This year marks the fourth time athletes have assembled to race the Enduro World Series in La Thuile, Italy, though the 2021 race has a decidedly different feel. Late season snow blanketed the highest trails until just a few weeks ago, leaving the mountain’s small crew of trail builders to work on lower tracks and reconfigure where the race could be held. Similar to the situation with rounds one and two in Val di Fassa, the weather made a lot of decisions for race organizers, and everyone simply had to adapt.
The usual plans for peak-top start lines that make for some of the season’s longest stages have been chopped in half, and both of the rounds will take place on the same shorter trails. Fortunately, the tracks in La Thuile are some of the steepest and most demanding on the EWS calendar, so the athletes won’t leave without a legit challenge.
The weather also looks to keep things spicy with heavy rains forecasted for round three during both practice and race day. The clouds burn off for round four this weekend, but the weather in La Thuile is as unpredictable as in any alpine village.
The trails for Thursday’s race start off with a track that’s made up of several old favorites. The La Joux trail spans 2.93 kilometers, with 563 meters of descent, with an exposed view of the Alps through the first third before it dips into the trees and tilts steeper. Stage two takes place on the lower half of the Colle della Croce trail, with 2.54 kilometers total length and 518 meters of descent. It’s renamed Miniere for this round. The track is largely smooth and the dirt soft, which will bring speeds up significantly. After that little rest from the rough, riders take the lift up to La Fresa, where they’ll find some of the steepest chutes on the mountain over the course of a short 2.2 kilometers and 618 meters of rear-wheel sliding. Finally, Vertical trail will offer a little pedaling between the fall-lines, with 738 meters of descending sprinkled along its 4.18 kilometers.
The pro stage on Saturday and all of round four on Sunday will roll those same trails, with slight variations. Some riders are unhappy with the doubled trail situation, stating that’s it’s not in the spirit of enduro to race the same course twice. While no one is really arguing against that sentiment, there are plenty of athletes who are happy to be able to do their jobs this year and to have the chance to compete again regardless of the circumstances. The pandemic has been devastating for the economies in these small mountain communities, and they simply don’t have the resources to open more trail ahead of the race. Fortunately, the sun will do its work, and we can all come to enjoy the higher trails in La Thuile in another few weeks.