For the fifth time the Enduro World Series reached a dramatic conclusion on the iconic trails of Finale Ligure, Italy.
Round eight, the Bluegrass Finalenduro powered by SRAM, saw 500 riders undertake two huge days of riding that took them all the way from the highest peaks in Liguria all the way to the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. But with a course that took in over 100km, the riders didn't have time to stop and admire the views - especially as there were World Champion titles at stake.
In the lead up to the race all eyes were focused on the battle for the Men's title. All of the individual titles had been decided in previous rounds - except one. The men's championship race was a straight fight between legendary rider Sam Hill (Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic) and young Frenchman Adrien Dailly (Lapierre). Sam led throughout day one, but Adrien pushed him to the limit - at one point just three seconds separated the pair. In the end the tough, physical course played to Hill's strengths and his third position in the race was enough to secure him his first Enduro World Champion title.
Speaking after the race Sam said: "It was a tough couple of days of racing so I just tried to stay smooth and consistent and put down the best stage times I could. I'll be back for sure next season - I want to come back and defend that title."
However neither Hill nor Dailly could match the pace of Damien Oton (Devinci Global Racing) this weekend, who put in an incredible performance to take the race. Martin Maes (GT Factory Racing) made a triumphant return after a crash ended his race early at the last round in Whistler, putting in blistering times to finish in second place. Sam Hill rounded out the podium in third place.
In the women's race it won't come as a surprise to anyone that reigning World Champion Cecile Ravanel (Commencal Vallnord Enduro Team) will be holding the title for another year. She made sure she finished the season in style by winning the race as well as the Championship. Isabeau Courdurier (SUNN) and Katy Winton (Trek Factory Racing Enduro Team) came second and third respectively - reflecting their positions in the overall standings as well.
Cecile said: "I'm so happy to win the title for the second year in a row. It was a tough race but getting the race win and the overall means a lot - the perfect way to end the season."
Killian Callaghan had the U21 Men Championship sewn up coming into this race, and took it easy this weekend to finish in seventh place. Whistler local Rhys Verner stormed to victory in this weekend's race - giving a time that would have put him in the top 20 of the senior men. It was a similar story in the U21 Women as Martha Gill's consistent season meant she was already World Champion as she left the start gate on Saturday. British newcomer Ella Conolly made quite the EWS debut, winning this weekend's race.
Karim Amour (BH-Miranda Racing Team) won seven of this year's races, meaning his first Enduro World Champion title was already in the bag. However, Rene Wildhaber proved too much for him on the day, winning five stages to take the race. In the Master Women consistent results from Mary Mcconneloug saw her clinch the title, whilst in the race it was Canadian Christina De Vall who graced the top step of the podium.
In the team competition Ibis Cycles Enduro Race Team are the new World Champions, Rocky Mountain Urge bp are second and Canyon Factory Enduro Team third.
Chris Ball, Managing Director of the Enduro World Series, said: "What a finish to the year. It's been a great season and rolling into Finale feels like coming home. The series has come a long way in the last five years and I couldn't be prouder of the athletes, the organisers and the whole team that makes the series happen."