It all started as a distraction from downhilling, but for Western Australian ace Sam Hill, a foray into enduro racing has seen him claim another world title to add to his multiple DH World Cup championships.
The 32-year-old father of three went into the final round of the Enduro World Series at the top of the table, a scant 110 points ahead of 21-year-old Frenchman Adrien Dailly.
Consistency paid dividends for Hill, a talented bike handler with a unique ability to find faster lines on any given run. The Chain Reaction/Mavic rider didn't finish any lower than sixth all year, and claimed his second ever EWS win in round six at Aspen.
Dailly won three races in 2017, but a disastrous third round in Columbia where he finished 19th has put him on the back foot to Hill for most of the season.
A third place in Finale Ligure in front of Dailly - and behind Frenchman Damien Oton and Brit Martin Maes - was enough to seal the title for Sam, but the gap was never more than a handful of seconds over the eight stages of the event.
In fact, the two finished within two-tenths of s second of each other in stages three and four!
“It was a tough couple of days of racing so I just tried to stay smooth and consistent and put down the best stage times I could," said Sam after his win. "I’ll be back for sure next season – I want to come back and defend that title.”
Hill joins 2014 EWS champion Jared Graves as the only other Aussie to claim the prestigious title.
There were plenty of other Aussies in the mix this year, with mixed results.
Specialized’s Graves finished 18th overall, with fellow Aussies Josh Carlson (Giant Factory Racing, in 33rd and Jack Moir from Intense Racing in 36th.