Steps to the Top | The First Step
With a win at the Enduro World Series opening round at Crankworx, in Rotorua, New Zealand, Jerome Clementz proved he’s back on top of his game and ready to race for another EWS championship. Clementz, who in 2013 took the overall championship in the Enduro World Series’ inaugural season, spent the majority of the 2014 event calendar sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Though able to test himself at some late-season races last year, the lack of competition over the winter months cast a few shadows of doubt on the start of the new season. “We train,” said Clementz. “We don’t know what the other [riders] do in the winter, but we try to do our best. And when you get a reward like this—winning a race and having all of the people cheering for you—it’s a good feeling, I cannot lie.”
Despite being half a world away from his native France, the six stages in the redwoods of the Whakarewarewa Forest and final stage at the Skyline Gravity Park suited Clementz well. “This is the stuff that Jerome really likes to ride,” explained his mechanic Matteo Nati. “So we kind of got the setup on the bike sorted straight away—and tire choice since the beginning of the week of practice. Usually, once we get the setup dialed straight away like that, we’ve got a smooth ride.” Clementz may have found the proper bike setup and felt at home on the Rotorua course that were sometimes loamy, sometimes slippery and tattooed with roots, but there were plenty of riders with designs on the top step of the podium. Going into the final stage, his lead was just under 20 seconds, and there seemed to be a handful of riders who could snatch victory.
The closest, in the end, was his countryman, and three-time downhill world champion Fabien Barel. Barel, who won the 2014 EWS final round, the Finale Ligure Superenduro in early October, seemed to find his legs later in the day “It was quite tough, to be honest, at the beginning of the day, as we had three intense days of training,” said Barel. “The longer the day got, the better it was for me, because I was more consistent and solid on my runs—probably not as aggressive on the pedaling sections, but more solid on my riding skills. I think I finished [stages] 6 and 7 with pretty good times, and I won the fifth stage as well. It was hard at takeoff, but the rest of the day was quite good for me.” or Clementz, though, a solid bike combined with early speed and the relative cushion of an early lead proved to be the key to success.
“My bike was working really good,” he said. “That helps, when you feel good on your bike. And today on the last stage, I knew I was leading, so I tried not to rush. I did a smooth top section, and then at the end, with all of the crowd on the side, cheering, I just opened the gas and tried to do the show at the bottom.”