Growing Pains – The EWS & Doping

The EWS was (and possibly still is) the wild west.

Not the bad stuff about the white man’s manifest destiny, but the open, wild space where the spirit animal of early downhill had found fresh pastures. But with the announcement earlier this year that the UCI is going to adopt the series, was too strong a trigger for many Pinkbike warriors to resist. They would bring about certain standardizations and (god forbid) rules that would kill what the discipline was, “the spirit of Enduro” would die and whither on the vine.

It was too easy to make Ratboy hiding the bong jokes to see what was coming, yes, drug testing, but also positive results and the inevitable hard questions.

The EWS when it was founded reached out to the UCI. The UCI at that time was not looking (or willing) to adopt enduro as a discipline. That meant, that the EWS was unable to issue the hallowed and iconic rainbow stripes to its champions. It also meant that certain other duties where left to the individual federations of a races host nation. Duties such as anti-doping screening.

With the structure of the EWS being what it is, with each race run by different national organizations and federations, the rules and format at each event can be different. With each race organizer having a different opinion on some of the finer points.

This in the first few years caught out some of the riders at the sharp end of the league table. Riders have been hit with penalties due to infractions that some would argue, wouldn’t have happened during a different race. What constitutes shuttling during practice for example.

On top of this, the penalties for similar infractions have been, varied. Fabien Barel received a five-minute penalty for shuttling at Crankworx back in 2013 compared with Adrien Dailly, Dimitri Tordo, and Florian Nicolai receiving twenty seconds in Colombia earlier this year. Whilst this isn’t comparing apples with apples, it is certainly something to think about when you take a step back and look at the EWS over its 6-year history.

These growing pains were however necessary, for the teams, privateers and the series organizers, to work out what the EWS was and is going to be. As the series has matured, teams have gotten wise and become more attune to these variances, with fewer of these mishaps befalling the top riders.

These positive tests results obviously do not mean that a calculated act has taken place.

From the start there has been a strong statement against doping within the EWS, Chris Ball is very clear on his position on the matter. But with the anti-doping screening programs being delegated to each individual host nations federation, consistency has arguably been lacking.

Consistency in the application of both the testing and contents of the rules regarding doping is something that should have as few inconsistencies areas as possible. One person’s asthma prescription is another person’s positive test response after all.

This all leads us to the anti-doping testing at the Olargues stage of this years series.

What we know so far;

  • 9 male athletes were tested.
  • The tests were carried out by the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD).
  • 2 riders samples returned “adverse analytical findings”
  • Jared Graves & Richie Rude have confirmed that they returned those findings.
  • Four of the others tested have confirmed their tests came up clean.
  • 3 unknown athletes have not come forward as yet.
  • The AFLD have yet to release their findings and any sanctions.
  • The UCI did not oversee these tests.
  • The UCI may restrict sanctioned riders from racing next year.

So why have we had a round of testing now? And why none of the female athletes? Well the lack of females being tested was due to no female anti-doping officers being present, again the lack of consistency is evident. The AFLD may have opted to test at this race precisely because the UCI would be doing so next year. They may have wanted to appear proactive and not ignoring the event. This is pure conjecture and we will never know why this race.

Why have we not had more people caught in the past? Is Enduro inherently more clean than other mountain biking disciplines? Probably no more or less so, but regular testing doesn’t currently exist. In fact Rude implied that this was the first time he had been tested whilst racing the EWS, which for a two time world champ is kind of incredible.

As the standardized anti-doping test regime and infrastructure of the UCI comes on stream with the EWS next year, the contents of the banned substance list and the true ingredients of the supplements used by athletes will no doubt be poured over by the teams. The level of rigor on the nutritional aspects of the athletes will level up so to speak.

These positive tests results obviously do not mean that a calculated act has taken place.

Cedric Gracia told a story in one of his vlogs about doping in early French XC racing. The essence was that during a race someone from the crowd held out a bidon. He took the bottle whilst passing and his Dad basically saw this and tackled him off the bike. The reason being, you don’t know what is in the bottle. It could be just an isotonic drink, but it could also be a banned substance. It could be an over the counter supplement that contains a banned substance. A deliberate act of cheating would not have taken place, but Gracia’s career would potentially not have happened if he had tested positive.

Something of this nature may have happened, feed stations are an important element of a race day nutritional strategy. This with the fact that other riders in other disciplines have provided positive samples due to a supplement not listing all the ingredients it contains give plenty of scope for how this could have happened innocently.

The fact that they were once team mates and training partners, as well as both sponsored by Rhino Power supplements. Will no doubt raise some eyebrows. However, even without the confirmation of guilt, the fact is that these test results may impact Grave’s return to racing and Rude’s plans for the 2019 season if not beyond.

Whilst this whole episode is sad to see, I am not really surprised that it has happened. We just have to wait for the full findings and any sanctions to be published.

Is The UCI Stifling Innovation? – Sick Bike Co Collab

As part of what I hope to become a series of guest Vlogs (still hate that term). I recorded this vlog posing the question “Is The UCI Stifling Innovation?”. I look at the case of DH and XC, looking at how the UCI technical regulation affect and shape the disciplines. I also ask whether they should and what the “soul” of those races should be.


