Alexander Kangas

Kona at EWS Ainsa Spain

Last weekend members of Kona’s enduro team hit the Spanish countryside for a weekend of heated (literally) enduro racing. With temperatures topping out near 9oF/32C, racers were battling the intense sun, extreme heat, and a whole lot of challenging terrain.

Swede Alexander Kangas finished up the two days of racing with a 46th place.

American Ryan Gardner raced in his first EWS of the season and was amazed by the speed of the pack. Gardner finished in 87th place on the weekend and is looking forward to testing his mettle in the final round in Finale, Italy this weekend.

Becky Gardner, also racing in her first EWS of the season pushed through the heat to end up 28th.

 

Under 21 racer Leah Maunsell of Ireland is fresh out of high school and ready to put the pedals down hard. She finished the weekend with a 2nd place in the U21 class.

 

Next up: Finale Ligure- perhaps the most beloved course on the EWS circuit. Riders are looking forward to the tracks and race. Practice starts tomorrow!

 

 

 

Kona Riders Tackle Crankzilla at the Whistler Round of the EWS

The World Enduro Series rolled into Whistler for round six of the eight round series and its sole North American stop for 2018 and only its second dry race of the season! Four of the previous five rounds have been wet, muddy and miserable events, for this round it was the reverse, with BC in a bit of heatwave the was no moisture, mind you, the lack of moisture didn’t mean there was going to be anymore traction, the dust-covered roots and rocks proving just as treacherous as slimy Austrian roots. With Rhys Verner still out with a healing scaphoid, it was up to Kona Global Enduro Team Riders Alexander Kangas and Scott Countryman to represent and fly the Kona flag. Kona Supreme Hannah Bergemann had made the trip up from Bellingham and young 18-year-old Sunshine Coast enduro ripper Lucy Schiek was also in attendance.

Last year Alex’s Whistler EWS ended as quickly as it started, two minutes into stage one, a mechanical stopped him in his tracks and ruined all hopes of even finishing the stage. He was hoping for the exact opposite this year. His season leading up to the event has been his best EWS so far, despite a rough start and a DNF at the last round due to a mechanical, he was starting this event just outside of the top 30 pro men in 36th place.

Thursday and Friday were practice days and Alex decided that knocking off the 20+ minute Top of the World stage was a good place to start. Unlike last years raw TOTW stage, this year used a ton of bike park trails which meant for more holes and braking bumps but a little more flow. Saturday he hit up the remaining stages one through four, some which were located outside of the bike park. These were shorter more technical stages but according to Alex “It was clear that the final stage was still gonna have a huge impact in the overall result for race day.”

Race day for Alex was real mixed bag “After the climb up to stage one I just felt so fatigued, I had absolutely zero energy going up.” Turns out though, even with a crash on the stage, he did have something in the tank, finishing the opening stage in 26th place. Stage two started after the same steep fire road climb as stage one and his result on that was not quite as good, crossing the line a few places back in 34th due to a small crash.

Stage three was a favorite for most of the field during practice, Alex included. His race run reflected this with another top 30 stage finish, this time in 26th place. He was now sitting in 28th after the first three stages. With no energy left, the flattish and pedal heavy stage four really took its toll and it was here that he slipped out of the 30’s and finished in 40th. With just the monster stage five remaining he set off towards the very top of Whistler. The jugling act of finishing with your bike in one piece, and not making silly mistakes meant the Alex would ride the final stage conservatively. “I just went to slow on that one, tried to conserve my energy which had me settle for 43rd on that stage and 37th overall. It was not the best race for me but seeing that I didn’t even finish last year it was still OK”

Scott Countryman, much like Alex, has been having a great season, mixed in with a couple of results marred by mechanicals. Fresh off a solid 6th place at the Aspen Big Mountain Enduro just over a week ago, Scott, a Whistler virgin, made the trek up from his base in Arizona and got straight into it spending his first day in paradise sampling some of Whistler Valleys subline single track.

Day one of practice was a bit of a wake-up call, he’s not a fan of bike parks and after his amazing first day outside of the park, the lower half of stage one was a rude awakening. “The trails in the park were extremely rough and blown out. When it came time to practice the Top Of The World stage I was feeling a little better about things but was quickly put down in the dirt. Going pretty fast, I came over a blind rise and found myself on the bad line in a rocky left turn. No big deal, just a few scrapes and sore spots, but I couldn’t get back on my game after that.”

Day two of practice had him feeling much better about things. With the two first stages being outside the bike park and being more of the raw natural terrain Scott prefers. “They are still extremely rough but I found a little bit of flow on them.”

On race day Scott’s first stage was going great until a few turns from the finish, he found a wet boggy section and ended up on the ground. Unsure how the crash even happened he was shaken. The second stage was probably the hardest of the weekend for Scott and the one he the struggled most on. There were bomb holes and ruts covering the entire course; many of which were not there in practice. “It took everything I had to stay on my bike and I succumbed to the trail eventually, blowing off the trail in a rough rooty turn ending up tangled in my bike.”

“Things started to smooth out on the third and fourth stages and found a little bit of flow but still couldn’t get up to pace. The last stage was the mother of all stages; 11km and 1500m of descending. I needed to pace myself to make it down smooth and clean but I went a bit too far and finished with more energy than I should have. My bike rode perfectly all day but I couldn’t match its performance.”

