However, in the women’s race it was the same old story, with Anne Caroline Chausson and Tracy Moseley (Trek Factory Enduro Race Team) reigniting the battle that has dominated the last two seasons. In the end it was Anne who led the stage wins with five of the seven and Tracy taking only two. Cecile Ravanel’s (Commencal Vallnord Enduro Team) consistency throughout the day paid off, earning her the third step on the podium.
But whilst the old guard may have picked up the medals, some fresh faces made their way into the top ten too. Kiwi Meggie Bichard proved she was worthy of her wildcard entry taking an incredible 5th place - less than a minute back on Anneke Beerten (Specialized Racing Team) in fourth. Ines Thoma (Canyon Factory Enduro Team), Rosara Joseph, Lorraine Truong (BMC Factory Trailcrew) and local girl Sasha Smith rounded out the top ten.
Speaking about her win, Anne Caroline Chausson said: “I’m really really happy, it’s the first race of the season and it’s better to start with a win definitely so I’m stoked.
“It was a long day and a hard race for everybody, the main thing was to stay on the bike as much as possible, I had some good runs, I had some not so good runs, I made some mistakes, but no big crashes.”
In the men’s competition the first big surprise actually came in practice, when reigning World Champion Jared Graves (Yeti/Fox Shox Racing Team) announced a shoulder injury picked up a couple of weeks earlier would prevent him from racing.
Meanwhile Jerome Clementz and Fabien Barel (Canyon Factory Enduro Team) marked their return from injuries by taking first and second place - capitalising on their strong results from Finale at the end of last year. Kiwi downhiller Wyn Masters (Team Bulls) stormed his first EWS to take third and delighting the home crowd in the process. Fellow downhiller Sam Hill (Chain Reaction/Nukeproof)) was also making his EWS debut - taking both a stage win and ninth overall - and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares at round two in Ireland in May. Home favourite Justin Leov (Trek Factory Racing Enduro Team) had to settle for fourth.
Special mention has to go to Florian Nicolai (Rocky Mountain URGE bp Rally Team) after an impressive first five stages he won stage six - only to get a rear flat on stage seven - although he kept pushing and it was enough to secure fifth overall.
Jerome Clementz said: “I had a good day, I liked the course, it suited my kind of riding, I tried to ride smart, not pushing too hard and staying on my bike and I managed to carry speed on all the stages and finish with the win, so it was a good surprise.
“It’s always good to start the series with a win, it’s good for the confidence and for the points, a little bit less pressure on me now, but I did what I wanted to do today and now for the next round I have this behind me and I can have a good season.”
In the new Under 21 category Georgia Petrie of New Zealand won the women’s race, whilst in the men’s it was France’s Adrien Dailly.
Enduro World Series Managing Director Chris Ball said: “What a way to start the season! From the beginning we’ve always wanted to take the EWS to New Zealand because of it’s amazing trails and passionate riding community. The crowds on course were amazing and it was absolutely the perfect place to kick off the new season.”
In the team competition Canyon Factory Enduro Race Team now start the year in pole position.
Next up on the Enduro World Series calendar is County Wicklow in Ireland on May 24.