Now that the shaking euphoria of completing Round 1 of the ENDURO World Series has gradually started to retreat, I’ve been thinking about how best to present a post that reflects the biggest event I’ve ever been part of, and indeed the only time I’ve participated in a world class event… And I can say right away there is a big difference obviously from spectating at one to being part of the day…
In the end, its impossible to encapsulate what the day meant and what it involved in one update… So for you lucky readers, its a three part mini-series, like one of those Aussie drama TV ones that fucking always had cougar MILF Rebecca Gibney in it (who didn’t have a crush right?), yeah you know the ones. Here’s how its gonna roll then:
- Part 1: Stages 1 – 4
- Part 2: Stages 5 – 7
- Part 3: The Motherfucking wrap up
No one has the attention span for one report, not to mention I would have blown up scroll pads globally with one mega post. All that’s besides the point though, as I need to bask in EWS glory for as long as fucking possible and not let that ENDURO loving feeling go… That, and now I am back in the Global hub there is going to be fuck all to write about.
So, get into your Onesie, grab some marshmallows and prepare to embark on a narcissistic voyage about what its like as a midpack amateur to take on a round of the EWS!
First to go… Last to know…
The 28th of March shall be a day that I will always remember… Can’t remember friends birthdays without iCal, but that date will stick in my mind as the awesome anniversary of being involved in a real deal world class event. Not only is this a rare occurrence, like a surprise threesome, but its also going to be even harder in the future to be involved with I suspect, when they will most likely move EWS to a qualifying system in order to participate.
Amazingly I managed to sleep easy the night before, a bit of a surprise given the occasion ahead… The mere mention of possible rain on race day should have been enough to keep me awake, that combined with how bad the final day of practice went. On top of that, the prospect of actually making stage start times loomed large. Yes, they had been republished to take into account route changes and some of the transition times looked tight.
The main thing was that no one wanted to blow a tranny. Normally not something one has to worry about in life, unless you’re hanging around public bathrooms trying to get money to buy another set of Enve wheels, but it was a distinct possibility in this race. How to avoid the embarrassment of blowing a tranny? Knowledge is power as they say… Cut off times were key:
Everything was set – With empty bowels and an Evoc ENDURO pack filled with enough food to feed a small army of African freedom fighters, it was time to strap up, click a shit load of buckles, lock down the velcro and step out into EWS oblivion…
For today’s unrealistic comparisons, I shall measure myself against Sean McCarroll (SM), Ex-World Cup PRO DHer who won the Amateur 30-39 category and Jerome Clementz (JC), 2013 EWS Champion and winner of the PRO category… For context, there were 44 starters in amateur men 30-39.
Transition 1 – To the TOP
In the EWS universe, the Bovine amateur fodder is herded into the Dirt Abattoir first up, as an offering of sacrifice for the PRO’s to follow. It also allows us to brake fuck the trails and make them even more challenging for people who are actually paid to ride their bikes, as opposed to those than just fantasise that we do (no way I do that).
First test – Actually find the start location, which once hunted down was pretty impressive, set amongst one of the most active Geysers in the world. Oh yeah, English people, its not called a ‘Geezer’, that’s some cunt in a bar wearing a velvet adidas track suit, not a rock formation that spews hot shit in the air.
So, I know many of you are wondering how it looks at the start of a world class ENDURO event? Well, check this shit out… You can tell that things have gone Nek Level with the addition of a faux silk marquee liner and a chandelier from a bogan wedding. This was countered by the addition of a real live Italian on the mic, speaking with an Italian accent, which made things significantly more PRO:
The first trick was to get down the start ramp and not make an obvious error and fuck up in front of the crowd, down the ramp, stairs and then three rock drops… Welcome to the party pal. Don’t laugh, how about the dude that dropped in, blew his rear tyre and then had to try and tube up and make his start time at the top of the forest, for REAL!
