After winning EWS title in Snowmass, Sam Hill now eyes 2017 series crown
Australian Sam Hill isn’t missing much from his resume. A five-time downhill world champion (his last major overall title came in 2010), the Chain Reaction Cycles rider is certainly a modern day legend on a mountain bike.
Missing from that resume is a significant championship in Enduro racing. While the differences are subtle, Enduro does bring in new elements to the traditional downhill riding Hill is used to. However, at the end of the day all that matters is getting down the mountain the fastest, and there aren’t many better at that than Hill.
“There are a few things we’ve changed up,” Hill said in regards to strategy. “I guess trying to learn how to cope with the longer events and the two-day Enduro races. But it’s come pretty natural.”
Competing in the Enduro World Series full time this season for the first time in his career, Hill now is holding down the overall lead in the eight-round EWS after taking Round 6 on Sunday in Snowmass Village. Hill trailed Adrien Dailly in the overall entering the weekend, but now leads Dailly by 40 points in the overall with two rounds remaining.
Hill’s win in Snowmass is the second round win of his EWS career. He had one round victory with two runner-up finishes last season as a part-time rider. He finished 13th overall among pro men in 2016, competing in only five of the eight rounds.
“This year I’ve just been trying and this is probably the last place I expected to get one, but just over the moon,” Hill said of being on top of the Snowmass podium on Sunday. “I knew that both Jared Graves and Richie (Rude) were going to be super fast and tough guys to beat.”
Hill entered Sunday in second place after three of the six stages in the Snowmass round. American rider Richie Rude led the charge after the first day and held an 8.74-second lead on Hill. Graves, last year’s Snowmass round winner, was in fourth.
The first stage of the day on Sunday, the “Snowmass Super D,” was expected to be the make-or-break stage for riders, and it sure lived up to the billing. While slightly shorter in distance than Stage 2 on Aspen Mountain Saturday, Stage 4 isn’t quite as steep and requires more pedaling, making it the weekend’s longest stage in terms of time.
“Stage 4 this morning was awesome,” Hill said. “It’s a long one. Had a little bit of everything. It’s one that I wasn’t expecting to do as good as I did on.”
Among Stage 4’s victims Sunday was Rude, who finished 56th in the stage and was never a factor again. He went from first after Day One to finishing the round in 37th place. This opened the door for Hill, Graves and Martin Maes to battle for the top spot.
Graves was the fastest to finish Stage 4, but Hill and Maes were close behind in second and third, respectively. Hill’s Stage 5 win was crucial, as he gained roughly 5 seconds on Maes and 7 seconds on Graves. Stage 6, the quickest of the weekend, caused plenty of riders trouble, but it wasn’t enough for anyone to catch up to Hill.
Hill finished the six Snowmass stages with a combined time of 46 minutes, 4.34 seconds, while Maes took second, nearly 4 seconds slower, and Graves third, about 8 seconds behind Hill.
Dailly finished the round in sixth place, far enough behind to allow Hill to jump him in the overall standings. The EWS still has stops in Whistler, Canada, on Aug. 13 and Italy Sept. 30-Oct. 1 to finish out the season.
“It’s been my goal all year to try and win this title,” Hill said. “I’ve been sitting second or third all year long. It’s coming down toward the end and it’s awesome to be in the lead. Hopefully we can hold on to it.”
Ravanel cruises to women’s pro title
France’s Cecile Ravanel continues to be on another level in the women’s pro field. The reigning EWS champion added another victory to her season-long domination by rolling to the Snowmass title with a six-stage time of 51:21.3.
Isabeau Courdurier, also of France, was second in 52:08.69, and Canada’s Casey Brown third in 52:11.31.
“Now it feels good. But this morning when I restarted on Stage 4, it was really difficult,” Ravanel said. “I was so tired. I made many mistakes. I had a crash.”
Ravanel finished third, first and first in Saturday’s three stages. While she faced minor difficulty in Stage 4, taking third, she made up for it by winning Stage 5 and taking second in Stage 6 to hold off any challengers.
Ravanel now has won five of the six rounds this season, with a second-place finish in Round 2. She holds a 600-point lead over Great Britain’s Katy Winton in the overall with two rounds to go. Round winners receive 400 points, meaning a lot would have to go wrong for Ravanel to miss out on her second straight EWS crown.
“I feel I can ride for fun, maybe,” Ravanel joked. “But in Enduro, it’s never won.”
In other categories, Aspen’s Whit Boucher was a notable finisher, taking third in the men’s amateur division, won by Eric Senk. New Zealand’s Phoebe Coers was the women’s amateur winner, while Crested Butte’s Sierra Cucinelli was third.
Ireland’s Killian Callaghan was the men’s U21 winner and Denver’s Samantha Soriano the women’s U21 winner. France’s Karim Amour was the men’s masters winner, with Arizona’s Amber Tinstman taking the women’s masters title.
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