Excert from the UCI technical regulations, the full document can be accessed here.
ARTICLE 1.3.007
“Bicycles and their accessories shall be of a type that is sold for use by anyone practising cycling as a sport. Any equipment in development phase and not yet available for sale (prototype) must be subject of an authorization request to the UCI Equipment Unit before its use. Authorization will be granted only for equipment which is in the final stage of development and for which commercialization will take place no later than 12 months after the first use in competition. The manufacturer may request a single prolongation of the prototype status if justified by relevant reasons. The UCI Equipment Unit will pay particular attention to safety of the equipment which will be submitted to it for authorization.
 
The use of equipment designed especially for the attainment of a particular performance (record or other) shall be not authorised.” The bicycle must be accessible to all participants. All the components of the bicycle must be available commercially (i.e. available on the market or sold directly by the manufacturer) at the latest twelve months after their first use in competition. To implement this twelve month period, the manufacturer must publicly announce that the product in question is being used in competition and when it will be available for sale. In all cases the product must be in a final stage of development, very similar to the product that will be marketed.
Thus, it is not allowed to use equipment in competition that is not either available on the market or authorized by the UCI Equipment Unit and previously communicated by the manufacturer (with a twelve months period for the marketing). The use of equipment specially designed for a particular athlete, event or performance are prohibited. “Specially designed” means a bicycle with a technical added value when compared with other equipment. No minimum production quantity or minimum price is defined for either bicycles or any component parts.
However, for down
hill and 4X cross mountain bike events, BMX, trials and indoor cycling, specific provisions are laid down in the part of the regulations concerning the discipline in question.

Bex Baraona – Privateer

Bex Baraona has had a pretty good season this year.

Finishing the Enduro World Series ranked 7th overall she was the highest ranked privateer in the pro women or mens categories. Being a privateer, she was without the support of a team covering the logistics and allowing her to focus on the racing. She had to manage all of that as well as other commitments, yet with all of that she attended each stage of the EWS this year.

I first became aware of Bex when I saw her in a Tom Caldwell video where she was absolutely hauling through some pretty slick and wet trails. Fast forward a year and she has launched herself at the Enduro World Series and made a pretty sizeable impression in her first year.

With the 2017 season already firmly in her mind she is raising funds to pay for the logistics of another full year of racing. To do this she is having a pretty special raffle (more on that later), so I fired across some questions for her on the past year and her thoughts on the current state of women in enduro.


Congratulations on your 2016 season, where there any particular stand out moments from the year?

EWS Round 5, in Valberg, was hands down the best race weekend for me. It was my best performance during the season with consistent 3rd-6th stage finishes, ending the race in 5th. Hell of a feeling when the current world champ, Cecile Ravanel, taps you on the shoulder and congratulates you for getting 3rd on the previous stage. Mint!

You raced at every stage this year, how important to the overall ranking is attending each race?

It is pretty important, not only for your overall result but also it helps you progress as a rider. My performance increased race on race and I’d say that was mainly down to learning at each round and feeling comfortable at the different venues.

Racing as a privateer is big commitment, how did you balance the demands of training and racing with your other commitments.

I was lucky in 2016 as I was a student, the training facilities are great, student finance is even better, but mainly it just allowed me to be flexible. However, I was in my final year so it was quite stressful to get my dissertation written and my exams passed. For me, university was more important at the time, as I had one shot to do it, so my training really suffered come exam period.

In the top 20 there are no privateer men but in the top 20 women there are 8, is it harder for women to get signed to factory teams?

I think the women are starting to get more recognised. I suppose it is all proportional, there are usually 300+ men and only 50+ women, so it makes sense that less are sponsored. That said, I think a lot of brands and teams are missing some amazing exposure and marketing by not sponsoring a female on a team. I really look forward to the day when I find a team as excited as me to promote the products, test and develop and ultimately win races and prove the equipment to be world class.

Are women at the pro level of enduro currently under supported by the factory teams?

I think there is a good number of supported women, however, I do think the EWS should require all affiliated teams to have at least 1 woman on the team- it would be great to see some guidelines and involvement from the top on the issue. In terms of salary and support, well that is given…you sell more bikes for the brand=you get paid more. I think the athlete has to find their strengths and roll with that. Are you a lifestyle athlete? A competitive athlete? Or a quirky/unique athlete? There is no problem with who you chose to be in the industry, I just know that I want to win races.


To fund her 2017 season Bex has calculated that she will need somewhere in the region of £20,000 to attend all the races and the support needed. By no means a small sum of money, people buy houses with deposits smaller than this.

Whilst sponsors are more than happy to support with products and in kind services, few are willing (or able) to put their hands in their pockets and provide cash funds. To raise the funds needed to attend the full season is one of the biggest challenges for any privateer. To raise her war chest Baraona is having a rather special raffle.

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A fixed ticket raffle with only 200 tickets available at a cost of £50 each, now that sounds a lot for a raffle ticket until you see the prize list. 101 prizes ranging from tyres, carbon wheelsets and a Transition Patrol race ready bike. So with a slightly better than 50% chance of winning, there is more than enough incentive for those who don’t even enter a Euro millions rollover.

More importantly you will be supporting and helping one of the UK’s most talented young enduro riders. Hopefully she will sellout her raffle and fully fund her EWS campaign, and hopefully, win the podiums and factory support she deserves.

Enter the raffle HERE  

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