The penultimate round of the 2018 Enduro World Series (EWS) season gets underway this weekend amongst the northern mountains of Ainsa-Sobrarbe, Spain.
Round seven, Festival Zona Zero Sobrarbe, marks the second time the series has visited the venue, a tiny medieval walled village perched on top of a hillside in the foothills of the Pyrenees. During its debut in 2015 riders got to experience an urban prologue that started high on ancient castle walls before descending through the village’s narrow cobbled alleyways - and they are in for more of the same this weekend.
The prologue will take place on Friday evening, but won’t contribute to the race results, with Saturday and Sunday’s stages delivering the racing. Featuring seven stages over two days, riders will be faced with 67km in total and 2600m of descent. This year’s course will feature some brand new stages and take in the neighbouring regions of Boltaña, Laspuña and El Pueyo de Araguás.
In the championship standings Sam Hill (Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic) has the title all but sewn up after his strong season, but Martin Maes (GT Factory Racing) is the man to beat. Fresh from his win at round six in Whistler, he went on to win the UCI Downhill World Cup in La Bresse and took silver at the World Championships in Lenzerheide and definitely has the potential to be on top of the podium this weekend. Danger man Richie Rude (Yeti/Fox Shox Factory Racing) won in Ainsa in 2015 and will be feeling confident after his win at the Clif Enduro East Series Finals in Vermont last weekend, which saw him crowned the North American Enduro Champion.
In the women’s race Cecile Ravanel (Commencal Vallnord Enduro Racing Team) will be continuing her quest for the perfect season, having won every race so far this year. Her main opposition comes in the form of Isabeau Courdurier (Intense-Mavic Collective) and Katy Winton (Trek Factory Enduro Team) who sit second and third in the points respectively. However Noga Korem (GT Factory Racing) could also cause an upset - she was on the podium at the last round in Whistler and after her win at Traillove Zermatt last weekend is the newly crowned European Enduro Champion.
In the U21 Men keep an eye out for Elliot Heap (Team Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic) who has been putting in blistering times all year. Ella Conolly has proved a force to be reckoned with in the U21 Women, winning all six races so far this year.
Reigning Master World Champion Karim Amour (Miranda Racing Team) leads the category over Michael Broderick. Meanwhile in the Master Women it’s reigning champion Mary Mcconneloug who leads the points but will be conscious that Melissa Newell has beaten her at three rounds so far this season and will be chasing her down looking to do it again.
Chris Ball, Managing Director of the Enduro World Series, said: “It’s so good to bring the EWS back to Zona Zero and the Ainsa-Sobrarbe region. The core local group of trail builders have been steadily uncovering ancient trails from the 10th Century and have brought back to life an amazing network, once used as trade routes and now perfect to ride. Discovery and sustainability are deep engrained principles here and the community are incredible. This race will be physically and technically tough but will also be rich in discovery and adventure - roll on round seven.”