Kona had two of its enduro riders attend Round Three of the Enduro World Series on the small Atlantic Island of Madeira this past weekend including Alexander Kangas (SWE) and Ryan Gardner (USA). This was the first EWS stop held on the remote island and riders could only speculate on the conditions that would await them. After two days of practicing the nine stages that would span two race days, riders were forced to come to grips with a veritable cornucopia of trail conditions. The island, it turns out, is a gem of many facets. Stages started at over 6,000ft on the ancient volcanic island (one of the oldest in the world) and dropped from wide open alpine feeling meadows into deciduous forests which could have been somewhere in the Northeast of the United States. Other trails fingered down ridgelines with sheer drops to the ocean on one side and 30 million-year-old forests filled with prehistoric cycads on the other. Still, other trails dropped riders down treacherous rock strewn paths and ended in wide open eucalyptus groves. All of this was mixed with around 4k feet of climbing per day and stages which stretched to 9+ minutes. To say this EWS was a test is an understatement. The worlds best battled through the four days of riding and broken bikes and bodies were not uncommon.
Alex had a bit of a tough start to the weekend taking a header into a very stout pine whilst hucking a big line on a slick and root strewn section of stage seven. A stage which would go on to take more than a few riders down. When Alex “woke up on Saturday for the first day of racing, I honestly felt like shit, I had a headache and felt dizzy, I hate making excuses but honestly, I wasn’t feeling that good! But I felt like I was gonna be able to ride my bike.” And so he soldiered on through the most pedally and possibly most technical stages of the weekend and wound up 61st on the first day.
Ryan Gardner made the trip from California to Madiera for his first EWS of the season. Coming off a podium in CA the previous weekend, Ryan was looking forward to seeing where he fit in amongst the world class crowd. He was quickly introduced to some of the slickest and rowdiest trails he has had the good fortune to ride. “Some of the tracks were honestly a little intimidating to race” he said. Day one started off with an incredibly physical track which seemed more uphill than down and lasted a solid 10 minutes. After this, the tracks stayed slippery and wet, but went increasingly downhill. “I had a tough time getting used to the icy red clay after a winter of riding hero dirt in CA, but managed one of my best stages of the day on stage three which had been giving me anxiety all week”. Two crashes (one each on stage tour and nine) put Ryan back in 82st after day one, a position more than a few places lower than he had hoped.
On Sunday Alex continued to improve through the day and started to attack the track on his Process 153 in a style more fitting to his abilities. He ended the day with a solid 44th on stage nine. His day two stylings bumped him up in the overall to a very respectable 56th in the stacked 200 rider deep open field. Alex heads on to Ireland in two weeks looking to continue building momentum.
Day two also saw Ryan improve on his performance clawing back nine places to finish 73rd overall and the fourth fastest American at the race. “I was really happy to have a clean race today. Stages five and six were really wet and I was having a hard time finding the pace. These were some of the most slippery trails I have ever ridden!”. As the day went on the tracks dried considerably and Ryan started gaining back some confidence on the bike and avoided any major mistakes, helping him in the overall. “This was the hardest race I have done so far and I learned quite a bit about what you need to be successful at this level. It seems like every year the pace is increasing and the tracks are getting harder! I’m really happy to put together a big two-day race without any major crashes or mechanicals!”.
Both riders finished within the top 80 and will, therefore, receive those coveted EWS points.