2017’s EWS season has affectionately garnered the nickname Enduro Wet Series (less affectionately by those actually racing) and after the first bone-dry opening round last week some thought that, just maybe, we might be in for a dry season of racing. Who were they kidding?
By the time everyone’s bikes eventually showed up in Manizales, Colombia, the skies had opened and what looked to be some of the best dry loam imaginable had turned into mud with the texture of peanut butter and jelly. Steering was non-existent. Kona Global Team rider Alexander Kangas likened the feeling to riding on ice, without spikes!
It wasn’t all mud at the second stop on the 2018 EWS series, though. For the first time since 2013, the race kicked off with a short urban prologue through downtown Manizales. Scott Countryman surprised himself in his first ever urban race cruising to a respectable 38th place in the short punchy and physical stage. Kangas suffered a mechanical and finished the stage a bit off the pace but given its short nature, it would not have a massive effect on the following day’s results.
Race day saw the seven stages turning to six as a heavy overnight downpour had turned the already extremely slippery and carnage-inducing stage six into an even more uncontrollable beast. The desert-dwelling Countryman wanted to pull the pin at times during the day but pushed through for 76th on the day. “After raining all night, race day became a survival day for me. I cyclocrossed the top half of the second stage (first of the day) and was feeling pretty good until I got too wild in a chute and sent myself head first into a tree and broke my saddle. One stage down and I was ready to pull out of the race, but I taped my saddle back onto my bike and continued. Stage three went fairly well besides having to pass several racers that had missed their start times and were thrown into the mix right in front of me. I found some flow and was starting to feel good about the rest of the day. My hopes were dashed again on the next stage when coarse tape laying in the trail got wrapped up in my cassette and brake. I wasn’t able to pedal and had to strider my way down half of the stage. Again, I was ready to give up but I forced myself to continue. I had no more motivation at that point and got myself down the rest of the stages safely. In the end, I am very happy I can say I finished and it is an experience I am sure I will look back on fondly.”
Kangas, who thought round one in Chile was the last time he’d see anti-grip was, like many riders, ultimately bettered by the lack of traction in Manizales. “The Colombian soil and weather conditions were far from optimal for me. Overall it was an OK race. I struggled on the first three stages, and rode OK on four and five. Things would have been fine if it wasn’t for me losing my top jockey wheel at the start. Stages seven and eight were nothing to write home about! 58th overall is nowhere near where I want to be, but considering I’ve only had 10 days riding on the new bike since November, I’ll take the positives with me and go back home with a good feeling for the upcoming races.”