The Trophy of Nations in the epic Italian seaside town of Finale Ligure always makes for a fitting end to the Enduro World Series (EWS) season. And for this final race we had a whole host of INTENSE riders representing.
We had Seth Sherlock, who along with fellow Canadians Emmett Hancock and Johnathan Helly, raced in the Under 21 class. Then there was the Italian/Spanish/German trio of INTENSE Ambassadors Francesco Colombo, Mariano Mari and Julian Steiner racing in the Industry race, backed up and supported by Francy Lucchini. And finally we had Milan Čižinský and his Czech teammates in the Masters 35+ class. Stacked.
The Trophy of Nations is a really interesting and fun racing format. Teams of three riders race together, one following the other down. The first rider off starts the clock, and the last rider down stops it. What that means is that you all have to ride (or at least finish) as close together as possible, and if one person crashes or has a mechanical it affects the others. The team’s time is only set once everyone is down and across the line.
Hopes were high for the Canadian U21 team, but unfortunately Seth Sherlock hit his chainring on a rock, basically just messing everything up and leaving him and his team out of contention.
“The Trophy of Nations was a rad event, it was my first time in Finale and it didn't disappoint. I suffered a mechanical on stage 1 and couldn't get it fixed until the tech zone before stage 5! It sucks that it had to affect my team, but it is what it is. It still ended up being a really fun test of adversity trying to make the liaisons. It was also rad to see my teammate Johnathan Helly take the fastest individual time of the day.” Seth Sherlock
Seth and the Under 21 Canadian team eventually came home in sixth, over 5 minutes back. Racing can be cruel. It was a tricky day too for Milan Čižinský and his team. They would finish back in seventh, but they seemed to enjoy themselves! The highlight of the weekend had to be the Industry Trophy Pro race. The INTENSE team of Colombo, Mari and Steiner looked good on paper, but anything could happen. You are racing the clock, but of course you are racing your competitors too, and you are relying on your teammates.
Francesco takes up the story for us:
“From the first day of practice we were all pumped to ride the clean and fast Ligurian trails... and the boys immediately understood that this race is no joke. The first and second stages were so long and physical, about 15 minutes each, with technical parts right at the bottom of the trails. Fast sections and rocks made the run stressful, you were either thinking about about losing speed or having a puncture, especially when you are tired after 10 minutes of race run. The third stage was pretty short, but spicy. Starting from an old Castle it finished right down in Finalborgo. The fourth (and last) stage was the famous DH Man, an iconic trail with an amazing view that seems to take you right down into the sea.
Race day started at 7.35am when we were uplifted to the first stage, Fast and Furious, which was slippery for the first part and super fun by the bottom. Our racing strategy here was Mariano on the front, Julian on his back wheel and me closing the group, and saving my energy. Unfortunately Julian washed-out in a corner so Mariano pulled away and I lost a little bit of time. The liaison to the second stage was really hard, a very steep climb where we had to push the bikes to save some energy. After a quick refuel all were ready for the longest stage of the race, Megaroller. The tactic this time was Mariano on front for the first section of mainly pedaling (8-9 minutes), and then if I was on his tail we’d swap for the downhill part.
Everything went well until the last climb before the swap over, where Mariano had put down a solid amount of power that I became detached from him. Then entering the downhill section Julian had a little crash and a problem with his goggles, which forced him to slow down, so I but pushed hard to try and regain some seconds, eventually ending up just a few seconds behind Mariano on a 15 minutes trail!
Then the third and shortest stage of the day, Finalborgo. The plan was simple: I would make the pace at the front, Mariano following me just behind so he could keep up in the pedaling section, and Julian at the back trying to keep up with Mariano’s speed. And this time the run went perfectly and the time was fast. At the end of the stage Francy said to us that we were in the second place, but we had to push hard in the last stage to secure a podium finish. This gave us a lot of motivation.
The last stage of the day, DH Man. We’d already practiced what we want to do here, Mariano on the front in the flat part and then we’d swap with me for the downhill part. As you can see above from the onboard camera the run went well. The first part pedaling like hell, where I managed to stay close to Mariano, and then one of the craziest downhill sections down to the finish. At the end of this stage our team scored the fastest time (for the stage) and Francesco did the best time.
But the race wasn’t over. Mariano had a flat tyre in the last 10m of the final stage so we had to fix it, with just 15 minutes before the last time control… and we were 7km away from Finale! We worked as a team to fix it and after repairing the puncture we were all-out on the road to the finish line. We managed to finish the race without a time penalty.” Francesco Colombo
After the traditional Finale swim in the sea, the award ceremony began, and yes our INTENSE Cycles Europe team got an amazing third place in the Industry Trophy. What a result. Congratulations to all involved.
"The weekend in finale was amazing. I really enjoyed racing a different bike (I’m usually on my M29) and hanging out with the team. Racing as a team was something I have never done before and it was a great experience. Thanks to them all for creating one of my favorite weekends of the year." Julian Steiner
"Finale is always a special race as a season finisher, but this year it was even more special to race it with the INTENSE EU team. We had a hell of a time racing and sharing the weekend, we overcame some issues and raced very well as a team, so I am very happy to top it off with a podium. One of the best races ever." Mariano Mari
Not bad for a team made up of two downhillers and an enduro rider, at one of the most physical EWS races of the season. Everything was possible thanks to the hard work of Francy who followed the boys without making them miss a thing.
Mariano and Francesco rode on our all-new Tracer 279 Enduro bike…
… and Julian rode on our Primer S Trail bike