Grav­ity Check

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - WORDS: CHRIS PANOZZO

The first two World En­duro rounds kicked off with a bang. Held half away around the world from your usual US or Eu­ro­pean venues, the im­pact was still im­mense. The re­cur­ring theme across both week­ends was the amount of lo­cal in­ter­est, in both Chile and Colom­bia, no mat­ter where you moved there were pas­sion­ate and in­formed spec­ta­tors cheer­ing ev­ery­one on with ev­ery form of noise maker you can think of. Com­pe­ti­tion is nor­mally fierce, al­though some­what friendly at the first race of the year. The peck­ing or­der is yet to be set, and ev­ery­one is look­ing for that some­thing ex­tra that will give them an ad­van­tage. The vibe among most rac­ers is very friendly, you are rac­ing against the clock not another rider so it’s rare you have many con­flicts, es­pe­cially so in pub­lic. Prac­tice these days is mixed at an EWS, rid­ers are more likely to be on their own pro­grams with teams, me­chan­ics, soigneurs and pho­tog­ra­phers all mov­ing pieces of a busy puz­zle. You may have rid­ers head out for their sin­gle prac­tice runs early in the day, max­imis­ing their avail­able re­cov­ery time and en­sur­ing the day tends to run pretty smooth should they have a prob­lem and need time for a fix. The down side to the early start is the course tends to change dra­mat­i­cally be­tween early prac­tice and the af­ter­noon, and in some cases course bunting seems to have mi­nor, sus­pi­cious changes be­tween early prac­tice and race day with­out any of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing such a change. It is in­cred­i­bly rare of­fi­cials at an EWS level ap­ply penal­ties that make pub­lic at­ten­tion, there is quite of­ten whispers through the pad­dock that don’t make it to the light of day, some from a lack of a rep­utable source, but in most cases it’s a fail­ure of in­fra­struc­ture that al­lows re­port­ing in a stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment. Clar­i­fi­ca­tion to re­port­ing rules were brought in mid-way through last year’s ti­tle fight, post French EWS round af­ter a prom­i­nent French rider was pe­nalised for throw­ing a tyre in­sert out mid ride, where it was clearly against the rules to do so. He had his penalty re­moved af­ter re­view from the French race di­rec­tor. The new rules that came into ef­fect re­quire three sep­a­rate rid­ers or three sep­a­rate team of­fi­cials, each from dif­fer­ent teams to see an of­fence com­mit­ted and re­port it, in­clud­ing sub­mit­ting a pay­ment, be­fore an in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be un­der­taken. How of­ten do you think dur­ing an eight-hour prac­tice win­dow that 3 team man­agers from dif­fer­ent teams wit­ness a rule vi­o­la­tion? And then get to­gether and dis­cuss what they have seen, then go through fil­ing a pub­lic re­port, where their names and names of their teams get pub­licly re­leased? Which makes what went down in Colom­bia ridicu­lous, I’m not talk­ing here about what Sam Hill did to ev­ery­one out on track, but the time penal­ties ap­plied to a few rid­ers post pro­logue on Satur­day af­ter­noon. Back track­ing for a mo­ment, it was made clear to all team man­agers dur­ing a meet­ing Thurs­day night prior to Fri­day’s first of­fi­cial prac­tice that all li­aisons were to be ped­alled up. No shut­tling. It was backed up by an of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion to all rid­ers that same night via email point­ing it out in crys­tal clear terms. No shut­tling. Af­ter Satur­day af­ter­noon‘s hec­tic and en­thralling one-minute run down through the streets lined with thou­sands of ex­cited Colom­bians, twenty sec­onds were added to three rider’s times. There was no of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion as to why there were time penal­ties, some of us be­gan as­sum­ing that the rid­ers jump­ing hay bales dur­ing the pro­logue had re­ceived time penal­ties. Why some rid­ers thought that jump­ing the hay bales seemed ok was be­yond any log­i­cal thought as they marked the in­side of the turns. In turn those rid­ers were pe­nalised, but they aren’t the three rid­ers that re­ceived the twenty sec­ond time penal­ties. Through whispers in the pad­dock we found out that the three rid­ers had been shut­tled to the top of a stage dur­ing prac­tice. Twenty sec­onds added to their rac­ing time might seem like enough of a pun­ish­ment, but skip­ping an hour and a half climb, at al­ti­tude, in the rain would surely equate to more than a 20 sec­ond time penalty. Plead­ing ignorance, as they did to the of­fi­cially com­mu­ni­cated rules is a ridicu­lous de­fence. A brief in­ter­view posted on­line by the EWS di­rec­tor a day af­ter the race out­lined that the race or­gan­i­sa­tion had caught and re­ported them, with no fur­ther pub­lic de­tail as to how and when. A lack of re­port­ing mech­a­nisms and transparency from the or­gan­is­ers will no doubt fur­ther drive some com­peti­tors to pur­sue any means nec­es­sary to gain ad­van­tage, which in turn will quickly put a stop to a friendly ri­valry in the pad­dock, and harm what the EWS has built its in­clu­sive friendly rep­u­ta­tion on. For the rid­ers who were pe­nalised, I guess we should cut them some slack though, they apol­o­gised on so­cial me­dia, that was big of them.

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