So, T1… A long way… A solid hour ride from the Geezers to the very TOP of the forest. This won’t mean much to most people, but out to the Whaka forest, up the main road, up Direct Road, up Frontal Lobotomy and then UP again to the very top, close on 500m of climbing from memory to get to the first timed stage…
Stage 1 – Cutties & the Coliseum
Not to take the piss here, but everyone arrived at the start of stage 1 in an identical state: Wet. Not the tingly, excited, here we fucking GO kind of wet either, more the ‘fuck its humid and that was a long way’ kind of moist. Whilst I had 10 minutes up my sleeve before my start, some numbers were being called and already having to suck on the big tranny sausage of a missed start time…
There I stood… Watching the queue dwindle and listening to numbers being called. The cleaning of goggles, the clicking of helmets, the banging of shoes on pedals to clear out any unwanted dirt from cleats, the deep breaths of those in front of me and the constant calls of “10 Seconds” and “Go hard bro” ringing out. Fuck, this was real… This was about to go down… It was time to cross that timing beam and be part of an EWS round. It was all mildly more nerve wracking than a high-school disco where you were going to try and pash a girl called Melissa or Sarah.
Next thing I knew, the starters arm went down and the afterburner was on… Charging into a surprisingly dark forest and slippery conditions on the ‘Tuhuto Ariki’ trail. Stay calm, breath, pedal and build into the stage… The top section was actually pretty good, nailed a few things that I had fucked up in practice and I was feeling pretty pumped, just the hard part to come.
Turning into Kataore and you could instantly feel the problem: The mud. It was thick, wheel sucking and much deeper than in practice, not to mention cut to ribbons by the riders that had proceeded us. Throw in a gradual climb and a maxing heart rate and unbelievably I started to stall on some sections, weighed down by the freshly laid concrete consistency of the terrain.
I could feel the time flooding out of me like a burst ENDURO artery… Trying not to panic, desperate to keep composure, I crawled through the hideous mid section and like a wounded U-Boat under attack, I just had to hang on and wait for the inevitable dive downward which I knew was coming, surely that would set me free?
My plan of ‘Keep calm and Human Tripod on‘ was pretty much like any battle plan: It didn’t survive first contact with the enemy. I’m not sure what had unhinged my plan of minimising my losses through the extremely difficult sections, but all I know is that at one stage I got out of sync, lost my rhythm and then it was perhaps any one of the following that may have compounded me coming apart at the seams like a Tauntaun sleeping bag:
- The Swiss army ENDURO knife that had started 30 seconds behind me caught me and passed me, always handy to throw you off your game and make you feel as slow as fuck
- The trail had been blown to pieces… No shit, it looked like they had made 8 to 9 Die Hard movies down there and in some sections, there was little resemblance to what it had looked like in practice on Wednesday arvo. As they say, adapt or die… I clearly got into a body bag
- I was breathing like I was trying to pass an overinflated basketball, wrapped in Meerkats, which when you combine with now fogging goggles and mild panic is a pretty awesome recipe for forgetting how to ride your mountain bike down exceedingly hard terrain
- Or, perhaps it was these guys? The Romans….
If there is one thing you can guarantee with an MTB crowd is that they are able to pinpoint and flock in large numbers to the precise location where they’ll be assured of maximum destruction… For Stage 1 they were almost spoilt for choice on where this was, but they selected pretty much the one corner that would promise mucho mucho fuck ups.
I could hear the roar of the coliseum as fellow competitors ahead of me entered its gates and either nailed it (the minority) or completely screwed the pooch, much to the delight of the bloodthirsty audience, especially the dude with the loud hailer.
Having already hit the deck a few times, I arrived on the scene like I had cycling autism and in much the same fashion as when you throw a blanket over a budgie, any vestiges of composure evaporated when I got to that corner. I don’t even really remember seeing the trail or the corner, all I could hear was the noise and the wall of people… I’m not sure where I looked, but it wasn’t calmly through to the exit of the corner and the next thing I knew, like many lemmings before me: I was going down.
As I gave the horde what they wanted and crashed through the roots and dirt and tried to right myself, one voice rang out from the crowd of hundreds:
“Ehhhhh, squashed ya banana cunt!”
