EWS La Thuile, Racing Style and Opinion Compared to Punta Ala.
The Enduro World Series is now in it’s second year and has visited many spectacular locations so far, as it takes in 7 races per year. Back in May 2013 the very first race ever was held in Punta Ala and showcased an exciting race format. Punta Ala was a perfect Enduro location with 600 metre mountains that start at sea level with trails that finish on a perfect Mediterranean beach, to show case the Enduro World Series. La Thuile the latest round to take place, on the other hand starts at 2800 metres and finishes at 1500 metres and is in a high alpine environment. Two completely different locations, same race format, same experience?
Racing in La Thuile was exciting with championship contenders trying to compete for glory, however that was hard to achieve as the tracks were very long and difficult with bike conservation being paramount and with long pedal elements and extreme weather, everyone was tested to the limit.
The high alpine environments are definitely interesting places to ride with long tracks through the woods, the altitude though does mean it’s harder to access the trails with lift assist necessary, as well as pedalling.
The longer alpine stages do seem to require huge levels of fitness, with many riders performing much better compared to a year ago after a winter of Enduro specific training and preparation.
How does La Thuile compare to Punta Ala style racing? Well in essence both races and locations are fantastic, however La Thuile is only open for riding between June and September, and even then the risk of extreme weather is pretty high, whereas Punta Ala is possible to ride all year with much less extreme weather conditions, however the two locations cross over nicely as when its hot in July and August in Punta Ala, the high alpine tracks are open but when La Thuile is closed the rest of the year it remains possible to ride in Punta Ala, which is great as the holy grail of all year riding is possible in Europe with very little effort.
The tracks themselves in La Thuile were in good condition, with rocks, loose earth, grass and roots all present. The perfect test of any rider and his bike over six stages. Comparing to Punta Ala, it seems that both have positive attributes that suit different riding styles, with Punta Ala being a bit more open to all levels of rider, as the trails have a bit more flow to them and are less extreme in general, but there are enough harder trails to keep those who need the challenge happy. Where do we prefer to ride? Well both are good locations, so its hard to say, Punta Ala is actually more easy to access and ride independently, whereas in La Thuile it’s necessary to use lifts, and pedalling at altitude is tougher due to the thinner air. At the same time the La Thuile descents seem endless, or tiring, depending on which way you prefer to look at it.
There is no doubt La Thuile was a great race, Punta Ala before it also had a great feeling, the beauty of Enduro is that there are so many opinions and locations to choose from, so much so that no one will ever become bored and it’s possible to ride your bike all year in some great places.