ELITE MEN’S AND WOMEN’S RESULTS FROM THE UCI ENDURO WORLD CUP IN FRANCE

America's Richie Rude takes another win; Pivot's Morgan Charre takes the women's win

CHARRE PUTS TOGETHER A NEAR-PERFECT PERFORMANCE WHILE RUDE SHOWS HIS EXPERIENCE TO EDGE OUT RUDEAU AT THE UCI ENDURO WORLD CUP IN COMBLOUX, HAUTE-SAVOIE

The village of Combloux in the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps might have been making its first appearance on the UCI Enduro World Cup stage, but this corner of France’s status as the beating heart of the format makes this weekend’s racing something of a homecoming for the sport.

Its debut WHOOP UCI Mountain Bike World Series course wasn’t welcoming riders with open arms though, providing a stern test across six stages featuring 2,530m descent, while the total course (including liaisons) would see competitors tackle a 39.2km with 1,685m elevation gain. Combined with a slick track from rain earlier this week and baking hot conditions, and the field had their work cut out for them just to make it to the finish line without succumbing to time penalties.

STAGE 1: COL DU JAILLET

The opener saw riders take on Col du Jaillet, a 2.4km stage packed full of slippery roots, and tight, narrow alpine singletrack.

Pivot Factory Racing’s Morgane Charre came out of the gate hot, laying down a 5:31.117 on home soil to show she’s still got a part to play in the UCI Enduro World Cup overall standings despite not yet reaching the highs of last season. Cannondale’s Ella Conollywas second on the stage, 2.95 seconds back, while series leader Isabeau Courdurier(Lapierre Zipp Collective) had to settle for third – 5.84 seconds behind Charre – after suffering issues with her rear derailleur. Courdurier’s closest competitor in the overall series, Harriet Harden (Trek Factory Racing Gravity), finished in 6th, 18.4 seconds back on the stage one leader.

The men’s competition meanwhile saw a new name at the top of the pile – Downhill specialist Luke Meier-Smith (Giant Factory Off-Road Team) taking to the Combloux trails with an eye on 2024 UCI Enduro World Championships selection and recording a 4:35.857. Familiar face and series leader Richie Rude (Yeti/Fox Factory Race Team) managed second, 1.445 seconds down on the Australian, while Rude’s teammate Slawomir Lukasik was the best of the rest at +5.036.

It wasn’t all plain sailing on stage one though, with Marco Osborne suffering a huge crash that left him more than 3 minutes down.

STAGE 2: CHRISTOMET

After a punchy liaison, riders faced a 2.8km trail that paired a tight woodland middle section with a wide, open start and finish. Charre did enough on the stage, leading a French top three – Courdurier and Mélanie Pugin in second and third – and extending her lead over her closest compatriot to 6.259 seconds. Conolly’s fourth on the stage was enough to keep her in third in the day’s overall, with there a sizeable gap forming between third place and Pugin in fourth (+18.22).

The home crowd were given something to cheer in the men’s too, Alex Rudeau(Commencal Enduro Project) bouncing back from 17th position on the first stage to take the win and move himself up to 7th on the day, 10.377 seconds back on race leader Rude. The ever-consistent American lost just 1.215 seconds to Rudeau on the stage, with Micro Vendemmia sandwiched between them.

STAGE 3: ROUGE DES FRASSES

The all-natural 1.7km stage three might have been the race’s shortest, but its big, mature roots meant it was a trail when riders could lose substantial amounts of time.

And so it would prove in the women’s field, where no one could get within four seconds of the on-fire Charre. The Frenchwoman’s gap was now over 11 seconds on second place Conolly, while Courdurier found herself in the unfamiliar position of third, 12.329 seconds behind Charre.

It wasn’t just Charre who was coming to life in her home UCI EDR World Cup though, with Rudeau securing back-to-back stage wins to propel himself up to fourth position. The in-form rider – who finished second in Saalfelden Leogang’s UCI EDR World Cup three weeks ago – was laying it all on the line, and no one could get within 1.5 seconds of him. While Rude still led, his advantage was diminishing.

STAGE 4: MEGÈVE

The hot conditions and tight liaisons were starting to take their toll on the riders, but by the midway point they still had several difficult stages to overcome before the finish in Combloux – starting with the 2.3km of rough and wild, rocky singletrack to Megeve.

