EWS

All New Kona Process Tops the Podium at EWS Finale Ligure

Kona riders were out in force over this past week in Finale Ligure for the final round Enduro World Series. New Zealand, Sweden, Ireland, France and Canada were all represented. The physical and technical nature of the seven stages did take its toll on riders, however: Jonathan Maunsell, Alexander Kangas and Jordan Regnier all had their weekends end abruptly, but our two U21 riders, Leah Maunsell and Rhys Verner, both had weekends they will remember forever.

Rhys had an absolute stormer of a weekend. Not only did he ride the all-new Process 153 CR/DL to the top spot in the men’s U21 category by over a minute, but his time was fast enough to put him in 13th in the pro-men’s field.

Leah, who led after the first day of racing, tried her best in the tightly contested women’s U21 field to lengthen that lead on day two. She’s no stranger to the podium at EWS events but the stop step has eluded her. The final of stage would be her undoing, losing precious seconds relegating her to second place. Not the top spot she was looking for but an amazing result for the young rider all the same.

We have both Rhys and Leah‘s race reports below, along with some fantastic photos from our EWS photographer Sven Martin.

Rhys Verner

What a week for me! This was pretty much a dream trip as far as racing and fun goes. The whole week leading up to the final round of the Enduro World Series was great, going for long rides and just taking in the amazing scenery of Finale! Pre-riding the stages I felt great and right at home on the new Process 153 CR DL and I genuinely couldn’t wait to get the racing underway. The weekend started out with a 20-minute stage from the highest mountain at around 1400m and descended almost all the way back down to sea level.

I’ve always been a fan of the long stages coming from XC but this stage went better than I could have hoped for. I ended up pulling a 39-second lead on the 2nd place U21 rider and had by far my best stage result ever with a time that would have had me 5th in the Elite men’s category. The rest of the day I tried to ride smooth and just stay within my limits as to not toss away the lead. I ended day one with a 36-second lead in U21 and ranked 7th overall.

Day two I woke up again ecstatic to get the racing underway and pedaled up to the stages full of energy and just living the dream. I again rode smooth throughout the stages and ended up winning stages four, five, and six, with one stage left to go I had a 1:14 lead on the nearest competitor. Stage 7 was a rough stage so I played it on the safer side as to get down in one piece and secured my first EWS win with an overall time that would have placed me 13th in the pro men’s field.

I am coming away from this race with a lot of confidence knowing that I can ride with the best and really couldn’t be happier with how the week went! – Rhys Verner

Leah Maunsell

Coming into day two with a 9-second lead after the first day’s racing was great, but I knew it was going to be a tight battle right until the end. With a 50km loop and 1300m of climbing to tackle it was going to be a tough day in the saddle. I was delighted to be battling it out for the top step right until the last stage but missed out by 12 seconds. I could say that I’m a little disappointed, but how could you after a great week riding in Finale Ligure. Getting to finish off my season with some really tight racing and ending it on the beach with some gelato with your mates was amazing! – Leah Maunsell

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.

Kona Super Grassroots riders report from Round 1 of the 2016 EWS in Chile

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

Ryan Gardner during practice on Day 1 of 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile. Photo Sven Martin

Kona Super Grassroots enduro riders Ryan Gardner and James Rennie made the decision this year to take their Process 153’s and tackle a bunch of EWS rounds, both riders figured that kicking things off with Round 1 in Chilé, South America was as good a place to start as anywhere. Over the four epic days, between practice and racing, Ryan and James rode over 120 miles and climbed over 20,000 feet. Both coming from full time work at their respective homes, the two posted some solid results over the weekend. James’ first stage result of 32nd being one of them and Ryan’s consistency, which placed him in the top 50 (surround by full-time sponsored professionals) being his. Unfortunately for James, a very similar top 50 result was thwarted as he snapped his chain powering out of the very flat stage six start. Both Ryan and James have fired through their race reports, read on to hear about round one of the Enduro World Series went from their perspectives.

