Photo Essay: 50th Enduro World Series Race in Val di Fassa Italy

The 50th edition of the Enduro World Series this past weekend brought riders deep into the Italian Dolomites, to the stone-surrounded mountain hamlet of Canazei.
Stage 5 of the MET Val di Fassa EWS race launched from to the top of Tutti Frutti trail, ending with wooden ramps and berms in the town below. The 6.5 kilometer “queen stage” dropped a total of 979 meters, with only 37 meters of payback. Remi Gauvin hit the bottom in 13 minutes and 8.38 seconds to fill the 11th position on the stage.

The 50th edition of the Enduro World Series this past weekend brought riders deep into the Italian Dolomites, to the stone-surrounded mountain hamlet of Canazei. Climbs in the 41-kilometer-long, single-day race were largely handled by gondolas, which made the 35° Celsius (95° F) temps more bearable. The one fully pedal-powered transition on stage 2 was over quickly, crawling up a doubletrack road to gain 210 meters over 2.97 kilometers.

The slopes below Passo Pordoi were far drier than the average spring, and a lot of riders opted for the trusty Scandinavian-Flick to set up for fast and loose turns.

Unlike some other EWS venues, the trails around Val di Fassa are not packed with large jumps or intimidating drops, but racers managed to find hangtime on the mountain’s more natural features to straighten and smooth out the track.

Dirt naps were few and far between this round, though I did manage to catch this master’s racer checking the soil flavor midway down stage one.

The first stage included some twisty and fast sections in the forest, growing more root strewn and steeper toward the end.

The unusual amount of dust had a lot of folks riding closer to 80-90% of their max speed to keep upright, but there were a few racers willing to trust their grip and let it rip.

The stages crossed massive ski slopes numerous times while dipping in out of the spruce and larch forests. Do you recognize the rider sitting with her legs crossed, checking teammate times? Hint: She is usually winning these races rather than watching them.

Carolin Gehrig, of Norco Twins Racing, had a solid day, finishing in 16th position overall.

Series leader Isabeau Courdurier nearly swept the day, winning all but stage 4 to maintain her impressive season aboard a new Intense Carbine 29er.

Weather erosion has left the Dolomites with only steep stone on top, making it difficult to find a shabby view in the area.

Israeli rider, Noga Korem, stood on the podium once again in Italy, finishing 51.12 seconds behind Rocky Mountain/Race Face Enduro Team’s Andreane Lanthier Nadeau (ALN),  who earned the second spot.

Foot out or in, the dust was something to manage in nearly every turn.

A few of the transitions between ski slopes and trees started with steep chutes like this one.

The dust on stage four looked more like loam in the trees and made for some proper roost as riders worked to maintain corner speed.

Rae Morrison looked fast and hungry for a podium position, but the competition came as steep as the tracks, and despite a sickness caught during travel, she slotted an impressive 8th place for the day.

Italian national enduro champ Alex Lupato carving some local loam.

British rider Leigh Johnson had an impressive day at the 4th EWS round of the season, finishing in 11th place out of the 146 riders in the Elite Men’s category.

Richie Rude smashed through each of the stages with a focused intensity, winning all but stage 4 to take the win in his first event back from suspension.

Sam Hill was looking back on form and had no trouble with the dust and high temps while earning the second step on the elite podium.

In EWS events, every little bump in the forest becomes a ramp to skip over the next obstacle.

Florian Nicolai rode a clean and consistent race, never dipping below 5th position across the 5 stages, to complete the day in 3rd place, just over 5 seconds behind Sam Hill.

Nearly all of the stages started with a sunny sprint into the forest, and there was a lot of discussion around proper hydration and nutrition to make it through the day.

Masters women waiting for those few slow beeps of the start timer as they get in the zone.

Snow and glaciers on the high alpine slopes are in their annual melt cycles, and the streams they create provided refreshing spots to spectate.

Rae Morrison fighting to focus on her line instead of the breathtaking views all around her.

Courdurier looked wicked fast and smooth on her new wagon-wheel whip.

The mountains received a healthy amount of late-season snowfall, which fortunately resulted in an equally late wildflower bloom.

The Ancillotti Factory Team had several riders competing for points in the EWS 100 races, and one shredder in the elite category.

Pivot Factory Racing’s Eddie Masters brought all of his gravity style and skill to the fore, reaching the final timer in 4th place overall.

A majority of riders opted for clear goggle lenses in anticipation of the transitions from shade to blistering bright sunlight.

The roots on stage 4 received a proper aerating.

The top of stage 5 was as loose and dusty as a trail can be, requiring precise braking and laser focus to navigate the rutted powder.

Masters with a foot out atop the final descent.

These mountains are at least as photogenic as the protection-clad competitors.

Elbows out, eyes up, heels down, and pure focus. Sam Hill is fighting his way back to the peak of the results list, and still has a solid chance of winning the series overall.

Moto-sweeps closed each stage, followed by hordes of journalists and fans who were pumped to get the chance to eat some dust. Look for a detailed article on the Val di Fassa trails in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can follow news of the next race in Les Orres, France here. We will be back to cover the final EWS event of the season in Zermatt, Switzerland, on the 21st of September.