I have to admit, I had to laugh… What can you say to that? He was right to, my strategically placed narna in the back of my Evoc pack taking the brunt of the impact. What else was there to do in such a situation?
I didn’t run the Go PRO in the race, so from here on in I may resort to some, er, creative ways to try and paint the picture of the race. Its debatable if using screen shots from official video footage is plagiarism or not, but in the mean time, lets get busy on maximising it. The point being, I wasn’t the only one to suffer this fate on the same corner, as we can see here, one of the Yeti PRO’s recreates the Dirty Nomad form, much to the delight of the Roman heckling legion:
Whilst many were stopping at the shit eating drive through and ordering the McFuck me combo, it seemed French people had no problem making this corner look like it was paved and bermed, example 1 coming in hot, Fabian Barel on his way to second place overall:
And, on his way to the stage win in the PRO category, another French weapon, Jerome Clementz, throwing down an eye watering time, allegedly as he knew I would run a Dirty Nomad comparison on times in the race report… Everyone needs the right motivation to get the best out of themselves I guess. Note the wheelie of of the corner… Yeah… Fuck:
Having fallen and hauled myself through the bowels of MTB hell, I was desperate to get to the end of the stage and hide myself under a blanket of shame… Problem was the bottom was pedal city and I was too fucked to pay the toll. I honestly felt like I was wading through an outward going dirt tide, the harder I struggled, the worse it got… Where was that final turn and exit?!
Towards the end of Stage 1 when I was pretty sure my heart was going to follow my pride and come out my mouth, I noticed exiting the forest had a nasty dip to it and a ditch on the right… Remy Absalon must have had the same thought… 10 meters from the finish and all…
I have to admit, I got to the end of stage 1 and the only way to sum up how I was rolling was ‘Shellshocked’. I suspect I looked like I had just crawled out of the Somme on its worst day and I wasn’t quite sure why I was even there to be honest. Everyone had expected it to be tough, but it was exponentially more difficult than even the most outlandish predictions. The scene at the end was like a field hospital, with amateurs littered all over the grass looking dazed and confused… The only thought I had was I had to get the fuck out of there. Before that though, and not that I want to, a quick look at the results
- SM ex-PRO – 10.57 and 1st in 30-39 Amateur
- JC totally PRO – 9.01 and 1st in PRO
- DN not quite as PRO – 15.52 and 31st in 30-39 Amateur. Yes, that time gap in category does have a name, its called catastrophic. And you thought I was kidding when I said it was a full implosion?
Transition 2 – The sound of the zipper
As I dribbled solo around the Blue Lake towards stage 2, I will admit that my mind was clouded with more doubt than an under-perfoming middle order batsman, which I tried to override with a ‘Zero Fucks Given’ software update. What was done was done, it was time to erase it and start afresh. I did reflect that the first time I had ridden a mountain bike in 2015, post bone breaking, was on 18 January and here I was, 2 months later racing in the EWS… Perspective motherfucker, now get on with it.
After a while, I caught up with Adam, a shredder on a Reign. His opening comment when he saw another ENDURO straggler making like a Zombie on their way to Stage 2: “I don’t know about you mate, but that was fucken embarrassing… It was like I couldn’t ride my bike“. There is something instantly disarming about knowing someone else thought it was a total cunt as well. We therefore promptly formed an ENDURO knitting circle and swapped stories about how badly we had fucked up this or that… As they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing and unbeknown to me, this is what Iago Garay, Santa Cruz PRO, would ultimately say about stage 1:
“My day didn’t start as I wanted with a really bad stage 1 where I crashed a couple of times and I felt like I didn’t know how to ride bikes….”
Word Iago, WORD.
The organisers were enthusiastic in telling us that they had gained permission to take us up a Horse only trail that was usually not to be used by mountain bikers, just for the event… Probably a reason MTBs don’t go up it, as you needed a fucking horse to get up there. With no idea how long it went on for, nervously I started to watch the clock… And climb… And push… And sweat… and look at the clock. 10 minutes to go. Should be fine right?