Charre was absolutely flying, extending her 100% record by putting more than 9 seconds into second place Conolly. Her lead was now more than 20 seconds, and it would take disaster for her to not record her first UCI EDR World Cup win of this 2024 season.

Rudeau clearly got the memo too, taking his third stage win on the bounce and cutting a further 3.952 seconds from Rude’s overall lead. There were now just 1.796 seconds separating the pair, and with two stages remaining, anything could happen.

STAGE 5: CAMANE DU TERRAS

While nothing is a given in Enduro, Morgan Charre was onto her victory lap by the time she dropped in on the 1.8km Cabane du Terras. But no one appeared to have told her she could take her foot off the gas. The Pivot Factory Racing rider cemented her top spot with a fifth stage win, Harriet Harnden putting some poor results behind herself to finish second, 2.2 seconds back. The biggest shift in the result was Ella Conolly, who lost time on Courdurier, which saw the reigning overall series winner leapfrog the Brit into second.

In the men’s, Rudeau’s hot streak was broken by a resurgent Jack Moir (YT Mob) – the 2021 series winner pipping the Frenchman to first by 0.167 seconds. Rude meanwhile dropped more time on Rudeau, with his lead at the top of the overall now just 0.052 seconds. With Meier-Smith sat in third and more than 11 seconds in arrears, it was set to be a straight shootout between Rude and Rudeau for the podium top spot.

STAGE 6: COMBLOUX

For final showdowns, they don’t get much better than stage 6 to Combloux. At 4.24km, its chunky chunder, flat corners and snaking, switch backing turns would be a challenge when feeling fresh. But throw in hours of racing in searing conditions, and the stage would push riders to their limit.

One rider who didn’t have to go all in was Charre, who sat up (slightly), and missed out on a 100% stage-win record – Harnden taking the honours instead. It would have no bearing on the overall though, the Frenchwoman finishing more than 23 seconds up on her compatriot Courdurier, with Ella Conolly third. Harnden (fourth) and Pugin (fifth) would complete the podium.

Speaking after the race, Morgane Charre said: “It was so good today. I love these conditions when it’s drying a little bit. I was so happy with my riding. [Riding at my home race] makes you stay a bit more positive and fight a bit harder. A lot of my family and friends came to watch and it was really cool. [My favourite moment was] probably stage four – I had a few loose moments, but I just kept going and was so excited.”

While the women’s race was a foregone conclusion, there would be drama until the last in the men’s field. Both Rude and Rudeau were clearly on the limit, and both would end up on the deck after pushing too hard. It was Rude who was able to recover though, breaking French hearts by finishing three seconds up on Rudeau on the stage. The disappointment was compounded for the Frenchman – Meier-Smith winning his second stage of the day and snatching second place in the final standings. Lukasik finished fourth – his fourth podium of the season – with Moir fifth.

Speaking after the race, Richie Rude said: “The thing that kept me going is knowing that the conditions were really good today. It was a lot drier than yesterday for practice. I was stoked for every stage. It was tough having the lead but having it chipped away at every stage. That was a bit stressful but I enjoy the battle and having done it a bunch of times, I know that I can do well in those situations.”

GOLDSBURY RECORDS BACK-TO-BACK WINS WHILE MAXA SHOWS MAXIMUM CONSISTENCY IN UNDER-21 EVENTS

A blistering stage 3 and 4 was enough for New Zealand’s Winni Goldsbury to blow the competition away to win the Women’s Under-21 by more than 50 seconds over Simona Kuchynkova. Third place was Lily Boucher of Canada.

In the Men’s Under-21 event, Czech Republic’s Adam Maxa showed that consistency – rather than stage wins – is key in Enduro. While he didn’t top a stage, his lowest position was 4th, which allowed him to build an unassailable 14.6-second lead over series leader Jt Fisher (Yeti/Fox Factory Race Team). Round one and two winner Bailey Christie (Theory Racing) finished third.

In the open racing categories, 185 amateurs raced four of the same stages as the professionals.

Tomorrow (Saturday) sees the turn of the Endurance athletes as the UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Cup makes its debut in Megève, Haute-Savoie, while the Gravity action resumes on Sunday with the E-Enduro riders taking to the Combloux, Haute-Savoie course, completing two loops and 10 stages. Can anyone stop Florencia Espiñeira(Orbea Fox Enduro Team)? And who will come out on top in a super competitive men’s field?

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