The second day of racing in Derby delivered whether you were behind the bars or on the outside of the tape.
When the funding for the Blue Derby mountain bike trails was announced, many thought it might be a waste. That a bunch of cash can't make a dying town in a corner of Tasmania into a mountain bike town, breathing new life into a community. Few would have thought that in such a short time, not only would the price of real estate have just about tripled, but mountain biking created jobs for the town of Derby, and placed it on the world map of mountain biking. In 2017 the world of mountain biking saw what the Blue Derby trails had to offer. And in 2019 they showed that there will always be more to come.
After a crazy afternoon with Stage One on Saturday, where Martin Maes and Isabeau Courdurier stamped their mark on the race (just like last week). As the Queen stage the potential for large gaps was there, throw in a spatter of rain that made some riders runs a bit slippery, but not everyones, and all of a sudden the next 5 stages today would be spent defending, chasing, or letting it all hang out if the rider had tanked on stage one.
A cold dawn - a new day
Sunday morning was crisp in Derby. With a clear night, temperatures were well into the single digits, but the cold ground crunched under tyres as riders in the EWS 100 got their mornings started before the sun warmed the valley.
Riders checked in on the main stage before riding up the shuttle road and to the start of Stage 2 - Detonate. The trail won EWS stage of the year in 2017, and the slot through the granite boulders has become pretty synonymous for the black diamond trails here in Blue Derby. Martin Maes and Jill Kintner were the fastest down the slot in the rock, but really all that anyone spoke about at the bottom was the crowds. And it only got bigger.
Stages three and four took a long liaison back up Long Shadows and then to the Snig Track, before heading into Stage 3 and 4. These two stages were wuite pedally, but at the same time Stage 3 had plenty of opportunities for sniper rocks to take out a rogue pedal, so wheel and foot placement was key. Stage four was crowded on the lower slopes as the trail finished right on the main street of Derby. Both stages left riders gasping at the finish. Maes and Courdurier were the fastest, and Connor Fearon was a little further back on this stage, while on Stage 4 Aussie Ben Forbes was 7th and Rowena Fry won. An XCO background helps for some enduro stages it seems?
After a break, riders were back up the hill, and into two rocky and hard stages. Shearpin is the wheel killer, and then a long liaison with a climb up Black Dragon and then onto Krushkas would take riders to a crowd favourite - Trouty. It's fast, it's natural, and the bottom is pretty raw until the step gap.
So there was a switch again, and while Jesse Melamed won the stage in the men, Connor Fearon ws right behind and then sat in 3rd overall. Isabeau Courdurier is good just about everywhere and won stage 5, and Jill Kintner was 3rd, moving up the overall again.
On Trouty, things couldn't change too much. The stage was too short for a big impact. But then, gaps were so small, risks and reward needed to be weighed up. There would be a whole lot hanging out.
Sam HIll was the fastest down, and Jill Kintner was the fastest woman. The crowds were wild, and Ben Forbes admitted that he thought he'd just let it roll and have fun - but it was too easy to get caught up in the crowd and let it all hang out.
In the end Martin Maes took the overall, with Florian Nicolai in second (one up from last week) and Connor Fearon slotting into 3rd. He's said the enduro racing is prep for the downhill World Cup but it looks like he's pretty handy at it as well... is it the flats?
Isabeau Courdurier was the winner, despite questioning her tyre's airtightness at the bottom of Trouty. Jill Kintner was 2nd ahead of Taswegian Rowena Fry.
We all ammased in the event village for presentations. Stories were told, fists were bumped, and beers were bought. It's a real mix of riders on the EWS scene but one thing is clear. Those that come from XCO and DH enjoy the more open structure. You race against the clock but you can spend the rest of the day riding with friends. You're not cooped up in a hotel waiting for a race run, but out riding trails then letting it hang out on the descents. And that sounds like a good way to spend the weekend to us, no matter whether you have a plate on or not.