Words and Photographs by Matt Rousu

The third and final round of the 2018 Shimano Enduro Tour has been run and won by our sports most dominant figures in Australian Enduro Mountain Biking, Sam Hill and Rowena Fry.

The alpine mountain bike mecca Mt Buller was the host for the event which also doubled as round 2 of the Asia-Pacific Continental Enduro Series with both Nelson and Christchurch, NZ still to come in 2019. The event not only attracted riders from all over Australia but also a handful of athletes from New Zealand and the Philippines. One notable highlight was the return to racing for Liv Factory racer Rae Morrison from New Zealand.

The event was scheduled over the first weekend of Summer and Saturday’s practice looked just like it, fresh cut lines into existing trails made for some loose and almost dusty conditions in the Alpine resort. Riders were utilising the shuttle service provided by All Terrain Cycles to cut as many laps as possible of the 3 stages that were in the village, 3 more stages were only accessible by bike and the long ride out to Stonefly for the Elite categories made for a long day of practice. The sun was shining and the stoke was high and everyone was super happy with how the event was progressing...

Saturday night turned the tables though. Super heavy rainfall, lightning and strong wind had the start time delayed an hour so the crew could survey the trails for damage. The vibe in the village had shifted and thoughts turned to another Enduro Wet Series situation and as the first riders rolled out onto the first liaison a thick fog shrouded the whole mountain.

However, about an hour later the sun decided to come back out and begin drying the trails, Shannon from All Terrain Cycles assured me that the trails have really good run-off and was confident it would be an awesome day.

Josh Carlson awaits.

I wasn’t so sure, but after Stage 1 (which was unanimously the slickest track of the day) each track was at near mint condition with only a few puddles and slippery roots to deal with. Gradually the vibe shifted back even though the temperature was hovering at around 5 degrees all day.

Sam Hill would sum it up best:

“Today was good, started off pretty cold after some storms last night, but all the trails are running awesome. I just tried to get around with 6 clean stages and pretty happy with how I rode. This weekend was the start of my training for the 2019 EWS season and it’s good for the sport here in Australia to have these events, it’s great to be able to compete on different tracks in Australia and also to see the up and coming riders.”

With a time of 23:50.51 Sam definitely rode clean to take a clean sweep of every stage and win by over 37 seconds, Chris Panozzo rode consistent and only lost chunks of time to Sam on the longer stages while Ben Cory rounded off the podium a further 7 seconds back.

The womens field was stacked with talent but it was Rowena Fry who dominated the day winning in a time of 27:25.09, she didn’t have the perfect day like Sam though.

She mentioned “Today was good but I had a little bit of an off on the last stage, so I was pretty happy not to lose too much time, apart from that I had a really good day”, She now plans to focus on the next two Continental Rounds in NZ before Rotorua and Derby EWS.

Emily Parkes and Rae Morrison battled closely for 2nd and 3rd all day but it was Parkes who made up time on the longer stages to take 2nd on the day.

After 4 months off the bike it was Morrisons first race back mentioning she was “thrown in the deep end but it was a cool, fun race and holiday in Australia and I’ve been having a blast here”. She’ll be heading along to the Cannonball Festival in Thredbo later this week to continue her training for the 2019 EWS season.

All results from the event can be found here.

Massive shout out to the crew at EMS who ran another successful event that had a few curveballs thrown in. A super fun event at one of the most epic mountain bike locations in Australia!