With a month break from EWS racing, everyone on the team had the opportunity to indulge in some creative activities like making videos and some non-EWS racing. The time had come, however, to get back in the saddle for the second part of the season, starting off with the high altitude of Aspen Colorado. It was set to be a lung-burner of a weekend to start the team's North American campaign.
Since everyone including Captain America (aka - Dillon Santos) had been spending their down time between the races in mainland Europe. We flew into Denver a little earlier than normal to get acclimatized to both elevation and to deal with jet lag. It also afforded us a bit of time to see something other than just the race venue. Some bike park laps in Winter Park were in the offing, then a little shopping on main street Denver, followed by some rodeo action, and finally a shop ride with the crew of Ibis retailer Pedal Pushers Cyclery in Golden.
Even Ibis racing mechanic Mats Pettersson had the time for a little bit of fresh air on a new Ripley during the shop ride.After arriving in Aspen and getting practice underway it was clear that everyone was enjoying it a lot more than last year's edition of the race. With some simple changes to the stages, adding a few new fresh-cut sections in the woods, and a brand new stage in Snowmass the stoke level was turned to 11! Sunshine and warm temperatures during practice also helped to keep the spirits up both in the pits and on track and everything was running smoothly for the whole crew.
After all the wet weather this season, no one was surprised when the skies opened up and dumped rain all night long before day one of the race. However the showers ceased near dawn and even though it may have affected the first riders down stage 1, it probably did the dry and dusty trails some good and it even made the later stages more enjoyable.
Things were looking very solid and fast for the whole team after day one with Dillon in 37th, Anita 4th, Caro, 9th, Zakarias 19th and Robin in a 6th place. Everyone had their minds set to make a charge for day two. The first stage of day two was a very long and physical one where the most time could be won or lost, so everything was taken into account for - like tires, food, water and race strategy before heading up to the start. Even though our whole crew is built around being "happy campers" with a great attitude on and off the track, everyone in the team knows how and when to turn it on for 100% focus and going fast when the clock is ticking.
Dillon Santos at the top of Stage 4.
Dillon was the one with the most impressive ride this weekend with this being only his second race in Elite Men he rode as if he had been riding with the big boys all along. Steady stage results all weekend, and he even earned an 18th on the first stage on Saturday - his best result so far. When the dust had settled at the bottom of the last stage he found himself in 35th place overall.
Full commitment from Dillon on Stage 5.
"I have been working really hard to get to this point, and it is just so satisfying to see all the work paying off with a solid result against the big guns. I still didn't have a perfect weekend, with various mistakes here and there, but to be able to still keep it together well enough for my best ever result feels great. I learned so much from my great Viking teammates over the last few weeks that I really look forward to trying to be even better at the next round in Whistler. To be scoring points and getting to step on the team podium feels amazing to me and gave me a big boost in confidence" - Dillon Santos
In the women's race Caro Gehrig had high hopes of a good result, but with a high-speed crash in practice that may have affected her confidence she was a bit further down the ranks than she was hoping for. At the end of the weekend, she still held onto a 9th place with a solid ride and keeping the spirits up heading up to Whistler.
"I was stoked to be back in Aspen, the high-speed tracks are something I like, and Anita and me had a blast during practice and got up on speed quick. An unfortunate crash on my shoulder in practice caused me some pain and during the race, I couldn't really deliver what I was hoping for so I had to settle with a 9th place. I'm super excited to be heading to Whistler now and can't wait for some Crankworx vibes." -
Anita had her eyes set on another podium, as Aspen was her breakout race last year. The ultimate goal was nothing less than a top 3, but things ended up not playing out that way with the race being the tightest one in the women's field of the season and she had to settle for a 4th place - scoring some serious points for her series ranking.
Yup! You are right, partying always helps.
"It was special for me to return to Aspen, as it is the place where I scored my first ever EWS podium. My hopes were high to repeat this success, as the riding there seems to suit my strengths. This year the event even improved their trails. We got to enjoy some fresh cut goodness! The racing was mental!!! The feeling of being totally numb from exhaustion (or altitude sickness) and the high state of alert while death gripping can not be experienced better than in Colorado. It was a super tight battle in the women's field, and I'm happy with my 4th place" - Anita Gehrig
Zakarias Johansen was also on a steady ride despite a hard crash on stage two he was sitting inside the top twenty and put down a stellar ride to start of day two with an 11th place on the long physical Stage 4 in the morning. Showing he both has the skills and the strength to deliver some world class race runs no matter what type of trails is on offer. But on Stage 5 disaster struck with him hitting something at the top of a very fast section of the trail and getting a flat and mechanical to ruin his weekend having to accept the fact of his first ever DNF.
Always keep the spirits high no matter what.
"Aspen was hands down one of the most beautiful places my bike has taken me so far. Unfortunately, the race weekend didn't go my way and I ended up with a DNF after a mechanical on stage 5. I'm bummed about the DNF but mechanicals are part of the game. I rode good all weekend and I'm stoked to see that I could perform on both the short and the long stages this weekend so I'm looking forward to Whistler and the next stop" - Zakarias Johansen
Robin Wallner was looking set for another career best - riding fast and well inside of the top 10 on each stage. It was starting to look like he would be fighting for a spot on the podium, but with a flat tire and a mechanical on stage 4 things changed and all of a sudden it looked unlikely he would be able to finish the race. A bit of time in the pits, however, he was able to nurse the bike down the last two stages of the day, losing another 20 seconds each stage and ending up in a disappointing 26th place.
"Really mixed feelings about my weekend. I had so much fun in practice and really enjoyed the riding here much more than last year. So, on one hand, I´m super disappointed that I broke my bike and wasn't able to do what I set out to do at the race - as well as dropping my overall points. At the same time, I was so relieved that I could get to the finish line and just score a few points, rather than having to give it all up. I feel like my riding is good and I´m able to keep up with the pace up front so I don't see any reason why I can't get back into the Top 10 overall, and maybe have a go at a podium spot before this season is over" -
On another note, Ibis racer François Bailly-maître put down his best ride of the season with a 7th place overall on his HD4.
In the end, we were able to hold onto a 2nd in the team competition for the weekend, and we are also still the #1 team in the overall rankings heading into the two last races of the season. See you all up in Whistler and thanks to everyone that is supporting and cheering for us!