5 minutes to go… Where the fuck are we? How much longer to go? 4 minutes… FUCK… putting the hammer down a bit now. Was the tranny about to kneel over me? FUCK… And then, finally with 2 minutes before the start time, there it was at last…
Stage 2 – Kung Fu Walrus
2 minutes may sound like a reasonable amount of time to rest before racing an EWS stage… But its not really, especially when you had 45 minutes solid riding, hating yourself, climbing and pushing to get there. I had just enough time to suckle the Camelbak nipple, clean the gogs, take a deep breath and line up behind Lester Perry, the Lean Mean ENDURO Killing machine that started every stage 30 seconds ahead of me. Lester is a certified weapon, actually going on to win stage 2 in our category.
Spare a thought for #278, who arrived at the start of stage 2 to get his 10 second call… Yup, 50 minutes of riding and straight into a stage. He did confess to blowing to pieces like a hand grenade in a pig pen 30 seconds into the stage. Poor fucker.
Whilst I wasn’t a huge fan of stage 2 in practice, it was significantly easier than 1 and I was now warmed up, so it was time to get into it. Blenki demonstrates how it was done:
I figured I was going ok on stage 2 as the Swiss ENDURO Ream Machine didn’t catch me until right at the end of the stage, and had I stuck the left line on a cunty little up he wouldn’t have nailed me at all… No major mistakes, a fairly clean run and whilst it would have been nice to have been faster, fuck it was a lot better than Stage 1! Sort of almost felt like I was getting in the game… JC must have felt the same, flying:
Kung Fu may be a bastard to get to in the forest, but I wish I had ridden it more than once, as with a little bit more local knowledge I could see how you could quickly wipe substantial time off a run… Still, I managed to keep some flow rocking and hit some sections and lines massively better than in practice.
Wouldn’t say I blitzed the stage, but at least I didn’t look like I was having a seizure on the ground, so a substantial upgrade both performance wise and also in the head department, just now needed a slightly better result:
- SM ex-PRO – 3.58 for 3rd
- JC totally PRO – 3.31 for 4th
- DN not quite as PRO – 4.57 for 27th
Transition 3 – Wet grinder
Learning the lesson from T2, I rolled straight out of the stage, gave the Swiss beast the high 5 he fucking well deserved and then agreed with his observation “Ja, we must roll yes? Its so tight on Ze Transition Ja?“. Fucking Affirmative bro, lets punch it Swissy… Turns out he was as fit as fuck, riding off to leave me alone on the 30 minute grind climb up Moerangi Road and Time Warp to the start of Stage 3. Silent, sustained and saturated climbing…
Still, the mojo was starting to come back. Bring on Act 3, and with 10 minutes to spare this time – Thank fuck for that!
Stage 3 – Sucking the Frank N Furter
Here’s something I suggest you don’t ever say during EWS practice: “Yeah, I rode stage 3 on Monday, so don’t need to go back and check it out today…” While I felt like a boss up the top of Stage 3, as soon as it started to get nasty, my so called knowledge of what was coming evaporated.
Yup, as everyone else had been practicing 3, it had changed quite a bit in a few spots. The effect? Rhythm took a fingering and once I got out of step, I never really got the flow back from the middle of 3 onwards, with some dumb moments occurring as a result. Curtis Keene, Specialized PRO, must have thought the same as me, either that or riding a 27.5 bike thats made from left over 26inch front triangles is ballz:
No such problems for Anne Caro, she nails is… Like a BOSS:
Quite pleased to say that I nailed said corner, by nailed I mean rode down it much slower than the PRO’s but didn’t crash. Some may recall this section from Monday, where it was significantly slicker than on race day, small mercies:
Stage 3 felt a bit of a strange one to be honest, another weird mix of nailing some bits and then ruining other sections that deserved to be slayed. Best summed up as awkward really. I never grew much of an affinity for 3 and should have probably practiced it a bit more in all honesty… The results definitely reflecting a slight backwards step, the good news though – It didn’t seem to bother me:
- SM ex-PRO – 4.09 for 1st
- JC totally PRO – 3.32 for 1st
- DN not quite as PRO – 5.43 for 29th
Still, onwards and upwards to stage 4, the slight shining light was the fitness seemed to be holding up ok, judging by the number of peers on the side of the track with cramp and the common feedback of “Fuck these transitions are a motherfucker“.
