Riders duke it out at Northstar in closest Enduro World Series race ever (VIDEO) | SierraSun.com

Riders duke it out at Northstar in closest Enduro World Series race ever (VIDEO)

Richie Rude, of Connecticut, celebrates his win at Northstar on Sunday, Aug. 25. Sam Hill, of Australia, stands second on the podium, and Mitch Ropelato, of Utah, is third.
Courtesy of Enduro World Series

Hundreds of the world’s top mountain bikers gathered at Northstar California Resort for a weekend of competition at the Enduro World Series’ penultimate round.

The two-day battle at Northstar, which is the tour’s only stop in the U.S., was the closest race in the history of the Enduro World Series, challenging riders on the resort’s loose, dusty trails and unforgiving rock gardens through six stages of racing.

“Looking down at the rocks like, normally you’d look at them and be like this is unrideable,” said Matthew Walker, of New Zealand, during an interview with Enduro World Series. “And for some reason you just point straight at them and ride over them.”

Other riders spoke on how much of a physical toll the trails at Northstar were exacting through the early stages of the competition.

“My arms are sore,” said third-place finisher Andreane Lanthier Nadeau, of Canada. “I’m hanging on.”

Richie Rude, of Connecticut, entered the final stage of this weekend’s men’s competition trailing a tenth of a second behind defending tour champion Sam Hill of Australia. Rude came from behind to capture the victory at Northstar, outdueling Hill to win the event by 0.81 seconds with a combined time of 26 minutes, 9.65 seconds.

“I had some good stages but he also had some really good stages, and kept the time gap so tight,” said Rude during a post-race interview with Enduro World Series. “Coming into those last two, I knew it was really tight and he got me back on (stage) four and I was like ‘Oh man, I’ve just got to go for it.’”

Rude has now won three races this season and is in eighth place in the series standings.

Mitch Ropelato, of Utah, climbed up his first ever Enduro World Series podium this weekend, claiming third place with a combined time of 26:20.21.

“I’m just going with the motions, just riding the best I can and it’s working out,” said Ropelato. “I was pretty nervous this morning. I knew I had it in me.”

Truckee rider Marco Osborne took 31st with a combined time of 27:43.59.

With one race to go in the season, France’s Florian Nicolai leads Hill by 60 points in the series standings. Nicolai finished in 13th place at Northstar, which is his worst result of the season, thus far, while Hill climbed up the standings with his second-place finish.

“It’s nice to be able to put myself in a position where I’m within striking of trying to get a third championship,” said Hill during an interview with Enduro World Series. “That’s what we are going for.”

One rider, New Zealand’s Edward Masters, had his title hopes derailed on Saturday, following a crash that resulted in a broken wrist. Masters had entered the weekend in second place in the series standings.

On the women’s side, France’s Isabeau Courdurier locked up her first Enduro World Series championship. Courdurier has won every race this season, and was more than 19 seconds faster than her nearest competitor, finishing the event with a combined time of 30:37.62.

“It’s been really hard coming here and knowing that I could do it … if I did good in this race,” said Courdurier in an interview with Enduro World Series. “So, I had a bit of pressure, and I tried to really relax and enjoy it.”

Israel’s Noga Korem finished the weekend in second place with a combined time of 30:56.89. Korem has posted second-place finishes in her last two Enduro World Series races, and has finished in the top five at each event this season. Andreane Lanthier Nadeau was third place with a combined time of 31:05.85.

“I think I surprised myself,” said Lanthier Nadeau during a post-race interview with Enduro World Series. “It’s hard to feel like you are super in control and fast, so I’m super happy to end with a good result.”

The first adaptive rider competed at Northstar this past weekend, and did so against other able-bodied athletes. Sean Simonson, a retired fireman from Huntington Beach broke his neck while riding, according to race organizers, and was diagnosed as a quadriplegic.

Simonson said in an email to the Sierra Sun that part of the reason he competed against other able-bodied athletes in the EWS80 division was to “cast a light for disabled athletes and able-bodied folks to let them know we can all compete on the same level and the same course.”

The final round of the 2019 season will take place in Zermatt, Switzerland. For more information and full results, visit EnduroWorldSeries.com.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.