Finale Ligure has been a location full of mixed results for our enduro riders. As a U21 rider, Rhys Verner won there in 2017 with a time that would have had him 14th in the elites, but then last season, after coming back from a season plagued with injuries he finished in 56th. Alexander Kangas also has had mixed bag there, but last year an unfortunate crash saw him heli lifted from the race with broken fingers in both hands and a chance he would never race again.
But this weekend, at the Trophy of Nations in Finale, Italy, things turned out a little different for all Kona riders in attendance. We had five riders in total competing. Bellingham-based Hannah Bergemann was racing as an individual on Saturday. On Sunday at the team’s event, Alexander Kangas represented Team Sweden, Miranda Miller and Rhys Verner represented Team Canada and Connor Fearon raced for Team Australia. All three teams were stacked with podium-worthy riders and the chances of Kona finishing the weekend with a World Champion enduro racer where high.
The Trophy of Nations format is something totally new for the EWS. Racers would not be racing by themselves but in teams of three competing as a country. They would drop in together and ride as a train, the following country dropping in a minute later as another team of three behind them. Seeding your team in the right order and tactics would play a big roll.
Team Sweden comprised of regular top ten EWS finisher Robin Wallner, young phenom Zak Johansen (who only finished outside of the top 20 this year once), and long-time Kona enduro rider Alexander Kangas. The three would quietly get things done in the pro men’s field and finish the day standing on the podium, drenched in Champagne with silver medals hanging around their necks.
One step below them in bronze was Team Canada, or if you want to get picky, Team Sea to Sky, as Kona’s Rhys Verner and fellow riding buddies Remi Gauvin and Jesse Melamed all reside in Squamish and Whistler. They would try and pull the Swedes in, eventually finishing just six seconds back in third place.
Connor Fearon and his fellow Team Australia members Sam Hill and Josh Carlson would wrap up the Kona men, finishing in sixth place.
On the women’s side of things Miranda Miller was the only female rider flying the Kona flag in the teams event. Team Canada certainly looked like a podium threat with ALN and Jennifer McHugh joining forces with Miranda. A hard-charging and stacked French Team and an equally hungry British team where not about to roll over and make things easy. Team Canada would finish just over a minute behind France and the UK and take home the bronze medals!
Hannah Bergemann’s headed home with a little extra luggage. She finished every single stage in second place on the pedally Finale course and would head home from the Trophy of Nations individual race with the silver medal, not a bad way to end your season at all.