In 2017, the EWS will be stopping off in North-Eastern Tasmania. On April 8-9 the town of Derby will host round two of the eight round global series. This news is not only a massive boost for the Australian MTB scene; it will also ensure that the long-term future of the town of Derby, and the Blue Derby trail network, will continue to flourish well into the future. Next year, Australia will host the Mountain Bike World Championship and an EWS, holy shit, how good is that! We recently sat down for a chat with the man responsible for bringing the EWS to Australia, Ian Harwood, and learnt a lot of details about the planning and execution of what promises to be one of the best mountain bike races in the entire history of the planet! You certainly will not want to miss out on the action, so start planning and booking your trip right now. Here is the lowdown from Ian.
[R]evolution: Several potential host venues across Australia were considered before deciding on Derby. Tell us a bit about that process and how the final decision was made?
Ian: This has been something that we have been working with Chris Ball (EWS Director) for over two years now. During that time, a range of venues have been considered. This included Chris coming out for a 2 week period in February to look at some of the options. We were in the very lucky situation where a lot of venues were keen to host a round of the EWS. In the end we took a step back and looked at some of the values of the EWS, and that is to try to get off the beaten track, and into the heart of a region. For that reason, Derby became a good option, although it won’t be too long before there is a well beaten path to those trails. We have had a lot of discussions with Jared Graves and some of the other Pro riders and teams about what they look for in a good event and are comfortable that Derby will be a memorable one.
Anyone that has ridden the Blue Derby trails will attest to how good the riding is down there, world class for sure. The quaint township of Derby however, with its three or four shops might not seem like it could handle an event the size of an EWS though. What are some of the measures that are being put in place to transform the sleepy little town into a thriving MTB hub for thousands of people during the days of the event?
Ian: This was definitely a concern until I happened to tag along with Glenn Jacobs on a ride just before this years World Cup up in Cairns. We were driving up the range on the way to Cliftons, one of the great old school tracks in the area. With six of us in the car, discussion turned to the search for an EWS venue and the facilities in Derby. It was suggested that if you can have 10s of thousands survive a weekend music festival like Splendor in the Grass, why not take the same thinking to this event.
So we will be creating our own village right at the trail head called The Hub. The Hub will not only form the pit area for all of the elite teams but will also have additional food and drink outlets, a bike shop, live music and plenty of other things to keep everyone going for the weekend. We have also taken over the local cricket oval and will be setting up toilets and showers, secure bike parking and powered camping sites for motorhomes and campers. For those looking for the comfort of a hotel room, we will be running a daily shuttle service from Launceston so you can head out to get your heckle on, have a few drinks and be returned to your hotel each evening.
We’ve heard you’re expecting upwards of 500 competitors to take part in the race. Will the event be open to riders other than EWS pros?
Ian: This really is the beauty of the Enduro World Series. The fact that true amateur riders can race on the same stages on the same day as the Pros and some of the absolute legends of the sport like Nico Vouliezz, Sam Hill and Jared Graves.
How do you qualify for the event or can you simply sign up for an entry?
Ian: This year, the EWS has introduced a number of Qualifying races where riders can accrue points towards a spot on the reserved list. With those races now done and dusted, it will come down to the public lottery system that should be live in January. Riders will have one week to register for the lottery and after that, a select number of riders will be allocated a spot at random. As race director, we also have 20 wild card entries that we can allocate to riders. In order to assist with junior riders coming through in Enduro, we have decided to give five of these sports to MTBA to give to junior athletes.
Obviously witnessing the racing action live will be a spectacle trackside. What type of information do people need to know that are planning on heading to Derby that weekend as spectators?
Ian: We are planning a number of spectator hotspots on the stages so that spectators can get up close to the racing. Many of these will be located a short walk from The Hub. We really want to get as many spectators there as possible. If there is one thing that Australians do well, it’s to get out and support sporting events, so we want that big time feel of thousands of riders cheering home the riders as they tackle the very scenic Blue Derby Stages.
“If there is one thing that Australians do well, it’s to get out and support sporting events, so we want that big time feel of thousands of riders cheering home the riders as they tackle the very scenic Blue Derby Stages.”
Will it be a ticketed event to spectate or will entry be free?
Ian: All activities throughout the weekend will be free for spectators.
Has the daily schedule of events been set yet?
Ian: We are in the process of finalising things at the moment, but typically there will be two days of practice across the Friday and Saturday where riders will do half of the stages on each day before racing on Sunday. All of the stages will be closed from the weekend prior, once we announce what the actual stages are. Spectators are more than welcome to come out during the practice days, as a good heckle also needs some practice.
Shimano has come onboard as the title sponsor for the event, stamping their commitment to the Enduro racing scene locally and globally. Tell us a little about how that partnership was formed?
Ian: Whilst we have been grateful for the support from SRAM over recent years for all of our events, Toby from Shimano was super keen when he learned of this opportunity and we are wrapped to have them on board. They will be bringing down their mega container with its own VIP area on top, and a whole team to keep Shimano athletes ticking over. Shimano will also be supporting all of our domestic races in 2017 as well.
Let’s talk about the trails and the tracks that will be raced. Currently the Blue Derby network comprises of around 60km’s of single track, with another 20km’s scheduled to open before the end of the year. Being public use trails, for all levels of riders to enjoy for many years to come, the nature of the trails is quite groomed for the most part. However EWS racetracks are often really raw, rough and wild. Will there be sections of new trail cut in specifically for the EWS tracks?
Ian: Whilst the trails seem to be quite groomed at the moment, I can see that this summer is going to be a very busy period in the area, and each trail will start to develop some more as they age. In addition to utilizing some of the existing network, Glen Jacobs and the World Trail team have been commissioned to build a few more trails specifically with the EWS in mind. These will be hand cut and steep whilst also giving plenty of opportunity for the media to showcase this beautiful part of the world.
Will those trails be open to the public to ride at any time?
Ian: We expect these trails to be finished just prior to the event and open to the public after the event. This will give an additional element to the already great network down there for years to come.
How many individual stages will make up the Blue Derby EWS?
Ian: At this stage we are looking at 6 – 7 stages. One element that is unique to EWS racing is that the actual stages are kept secret until about one week before the event to try to even out the playing field so I can not say too much about that.
Will the liaison sections that link together the race stages take advantage of some of the existing (awesomely fun) trails down there?
Ian: Again this is a work in progress at the moment, but I can assure you that by the end of the day, riders will have experienced the best riding that the area has to offer.
For people that are wanting to find out more info about the event where is the best place to look?
Ian: check out www.endurotasmania.com and follow @emsenduro on Facebook and Insta. See you all next April down in Tassy at the race!