On a dusty and scorching day in Les Deux Alpes GT Factory Racing’s Martin Maes was first of the team to tackle Stage 1 of EWS Round 3, part of the Crankworx Festival at Les Deux Alpes. As series leader the youngster started last in the Junior category and put in his usual full-on performance over the brutal 15 minute stage, but he struggled on the longer stags but still took second in the Junior class, 25.5 seconds behind Loris Vergier.
Stage 1 is a bit less rocky than Stages 2 or 4 with a good stretch of open meadow in the top section but it’s also the most physical stage of the day with, as Rachel Atherton described it from her spectator’s post “A bitch of a hill!” The lower section of the stage is grassy, slick and fairly technical – in fact riders report hidden dangers all over the mountain with gnarly holes and rocks hidden under the wildflowers – even more significant in this competition where adjustments can only be made at the pits and mechanics are not allowed on course.
Dan Atherton started 6th from last and as predicted he put in a steady first run to finish 14th with a Stage time of 15.05.682. Stage winner Jerome Clementz went all out to dominate the event from the start putting an incredible 25.5 seconds into the entire field.
Transfers for this event were mostly by chairlift. Stage 2 on the East side of the town is probably the most technical of all the Stages, it’s loose, dry, steep and exposed with seriously gnarly rock sections which were causing some consternation in Saturday’s practise.
Martin rode a storming stage to take back 8 seconds on Vergier with a time of 8.47.61 taking the Junior Stage win and 18th on the Stage overall. Dan’s Downhill skills came to the fore allowing him to move up the ranks on this challenging stage to arrive 7th in the field with a time of 8.33.78.
Stage 3 is back on the West of the Valley and Martin continued to battle back from his Stage 1 set back with an outstanding Junior win over Vergier, 12th on the Stage overall, narrowing the gap for the overall lead to 12 seconds – close enough for a nail-biting fourth and final stage until a crash left him second on the Stage and second on the day overall.Dan also had a brilliant run on Stage 3, the shortest stage of the day with a time of 4.02.217 grabbing a Stage Second +2.133 behind Loic Bruni. He kept up the pressure for Stage Four, another technical, Downhill style section with a short climb to the finish, securing another Stage 2nd with a time of 6.03.219 ( 2 seconds behind Sam Blenkinsop), to seize the 5th place overall.
Dan said “This event is gnarly! I was so hot out there, the bike went well and I’m pleased with the way I rode it – especially in the latter stages, there’s some tough competition out there and I was struggling to fight off a cold all weekend so all in all I’m happy with the end result”.
1 Jerome Clementz 32.54.73
2 Nicolas Vouilloz 33.15.02
3 Sam Blenkinsop 33.17.79
4 Remy Absalon 33.42.69
5 Dan Atherton 33.44.09
All Photos: Sven Martin