The Enduro World Series heads back to France and the sport’s spiritual home this weekend for round 7 - the Enduro Des Portes du Mercantour driven by URGE Bike Products.
The penultimate round of the series will take to the famous trails of Valberg-Guillaumes, an area that is no stranger to enduro races thanks to its association with the iconic Portes du Mercantour event, now in its twelfth year.
The 380 riders competing face a big weekend in the saddle - they’re up against long, physical stages that compromise over 4000m of climbing and more than 5000m of descent. But riders will be rewarded for their efforts with some of the best, and most varied, single track on the planet - from the famous grey earth to steep, rocky and natural Alpine style trails.
Racing will kick off on Friday evening, when riders will take part in a prologue that will see them race a short, fast 1km trail that drops them into the heart of the race village. Then the competition begins in earnest on Saturday, with four stages followed by the same again on Sunday.
Expect fierce competition as the season nears an end - especially in the men’s race as series leader Richie Rude (Yeti/Fox Shox) will be looking for a win to help cement his chances of becoming the first man to be crowned Enduro World Champion twice. He’ll be chased down by second placed Damien Oton (Devinci Global Racing) who trails him by 330 points. But both Rude and Oton will be painfully aware that Jerome Clementz (Cannondale) lies just a few points adrift in third place - and no one would ever rule this former World Champion out of the competition.
In the women’s race Cecile Ravanel (Commencal Vallnord Enduro Team) will roll off the start line the clear favourite in the women’s race. However, as demonstrated at the last round in Whistler, she’s not immune to mechanicals and crashes, and chasing at her heels will be fellow Frenchwoman Isabeau Courdurier (SUNN) who sits second in the points. Anita Gehrig (Ibis Cycles Enduro Race) will also be chasing points - if she does well here and maintains her third place in the rankings then she will be in good shape for her first series podium.
The U21 Men’s competition has really come into it’s own this season, with a number of young riders putting in some lightning fast times to rival their older counterparts. Sebastien Claquin (Rocky Mountain Urge bp) leads closest rival Adrien Dailly (Lapierre Gravity Republic) by just 50 points - both these young riders are former World Champions so expect some incredibly tight racing from these two. And in the U21 Women Raphaela Richter (Radon Magura Factory Racing) will be looking to see off second placed Leah Maunsell.
Michael Broderick of the USA leads out the Master’s category, but he faces tough competition from second placed Milan Cizinsky (Ghost Factory Racing Riot), as well as Karim Amour who lies third. In the team competition Rocky Mountain Urge bp maintains a convincing lead in the points, with Ibis Cycles Enduro Race in second and canyon Factory Enduro Team in third.
Chris Ball, Managing Director of the Enduro World Series, said: “As one of my favourite riding destinations in the world, this coming weekend, our seventh race this season, is going to be an absolute classic. The course prepared by the local team is going to test everything on some incredibly varied and enjoyable trails. And with a tight race in the overall points too, there’s going to be everything to play for in mountains around Valberg-Guillaumes”.