Last weekend a huge crew of Kona riders descended on the Italian beach town of Finale for the last round of the 2018 Enduro World Series. It was a truly international team for Kona with Leah Maunsel from Ireland, Rhys Verner from Canada, Alexander Kangas from Sweden and Becky and Ryan Gardner from the USA. For Rhys, it was his last chance at redemption after his season was cut short by two broken scaphoids, for Leah it was her chance to shine on an international stage after wrapping up her final year of high school, Alexander Kangas was looking to move into the top 30 overall after a stellar season of racing and for the Gardner siblings it was the chance to see where they stacked up against the worlds best after a season of work and domestic racing.
Having already missed one round due to a mechanical, Kangas was looking to end the season on a high note in Finale. Not entirely happy with his 46th in Spain he was aiming for a top result here that would move him into the top 30 overall for 2018. A small branch protruding into stage two in practice ruined any changes of that though. It caught Kangas’ bars spun them around and tossed him straight to the rough and rocky ground, hard. Though he got up, he’d suffered a mild concussion, broken fingers in both hands and had a laceration in his elbow that required 20 stitches. After being heli’d off the course, Alex’s season was over. Missing the two rounds cost him, he finished the season in 46th, not where he wanted to be, but still an impressive achievement.
Rhys Verner was looking for redemption. After finishing the 2017 season on a high note with a win in Finale in the U21 which would have had him coming 13th in the pro men. His season started off with a disaster in Chile, crashing at the end of stage one breaking his Scaphoid. After a quick recovery, he was back on his bike and came second to Remi Gauvin at the Squamish Enduro. He made it back to round four of the EWS in Austria/Croatia, but a crash in practice rebroke the Scaphoid. He came into Finale with just seven weeks on the bike eager to see where his pace was after missing of the season with injuries. He was not disappointed.
“After a season plagued by annoying injuries, damn did that feel good to put down a clean race! I ended up 56th in pro men with some pretty consistent stages left me more motivated then ever for next year! All in all my race was very smooth and under control, but 56th is a very good base to build into next year. With seven weeks on the bike since March and a bit of a bunk wrist, things are finally moving in the right direction. My bike of choice this weekend was the Kona Process CR 29er with full Sram Components and DH Casing Maxxis tires, I would not change a thing on the bike and it is helpful to know I am riding the best equipment in the game! ” – Rhys Verner
Irish Ripper Leah Maunsell holds XC, Enduro and DH titles in Ireland and while still in high school has had some solid EWS results over the last couple of years. Racing domestically this summer while finishing her high school studies she came out firing for the final two rounds. Unable to knock an on-form Ella Connoly off the top spot Leah slotted into to second in the U21 category, securing enough points from the two rounds to take out third overall in the 2018 Series!
“Really happy with second place here in Finale Ligure after another sweaty day’s racing. It’s also pretty cool to be Number 3 in the world and it gives me something to work on for next year for sure. It’s not been an easy year for me after a slow start to the season with finishing my school exams and then just being unlucky with injury after injury, so to pull it back and end the season on a high means a lot to me. That’s a wrap from me this season and now it’s time to get home and eventually start University. A huge thanks to Kona for their continued support this year with the flawless Process 153 and for making these trips possible. ” – Leah Maunsell
Originally from the East Coast, brother and sister Ryan Gardner have come up on Kona’s Grassroots teams over the last 10 years while balancing full-time jobs and domestic racing, Ryan in California and Becky in the mountain states of Colorado and Utah. After successful seasons in their home regions, the pair packed up their 2019 Process bikes and headed to the final two rounds of the EWS. Ryan followed last weeks result in Spain with a 112th place while Becky suffered a crash on stage one that ruined her chances of a top 20 result, she had to settle for 39th in Finale.