After two rounds in the Southern Hemisphere, the 2016 Enduro World Series is heading North. As we type these lines the riders are arriving in Wicklow, Ireland, for this week's Emerald Enduro, and it's a good time to take a look at the lay of the land to help set the stage for the return to racing.

Round 1, Corral, Chile

The 2016 Enduro World Series kicked off in Chile, but rather than return to the well-known and much-loved slopes of Nevados de Chillan and its fabled anti-grip dirt, the organizers ventured further South to the Patagonian wilderness and ended up in unheralded Corral.

The riders slept across the water from Corral which meant a boat ride to start the day - photo Sven Martin

Situated on a peninsula in Western Chile, Corral offered up a physical test worthy of the occasion. 200kms of pedaling with about 1400 meters of climbing on each of the 2 days meant the riders had to be fit as well as fast.

Jared Graves getting used to his new team, bike, and colors - photo Sven Martin

Jared Graves changing teams (Specialized) was the big story of the off-season, but the rest of the field was as stacked as ever. Justin Leov was back, healthy, and on a new team as well (Canyon) although he admitted to not being up to race speed yet. Martin Maes, Nico Vouilloz, Jerome Clementz, Yoann Barelli, Damien Oton, Nico Lau, and Florian Nicolai were all present and accounted for, ready to take the fight to defending champ Richie Rude.

We were stoked to see Leov back and on it - sadly, his season would yet again be derailed, more on that a bit later on... photo Sven Martin

With all the practice done and the stage set for the season opener, we were very nearly robbed of our race by a forest fire that broke out on the night before race day. The firefighters eventually got it under control and the race was able to go ahead as planned.

Apocalypse now - photo Sven Martin

In the women's, Anne Caro Chausson was still recovering from her fight with cancer, and with Tracy Moseley retired, the door was left wide open for Cecile Ravanel to occupy the EWS throne. She'd rise to the occasion as of stage 1 on day 1, starting off as she meant to go on. Anneke Beerten and Isabeau Courdurier did their best to keep her honest and joined her on the podium when all was said and done.

2 stage wins out of 3, Ravanel en route to an 18-second lead on day 1 - photo Sven Martin

In the Elite Men's category, we all know Martin Maes has the speed, and for 2016 he has promised to try and add consistency to the mix, which should make him a real threat on any track. 4th, 2nd, and 8th on the 3 stages of day 1 left him in 2nd overnight., behind leader Richie Rude.

Maes mobbing - photo Sven Martin

Day rolled around and it was to be more of the same. The top 3 of Rude, Maes, and Vouilloz would remain unchanged through to the finish line, with Jerome Clementz hoisting his way up from 5th to 4th. As a side note, the COMBINED age of Rude (21) and Maes (19) make them as old as Nico Vouilloz (40) - we're not sure which is more impressive?

If there's a secret to eternal youth, Vouilloz must have found it - photo Sven Martin

Graves was never able to get back in the mix after his crash on stage 1 of day 1 - a day 2 broken chain further adding to his woes. Finishing 8th with a couple of 3rd place stage finishes still showed that he has the speed and is feeling good on his new bike.  Ultimately though, the weekend belonged to his ex-teammate Richie Rude, who began his title defense in the same way he won it at the last round last year - with the win.

Eye of the tiger, and eventual winner - photo Sven Martin

2016 EWS #1, Corral, Chile Results (full results)

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Full Vital coverage from Corral, Chile


Round 2, Cerro Catedral, Argentina

After kicking things off in coastal Chile, the Enduro World Series circus would stay in Patagonia but cross over to Argentina and the high alpine terrain of Cerro Catedral for round 2.

What a difference a week makes - photo Sebastien Schieck

Once the riders got out on track in Cerro Catedral, it became obvious that it could not be more different to the lower elevation trails of Corral, Chile from the week before. Argentina greeted the racers with copious amounts of dust that had the course looking like sand track MX in parts. Sadly, we were to be robbed of one of the top competitors as Jared Graves went out with a shoulder injury already in practice.

Graves was looking good in Argentina before writing himself off in a crash - photo Sven Martin

Cerro Catedral is a ski resort, and the riders would use the lift to start each day off - that did not mean that there was no climbing required however, as most of the liaisons were still tackled under rider power with well over 1000 meters on each of the 2 racing days to put away.

Iago Garay keeps himself entertained while waiting for practice to start - photo Sven Martin

If you didn't know already, the way we bring you the remarkably rad coverage of these EWS events is by actually riding all the stages while shooting and conducting rider interviews at the same time. Sven Martin demonstrates while testing the dirt:

#SvEnduro - photo Sebastien Schieck

Did we mention it was kinda dusty and dry in Cerro Catedral?