Scott would finish the day in 69th position.

18-year-old Lucy Shieck is a Grassroots Kona racer based on BC’s Sunshine Coast, she has been having an awesome season locally with a bunch of podium finishes. Coming into this, her first ever EWS event, her goal was to have as much fun as possible, and it looks like she certainly did that! “I felt fast on the bike and by the time I made it to the bottom of stage five all I wanted to do was go up and race it again I had so much fun. I was super stoked to take second at my first ever EWS and to share it with two other Canadians made it even better. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me this season, it has been incredible!”

Alexander Kangas Reports on His Best Ever EWS Result

Words Alexander Kangas Photos Sven Martin

I flew out from Stockholm on Sunday and arrived late in Toulouse, it felt great being at the venue a few days prior to the actual race weekend start, stress levels were way lower than normal.

I walked stage five on Tuesday, it contained a lot of switchbacks and steep corners (overall a good stage by the looks of it) then on Wednesday the first day of practice was underway, we got to practice stages two and four between 9am-1pm and stages two and three from 2pm-6pm. The stages had a big variety, but all of them were steep and contained a bit of everything, in my opinion, just how Enduro should be.

Practice went well, we were allowed to do only one run on stages one, two, four, five, six, eight and nine (nine and five were the same stage). The public uplift situation was a bit shit, in my opinion, we had to wait a long, long time standing in line all day.

The second day of practice was good, the stages ( five, six, seven, eight, nine) were steep and technical, just the way I like them!

The first day of racing on Friday started off good on stages one and two, the liaisons were terrible, they were so steep we had to walk them, I had a small crash on stage three, and as well a small crash on four. Stage five was the best stage of the day, and by far my quickest with a third place on that stage and I sat in 22nd place overall after the first day of racing, which felt great.

Saturday, the second day of racing, just went through problem free for me, I felt a bit conservative throughout the entire second day of racing, no crashes, no sketchy moments at all, and that’s normally a sign I’ve been going a bit too slow, I felt that I wanted to have a result with me from the weekend instead of crashing out or having a mechanical.

I ended the weekend in 31st place, my best EWS result so far!

Now I’m back training in Sweden getting ready for the upcoming North American rounds of the EWS at the end of July.

Ryan Gardner and Alexander Kangas take on Round Three of the EWS in Madeira

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.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

All Photos: Sven Martin

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.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

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.

Got Mud? Ryan Gardner and Alexander Kangas Embrace Yet Another Wet EWS Round in Madeira

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Alexander Kangas chases Ryan Gardner down one of Day 1’s slippery stages during the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal. Photo Sven Martin

California-based Kona enduro pro Ryan Gardner and Swedish Grassroots rider Alexandre Kangas have made the trip to Madeira, Portugal for round 3 of the Enduro World Series. The pair headed out today to practice on stages 1 through 4. “It’s crazy how different each trail is as you work your way down the mountain.” Ryan is not alone with his statement here, as both riders note that every stage is like an entirely different ecosystem, each containing differing terrain as the race drops from the alpine to sea level.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Alexander uses his tires to soak up that pesky mud during the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal. Photo Sven Martin

It seems like every Enduro World Series event of late has been battling the elements. Riders who were early to arrive to stop three in Madeira have been enjoying dry weather and riding this past week. But it seems as though the EWS might just be cursed, the moment the official practice kicked off earlier today, the rain arrived.

Looking at the forecasted weather though, it does look like we will see a reversal of the first two rounds, with overcast and sunny days on the horizon. Always looking on the bright side, Ryan was quick to point out that it wasn’t wet all day. “First day of practice was full on! We had a good bit of rain on the higher elevation stages (1+2), but the sun was shining on and off once we made it down to the lower ones.”  Alexander echoed his sentiment “I’m very happy with how the day went, I felt fast and strong all day, the rain made it tricky here and there, but I think it will make for some good racing come the weekend!”

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Ryan Gardner finds off camber gold/loam. Photo Sven Martin

After today’s practice, both riders are pumped for the weekend’s race days, stages three and four in particular. As Ryan puts it “Stage 3 is super gnarly with slippery rocks up top and high speed rough sections down below. The final stage of day one (stage 4) is completely different with deep ruts and good dirt. My process 153 is doing a phenomenal job eating up the chunk add I’m looking forward to seeing what tomorrow’s practice brings! So far this island is incredible!” Alexander agrees “The first day of practice was great but challenging, we had rain showers on most of the stages today which made things super tricky! Stages 3 and 4 are in my opinion the best, but they are also the most challenging ones!”

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Photo Sven Martin

With tomorrow’s practice looking it might be free of rain, things should go a little smoother for the two Process 153 riders.

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Alexander

During the third stop of the 2017 Enduro World series in Madeira, Portugal.

Ryan.

50 Rad Seconds of Alexander Kangas

Swedish Super Grassroots Enduro racer Alexander Kangas teamed up with Mountainbike STHLM to work on these two rad videos. The above is a very cool little shredit (that would be shred-edit) featuringAlexander railing his new 2017 Kona Process 153DL on his local trails, and then the below webisode takes a look back at his 2016 season.

There are subtitlesles available for the below video, so a solid understanding of the Swedish language might come in handy.