After the incredible welcome Chile and Scotland gave to the enduro mountain bike racing community in the first two rounds of the Enduro World Series, it’s hard to say that enduro has any particular physical headquarters. But if there’s a spiritual home to the sport, it would be France, and if there’s a spiritual godfather, it would be Fred Glo.
Glo’s Tribe Events hosts the Enduro Series Valloire driven by Urge Bike Products this weekend, June 21-22. The location, at the base of famous Galibier Pass in the Savoie region of the northern Alps, is a resort and mountain bike hub, with approximately 150 km of marked trails.
Valloire has been a round of the French Enduro Series from the sport’s outset, becoming over the past 10 years one of the most sought after and respected enduro races in France.
“For the French enduro community,” explains Glo, “Valloire is the benchmark for the quality of the tracks and local team organisation.”
The stages will offer riders the best of alpine enduro, in classic French style - chairlift access into the alpine, with long, fast and technical descents, extraordinary views and dramatic terrain. Stages will remain secret until Thursday evening. Riders can only walk stages to reconnoitre them on Friday. Riders will be given one practice run on each Special Stage before having to race it during the weekend.
“Our ongoing goal,” says Enduro World Series Managing Director Chris Ball, “is to challenge riders, expose them to the best experiences and keep things fresh. So we leave behind the long liaison climbs and massive practice days of Scotland and the deep soft Chilean dirt in Nevados de Chillan and move to the finest of French alpine racing. Valloire offers the most vertical descent of the series, lots of riding time, chairlift assistance and very limited but focused training runs. It’s a continued test to find the best mountain biker in the world.”
Whether that will be a French rider remains to be seen. In the first two rounds of the Enduro World Series, French riders have been a consistent presence, both on the podium and in the top 20.
Nico Lau (Cube Action Team) now on home soil, with his first EWS victory from TweedLove fresh in his memory, will be pushing to retain Series lead. (Lau won his first French Enduro Cup podium in Valloire in 2012.) Jared Graves (Yeti/Fox Shox), Justin Leov (Trek Factory Racing Enduro Team), Joe Barnes (Canyon Factory Enduro Team) and Martin Maes (GT Factory Racing) will all be challenging for the podium, but French talents Remy Absalon (Scott SR Suntour Enduro Team) who finished the Overall Series in 4th last year, Florian Nicolai (Rocky Mountain Urge BP Team), François Bailly-MaÎtre (BMC Enduro Racing Team) and Damien Oton (Devinci/Alltricks.com Enduro Racing) who finished TweedLove in 4th, 5th and 6th places, and Alex Cure (Rocky Mountain Urge BP Team), will also be riders to watch.
France’s Cecile Ravanel (GT Pulse) showed great form in the Tweed Valley where she placed third, beating out Anne Caroline Chausson (Ibis) on three of the eight stages, indicating the women’s race might not just be a two-woman duel between Moseley (Trek Enduro Factory Racing Team) and Chausson.
TweedLove saw strong performances from UK riders, but “home turf” advantage might not play a significant role in Valloire, as the race will incorporate brand new terrain, opening up a side of the mountain on the Setaz massif that has never been ridden before, ensuring that two of the four stages are completely new for all riders.
With the top 5 men's riders within 110 points of each other, and the top 2 women neck-in-neck, the only guarantee this weekend is an intense contest of exhilarating riding. Everything else is to be determined. Follow the action with regular race updates on www.facebook.com/EnduroWorldSeries, twitter and Instagram via @World_Enduro.