The Enduro World Series heads to it’s spiritual home of France this week for round five, the Natural Games Millau EWS driven by URGE bp.
Part of the Natural Games, the EWS riders will be immersed in this celebration of sport and music that features, amongst others, climbing, parkour, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and paragliding. Now in it’s tenth year, the Natural Games is Europe’s largest outdoor event, attracting crowds of 100,000 over four days.
This two day race will feature nine stages across 88 kilometres, with a huge 4200m of total descent. Taking place on trails typical of the Aveyron region in Southern France, competitors will be up against a mixture of loamy and rocky trails, some of which are intimidatingly steep.
And as we enter the last half of the season, the stakes couldn’t be higher. In the men’s competition the race for series points is the tightest it has ever been – with just 20 points separating series leader Greg Callaghan (Cube Action Team) and second placed Sam Hill (Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic). Adrien Dailly (Lapierre) sits 40 points behind Hill in third place, and with two EWS wins already this year, including at the last round in Ireland, the Frenchman is the hot favourite to take the win on home soil.
In the women’s race Cecile Ravanel (Commencal Vallnord Enduro Team) leads the standings and will be looking for another victory in front of her home crowd. But trying their best to stop her will be second place Ines Thoma (Canyon Factory Enduro Team) and third placed Katy Winton (Trek Factory Racing Enduro Team) – with just 30 points between them these two will be battling hard this weekend. Isabeau Courdurier (SUNN) is also an ever present threat – she’s the only rider to beat Ravanel so far this season and will also be hoping to put on a show for her French fans.
It’s another French rider that leads out the Master’s category – Karim Amour (BH Miranda Racing Team) has won all four races so far this season. Chasing him down will be Nigel Page of Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic and reigning World Champion Michael Broderick. In the Master’s Women it’s Mary Mcconnelloug who is leading the charge.
Killian Callaghan is out front in the U21 Men, but faces stiff competition in the form of Daniel Self and Nathan Secondi. Over in the U21 Women Martha Gill commands an impressive points lead, but Estelle Charles of France beat her at the last round so expect to see a fierce race from these two.
In the team race strong performances from the Gehrig twins and Robin Wallner mean it’s Ibis Cycles Enduro Race Team out front, but they can’t afford to relax with second and third placed Canyon Factory Enduro Team and Rocky Mountain – URGE bp not far behind.
Chris Ball, Managing Director of the Enduro World Series, said: “This is the first time the EWS has visited Millau and the trails are incredible. It’s also the first time the series has been part of such a huge festival and it’s great to see mountain biking sitting alongside other sports like climbing and kayaking. Our French rounds always deliver really exciting racing and I’m sure Millau will too – especially with such a tight points race on our hands as head into the last half of the season.”