Wow! I had no idea that hanging on to the Enduro World Series live race feed and live timing could be so damn addictive. Right from Kona Gravity Team rider Connor Fearon’s first stage on Friday, and his epic second-place finish, Kona (and Connor) fans from across the globe were hanging on to every smidge of data coming through to their smartphones. For those that were there, the vibe was reportedly unreal. The most raucous and supportive bunch of spectators ever at an EWS event lined the stages of the Blue Derby trails in Tasmania, Australia. And boy did they get what they came for, an Aussie on the podium!
Connor had this to say about the vibe on course “It was insane! Spectators swamped the whole mountain and they were running and riding around all over the mountain during the race trying to get to see all the stages. The more spectators the better
And on wether there was any favouritism towards the Australian racers? “The crowd definitely supported everyone on the day, but I think they went above and beyond for the Aussies racing. I definitely heard a few Aussie Aussie Aussie chants during my stages!”
With both stage 1 practice and racing taking place on Friday and the remaining five rocky and technical stages going down on Saturday, Connor and the rest of the team would have to play the long game. Back at Crankworx, Whistler in 2016 Connor finished the first stage of the Canadian Open EWS in second place. He couldn’t repeat the result that
“All the other EWS events I’ve raced have just been piggybacking off another downhill event, I’ve just done them for fun, with minimal effort put into practicing the tracks and having a goal. This Tassie race I just wanted to have a good crack at it to see what I could do and was really smart about practicing the tracks and getting through the race with the overall in mind.”
When asked what was highlight was from the weekend Connor’s answer again swung back to the crowds. “I think it was all the fans on the final stage. I just heard my name getting yelled at me the whole way down which put goosebumps on my arms, it was weird but awesome. I knew I was third overall before the last stage, so it really helped me dig deep to keep the position.”
Miranda Miller’s first day of racing didn’t go down quite as planned, the rocky stage 1 took its toll and smashed her rear derailleur. The long six minute plus course wasn’t going to take it easy on anyone and Miranda pushed hard to cross the line in 13th place. With a full day of racing still to come, Miranda knew she could claw back some lost time. Saturdays five stages were physical and demanding and with such a fast and hotly contested women’s field, any mistakes would prove costly. With an 8th on stage 2 and a 5th on stage
Rhys Verner, like Miranda, spent Thursday’s practice falling in love with the trails of Blue Derby. And, like Miranda, he had a great mornings practice on Friday’s stage 1. But things went a little sideways during the race in the changing conditions (it starting raining) and Rhys has a crash that resulted in him finishing in 62nd.
“Having the one stage on Friday was a bit weird, but despite having a crash on the stage I still thought it was cool. It sort of felt like a qualifier race for the following day and sort of set the tone for what to expect. “
62nd is not to be sniffed at, but not the result that Rhys wanted. Over Saturdays remaining five stages Rhys pushed to make up places and in the process had a couple of moments. Rhys would cross the line in 50th position.
“I had a bit of an off race in Tassie and was a bit disappointed. But with crowds like that, it kept me going and kept me stoked to drop into every stage, even despite not riding to my full potential. “
“The crowds and general atmosphere (especially on Stage 6) were insane… There were literally hundreds of people going berserk and lining both sides of the trail for the whole bottom minute. It also helped that stage 6 was probably in the top three for best trails I have EVER ridden. I rode a bit too cautious at the bottom, but couldn’t help but be stoked when Connor went into the hot seat!
Rhys had this to say about team mate Connor Fearon “It was great riding the race with him all day and all week. For someone that complains about how hard enduro is, he sure did smash it out of the park! What a legend!”
Shelly Flood is no stranger to Tasmania, as a Maydena Bike Park Ambassador, she visits frequently but doesn’t often make it to the trails in Derby. Like everyone in racing she took a huge amount of motivation from the atmosphere created by the hyped up and vocal Aussie spectators.
“The highlight of my race was definitely the atmosphere, the crowds were wild, tracks were awesome, the weather was amazing and to see Connor take out third place was just icing on the cake. The whole weekend was just good vibes and there was no shortage of laughs with the Kona crew.”
She didn’t quite have the race she wanted though, she was battling a chest infection in Rotorua and still hadn’t shaken it. Practice began in Tasmania less than a week after the podium presentations in NZ. Unlike her
“I was really looking forward to only one stage on the Friday as that probably suited me better, but I found it was hard to get in that racing mindset and get the body amped after sitting around for so long in-between practice and racing. I think it would have been better to do practice, then have a short break before the pedal up, rather than just sitting around for hours watching the rain clouds roll in.”
Heading into the next round, Connor sits in 13th overall, Miranda in 11th, Rhys in 41st and Shelly in 23rd. The team has moved up as well and now slots in to 11th place in the overall team standings.