Transition 4 – Can you even pace yourself bro?
Another grinder moment, but with the slight bonus of hitting the first neutral tech/feedzone… Where, wouldn’t you know it, they had enough food to feed an American Army division, stoked I was carrying so much shit with me then wasn’t I? The one thing I was tapped out of? Water, if you can believe it, the first 3 stages and tranny’s had drained 3 litres out of the bladder, a pointer to the humidity and general intensity of the day. Fair to say it was buzzing at the hub:
This was the first time all day we had run into other racers and the PRO’s, given the convergence of stages 3, 4 and 5 in this area, I had to focus quite hard to not get all PRO stalkerish on it and remind myself the clock was ticking still… Refuel, repack, eat and get back on that Nomad mofo, it was time to head back up to the top of the forest to get on to Stage 4. I wasn’t alone:
The upside of T4? Finally arrived at a stage start with a decent amount of time to spare. I think this was the first time all day many of us got the chance to take our packs and helmets off, eat without the fear of massive indigestion, take photos and sit in the sun whilst letting out a long winded “fuuuuuck“, which best reflected how hard and hectic the start to the day had been. It even gave me the chance to take some pretty meaningless photos:
Stage 4 – Billy T
YES… On to stage 4 and I was quite pleased to be here… Not only for the rest prior to the start, but also because this was widely considered to be the ‘easiest’ stage of the day. By easy, its best to describe it as FLAT OUT. It wasn’t so much a question of having your testicles inspected for size, or your ability to negotiate mentally deranged roots on off camber sections, no, 4 was all about how fucking flat out you could make your carbon beast machine go on some of the flowiest terrain of the day:
Stage 4 was made up of ‘Tihi o Tawa’ into ‘Billy T’… Tihi was pretty new and I had only run one lap of it, but Billy T is an old favourite and I was a lot more relaxed about getting down into the lower half.
Rocking into Tihi and it was the first time all day that I had felt a little fingered heading into a stage. Problem was, Tihi required a little horsepower to get the speed up, it wasn’t a straightforward blast like the second half of the stage. A couple of the little climbing pinches made me feel like I was out for a solo trail ride as opposed to racing an EWS round, but I got into the swing of things once we hit Billy, then it was time to open it up:
This was the first stage where I felt genuinely fast to the point of being frantic, finally starting to hit things properly and with some genuine confidence. Whilst this isn’t me, I sort of hope I looked a bit like this coming into the drop near the end of Billy:
I got a fever on down Billy and constantly willed myself to not collapse down into the saddle, but get up and sprint out of every corner, look up cunt, don’t brake and rail that turn… It was dry as well, which only helped to egg on my already peaking eagerness. Fuck, I even sprinted for the line for fucks sake! How’s that for pumped, low on mistakes and pretty much riding to where I thought I would be, including a slight improvement results wise:
- SM ex-PRO – 6.04 for 5th
- JC totally PRO – 5.19 for 1st
- DN not quite as PRO – 7.03 for 24th
A minute down on Sean and the best placing all day, starting to get pumped… Starting to feel good and the stoke factor was climbing. At last it felt like the bike was moving under me the way you expect it to, a reflection of relaxing and being smooth I suspect. Whatever it was, stage 4 finally felt like things were being done properly. Oh yeah, and I was having FUN!
Would I be able to build on it from there? Would I survive stage 5, which had fucked with my head on Friday? Would I be able to kick on and do something rad on stage 6, my favourite stage? And importantly, would I be able to get down the psych out of Stage 7?
So many questions… Stay tuned for Part 2 of the EWS DRAMA mini-series to see how it all unfolds…