hurry. During the transfer to stage one Loose missed a turn without realizing it and then rode on for about 15km. Realizing his mistake and realizing how little time he had to make his first start time at stage one, he put his head down and pedaled as hard as he could for an hour and a half—this included an 1800ft climb. He knew if he missed his start he would be out of the race.

Ultimately, his efforts paid off as he made it to the start of stage one with about thirty seconds to spare. After his effort to make the first start he could barely stand up when he rolled into the pit between stages two and three. Big ups to fellow racers Rupert Chapman, Jordan Prochrya, and Chris Hutchens for literally pushing him back to the pit. The competition part of the race was over for Loose. It was an amazing effort just for him to stay in the race and the rest of the weekend was 100% riding.

Conditions went from loam to loose to straight up drenched. Tire choice was key.

Francois Frenching the ferns. Flawless. 

One of many creek crossings that peppered the track and made sure no one stayed too dry.

When in Europe, right Mitch?

Eyes on the prize.

Mark

Mark rolled into the halfway point of the season sitting in fifth place in the overall standings and, unsatisfied with his position, he was fired up to continue the upward trajectory of his results this season. 

Practice went well but towards the end of day one Mark severely bruised his calf on a tricky section of one of the tracks. He didn’t let the injury distract him, but in reality it kept him from riding to his full potential. During the pit on day one Mark commented that his calf felt a bit numb and that when he was deep in the stages he felt like he couldn't pedal properly—whether this was purely mental or actually a physical side effect of the injury, it held Mark back the entire race. He was able to hold on to 14th place and 5th in the overall standings despite the injury.

Mitch

This is Mitch Ropelato's first full season of EWS. Mitch is arguably the best all-around rider of his time and even he has had to learn the hard way that racing enduro at the top level isn't something that a rider can just jump straight into and dominate. Mitch's results have been all over the place—he's had stage wins, mechanicals leading to DNFs, and everything in between.

This time around it wasn't mechanicals that affected Mitch's results, it was consistency; his stage results ranged from 13th to 57th. It wasn't what he was looking for but he was able to finish the week in 34th overall. The painful part was the man who finished 33rd and just 4 seconds faster was fellow Team Rider Iago Garay, and you know Iago made sure he knew it.  

Gary Lago en route to 33rd.

After smashing through the forest this section at the bottom had everyone swinging the berms wide.

On to Megavalanche

With the summer season in the Alps in full swing, Mark, Iago, Loose, and Mitch headed to Alp d'Huez for the Classic Megavalanche. It’s a 12 hour drive from Austria where they met up with SCB Team Riders Josh Bryceland, Cedric Gracia, Craig Evans, and Sam Dale for a week of riding, racing, and van camping. No better way to spend the time between races if you ask me.

The 50:01 lads love more than just back wheel.

Megavalanche is a chaotic, mass-start bike race that takes place high in the alps at the summit of Pic Blanc.  The race starts at 3300 meters, and combines a mix of snow, rocks, and high alpine dirt, then drops 2000 meters over the course of 30 kilometers into the valley. As riders take their places on the start line, Euro techno music fills the air and sets the tone for absolute madness. Once the tape drops racers start ripping down a slip-n-slide frozen glacier as they start their 40~ish minute descent battling for position, searching for traction, and tri-podding their way down a half frozen mountain side all while trying to make passes and not run each other over in the process.  

Iago's been coming to the Mega since he was 15 and has seven of these races under his belt.

The party before the party. // L to R: Craig Evans, Josh Lewis, Josh Bryceland, and Iago Garay

You would think that for most Enduro/DH racers who usually race the clock between the tape by themselves that a mass start marathon style event like this would be a nightmare.  For some it might be, but have you seen some of the 50:01 edits? These guys like to get closer to each other than some might be comfortable with. Even with incredible bike handling skills and experience, it's still the Mega—full gas, full madness.

"Well, do you..?"

Loosedog & Sam

We checked in with Loose and Sam and here's what they had to say:

"Another all time Mega experience in the books. It was a real shock to the system for me after riding Petzen’s loam, thrown straight into fast and dusty, rough, sharp, loose rocks, and snow.... It felt like I had to re-learn how to ride a bike!! I took my time settling into the terrain, softened my suspension a little and slowed the rebound too - as my confidence built, the bike was getting comfy too... dancing underneath me eating everything up. I had a pretty stacked quali heat which meant I had a 3rd row start, my time would have been a first or second row in most of the other quali heats...  but it was all good, it meant for good battling and carnage avoidance in the main event. I am well happy with 33rd place, no mechanicals all week and the same tires from start to finish.  Big smiles from me.  Crew all killed it." - Loosedog

"The Mega is mega! The most raw and pure bike race I’ve ever raced. A week filled with riding on snow, rocks, grass, dirt and everything in between. It’s a must do for every bike rider out there." - Sam Dale

Sam Dale had the run of the day and would finish 8th.

Ratboy showed up ready to party with a fresh new Bronson (looks super fresh here, doesn't it?). You might recognize these two from their latest film together.  

If you don't stay towards the front you spend a majority of the race head hunting and dodging bodies.  

The conditions and scenery change dramatically as riders make their way to the bottom.

After the carnage was all said and done Santa Cruz would put 3 riders in the top 10 of the Mega. Sam, Rat, and Iago would roll 8th, 9th, and 10th; Loose would finish in 33rd, followed by Cedric in 36th, and Craig 119th after taking a spill on the glacier and clawing his way back. From the frozen glacier to the warm valley everyone made it down in one piece in under an hour. An impressive showing considering there were over 300 people at the start and the unpredictable nature of this event. The crew gets to take a well deserved break before heading to Italy for the next race.  

"No dude, the fish was THIS big!" 

Stoke levels are high as we head to Round 5. We'll see you in La Thuile!

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