Lewis Buchanan was looking more at home in the deep dust than most - photo Sven Martin

As different as the Cerro Catedral race venue was to Corral, the leaderboard quickly took on a very similar look. Cecile Ravanel was feeling confident in the tricky conditions and pulled out a whopping 39-second lead in the Women's category by the end of day 1. Isabeau Courdurier confirmed her good form by finishing 2nd on the day, while Anneke Beerten struggled to 5th. DH specialist Casey Brown sat in very respectable 3rd overnight.

Ravanel is looking untouchable so far - photo Sven Martin

From BC to Bariloche, Casey Brown looking right at home in Cerro Catedral - photo Sven Martin

In the Elite Men's, Richie Rude picked up right where he left off in Corral, taking 2 stage wins and one 3rd place en route to the day 1 lead. Martin Maes was not about to throw in the towel however, he was in hot pursuit and sitting only 4.4 seconds back in the overall meant that Richie could not let off the gas at any point. Wildcard entry Toni Ferreiro proved that his remarkable 12th place finish in Corral a week earlier was far from a fluke, coming in 3rd on the day just 7 seconds off the lead.

Tony Ferreiro making the most of his wild card - photo Sebastien Schieck

2013 Enduro World Series winner Jerome Clementz has been ever so slightly off the pace by his standards throughout the first 2 races of 2016, nothing too dramatic (in his own words, "just looking to learn to ride my bike again"). As we prepare this article, JC has just won the 2nd round of the British Enduro Series which bodes well for the upcoming Emerald Enduro.

JC going steady and looking to build from here. 6th in Cerro Catedral and ready to race closer to home - photo Sven Martin

With times tight and rough tracks, anything could and would happen on day 2. Although Ravanel remained untouchable out front in the Women's, Casey Brown put on a formidable charge going 2, 2, and 1 on the 3 last stages of the race to overtake Isabeau Courdurier for 2nd place overall - not too shabby for only her first ever EWS race!

The more DH the better for Brown - photo Sven Martin

World Cup DHer Sam Blenkinsop has committed to racing EWS when possible, and he certainly made up for his somewhat disappointing finish in Corral by taking 2 stage wins and blasting his way to third overall here in Cerro Catedral. Incredible performance from the Kiwi who can ride anything. Lewis Buchanan in 7th confirmed the depth of the DH talent pool.

Beware Blenki blasting berms - photo Sven Martin

Nico Lau was pegged by many as a hot candidate for the overall title this year. Following some family problems he struggled a bit in Corral but a 5th place finish here in Cerro Catedral might see him back on track.

Nico Lau charging - photo Sebastien Schieck

Another recent DH-to-Enduro convert, Sweden's Robin Wallner surprised us and himself with a 10th place finish here in Cerro Catedral.

Trading in the dual-crowns ain't too bad when it gets you to places like this to race - photo Sebastien Schieck

The young guns are owning it so far this season. What will the story be in Ireland?

ENDUROOOOO - photo Sebastien Schieck

2016 EWS #2, Cerro Catedral, Argentina Results (full results)

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2016 Enduro World Series Overall Standings After Two Rounds

Round 3, Emerald Enduro, Wicklow Ireland Preview

After two rounds down South, it's time for a change of atmosphere. The Emerald Enduro in Wicklow, Ireland is back for the 2nd year straight on the EWS calendar, and ready to serve up another helping of local trail gold and the atmosphere that makes this event so unique - it's not called the "Social Enduro" for nothing!

Apart from Leov who is out with glandular fever, as far as we know, the rest of the top contenders are healthy and ready to go. Graves has long recovered from his Argentina mishap and will be on a mission to start setting the record straight, and everybody will be doing their best to make sure Rude doesn't run away with the series again.

Justin Leov on his way to 2nd here in Ireland last year. Sadly we've just learned that Justin is out with glandular fever and won't be racing for a while - photo Sven Martin

It was a fairy tale ending for local boy Greg Callaghan last time around, taking his first and so far only EWS win on home soil. Will he be able to hold off Rude and Maes again (who finished 3rd and 4th respectively here in 2015)?

Currently sitting in 18th overall, Greg Callaghan will be looking to use his homefield advantage to move up in the ranks - photo Sven Martin

In the women's, Tracy Moseley took a convincing win here last year, on her way to the 2015 series overall title and subsequent retirement. Current series leader Cecile Ravanel was third behind Tracy and Anne Caro, but more importantly she had a healthy 40-second margin over 4th place finisher Anneke Beerten. A repeat performance by Cecile would see her comfortably stretch her 2016 series lead, while Anneke knows that she can go fast here too and will be looking to redeem her 5th place finish in Cerro Catedral - pretty much already a must-do if she wants to challenge for the overall. The wild-card will be Tracy Moseley, who has recently confirmed that she will line up to defend her 2015 win, retired or not.

We miss you Tracy - photo Sven Martin

2015 Emerald Enduro Results

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Well there you have it, the stage is set! Stay tuned to Vital this week for the best coverage on the net as we kick things off in Wicklow for round 3 of the 2016 Enduro World Series. Yay racing!

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