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

James Rennie embracing the Spirit of Enduro on the first day of practice, because of the physical nature of the courses only one practice run was possible, creating any incredibly level field of riders where everyone was essentially racing blind. Photo Sven Martin

Round 1 of the Enduro World Series in Corral, Chile is in the books and it was everything that makes Enduro great. Huge days on the bike, far off places, friendly people, and rugged downhills all combined to make an awesome kickoff to the season. With Corral being well off the beaten path for most EWS racers, everyone came into the race with zero knowledge of the courses. Almost everyone’s first glimpse of the stages was during practice on Thursday and Friday and with the distance between each stage, only one practice run was possible. This made for nearly blind racing on tracks that never looked overly difficult, but made for some very tricky racing. Most of the courses started with tough corners and lots of pedaling before dropping into more technical descents. The super steep and physically demanding switchbacks on stages two and five claimed handfuls of riders both during practice and the race as fatigue began to set in. World class riders, even those known for their fitness, began to show visible signs of wear as the week wore on. However, the absolutely stunning backdrop of coastal Chile, and a backpack full of empinadas made the grinding climbs a little easier to power through.

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

James Rennie en route to a 32nd place finish in Stage 1 , during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile. Photo Sven Martin

After a winter of racing cyclocross and doing big rides around California, I was hoping to meet the first round with a full head of steam and all the fitness I could ask for. Instead I was forced to meet the 120 miles and 20k feet of climbing over four days with a pretty solid cold that never quite let me feel like myself. With that in mind I told myself that I needed to just get through the weekend and not worry too much about placing. However, as any racer knows, it’s easy to get a little over excited and I pushed myself way too hard on stage one. I finally blew my hands off the bars in a hard g-out and took a digger. I got up as fast as I could and sprinted hard to make up time, only to blow out the very next corner in the loose dirt and dust. I finished off the stage and decided that it was probably better to dial it back a bit and be consistent and I managed to stay off the ground for the rest of the weekend. There were a few injuries including a compound fractured ankle that really highlighted the risks involved with riding as close to the line as you can on demanding trails with minimal practice. Enduro is continuing to come into its own and the consistent speed and concentration required to be a top international rider is truly impressive.

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

Ryan Gardner trying not to get distracted by the insane views of coastal Chilé, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile. Photo Sven Martin

The whole race experience was a blast as it was visibly clear how excited the people of Corral were to be hosting an international group of racers. Each transfer stage was made a little easier by the throngs of locals smiling and waving as we passed and the Spanish cheers echoing from along the steepest parts of the descent. It was also nice to share the climbs and recap the previous stages with new super grassroots racer James Rennie who was having a killer weekend (placing near the top 30 on stage one!) before getting unlucky on the last stage with a broken chain. I am personally super happy to have made the top 50 riders and place 5th fastest American. Not too bad for an office jockey with a cold! Next up is a day or two of rest and then on to Argentina this weekend for Round 2. – Ryan Gardner

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

Vancouver based Kiwi, James Rennie, recovering after the first days racing at the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile. Photo Sven Martin

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

James Rennie, Foot Out, Flat Out. Photo Sven Martin

After two long days of practice I was already feeling weary coming in to the first day of racing. The trails in Corral proved to have a good mix of everything, great dirt and high speeds seemed to be the main theme though. Day one went well for me, finishing the day in 60th after losing a whole of time on stage two. I was stoked with my first stage time though, where I finished in 32nd.

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

James Rennie Scandi flick though a Chilean switchback, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile. Photo Sven Martin

Day two the weather was cooler making the climbs a bit more manageable. My legs felt great and stages four and five went well with both finishes around the top 50. After a longer wait at the top of the final stage my legs felt fresh, so fresh that I snapped my chain out of the gate and couldn’t get along the first flat section of the stage losing a whole lot of time. All in all it was a great weekend and the first EWS I have successfully finished! I ended up 73rd.

The Process 153 smashed it all weekend and it was great to hang out with fellow Kona Super Grassroots rider, Ryan Gardner. – James Rennie

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

Ryan Gardner, keeps calm and consistent en route to his solid top 50 finish. Photo Sven Martin

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

Look mom, no chain. James Rennie rode all of stage six from the start gate to the finish line chain-less. Photo Sven Martin

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

James Rennie getting all colour coordinated in some fresh 2016 TLD kit , during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile. Photo Sven Martin

, during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one Valdivia, Corral, Chile.

Ryan roosts some of the hero dirt in Corral, Chilé during the 2016 Enduro World Series, round one. Photo Sven Martin

Full Results can be found here.