EWS.1 Tweed Valley
For the first time ever, the Enduro World Series opened at the same venue as the 2021 season finale – Tweed Valley, where the infamous “gate” gate took place in the Pro Stage. After five (six for Pro Women) stages of racing over the course of two days, Rude took home the win, starting the season off with 555 points. Teammate, Bex Baraona, clinched second place with 490 points – her second podium finish at this location after 2021’s first place.
The week began with the debut of the freshly minted Yeti / Shimano EP Racing Team, featuring Mick Hannah and Keegan Wright. With support from Shimano, the team was able to dial in their rigs in preparation for their first race aboard the 160e. The pair raced 13 stages at a hurried pace, leaving virtually no rest between stages. It is becoming increasingly clear that the race can be won or lost in the Power Stages. While Hannah finished top-five in each descending stage, he lost the bulk of his time in the power stages. Hannah finished 5th, and teammate Wright finished 17th.
On to the EWS. The Pro Stage was the first and only stage to be raced on Saturday, and the entire team was stoked on their results. Rude 4th, Woolley, 6th, and Bex 3rd, an excellent place for the team to springboard into Sunday’s race.
“The hardest part of the first race is not knowing how your training has paid off. After finishing the Pro Stage in fourth, I was happy with how my body was feeling, it was a confidence boost going into the second day of racing – I had a good feeling both mentally and on my bike,”- Richie Rude
With high spirits all around, the crew embarked on their first liaison to stage two, the first of five to be raced that day. Baraona was the first of three to drop and took second. Next up was Woolley, and according to Coach Jared Graves, Kasper had the pace to find his first Pro Men’s EWS podium this weekend. In a devastating turn of events, Kasper went down on Stage 2 - his injuries were serious enough that extraction was necessary. A hold on the stage turned to a red flag, canceling the second stage for the Pro Men’s field, a decision that was highly contested by a number of racers. Some claimed that the remaining athletes that had yet to drop held an unfair advantage as they did not have to race and climb to stage three, but a casual uphill pedal to Stage 3. The race promoters did what they felt they had to in order to prioritize Woolley, who would remain on track until they could safely get him off the hill – a decision that is greatly appreciated by the Yeti / FOX Race Team. After Woolley was in the hands of medical experts, the race resumed, and S3 was underway.
Rude and Baraona kept the heat on throughout the remaining four stages. Rude clawed his way to the lead after Stage 4, where he won the Queen Stage and earned enough time to put him in front of Melamed. “There are a ton of tight trees, you have to mix the speed with the agility out there. Everything comes at you faster on the dry trails,” said Rude.
Baraona won Stage 3 and Stage 4, and after Stage 5 she had a 4-second deficit to first – the same position she was in last year. By this point, Baraona was just stoked to be doing so well after a tough few weeks. Bex nearly called it earlier this week after recovery from Covid a few weeks prior had taken its toll.
With the final time on the board, Rude and Baraona finished first and second on the day, with the Yeti / FOX Factory Team taking the top of the box with a 35-point lead over Rocky Mountain Race Face.
With that, the team takes to Petzen in two weeks, where Richie looks to further his lead and Bex chases down her first win of the season.
After the dust had settled and the scans were in, we now know that Kasper has a broken vertebra and scapula, and we wish him a speedy recovery.