Time for a UGHH UGHH double up post in an attempt to claw back time, with some traveling going down and a race, its been hard to remain ‘almost real time’, so ramming a few days together. The downside, it may burn your retina’s taking it all in, so just a heads up.

As you can imagine, waking up after Big Alpine Day, this is pretty much the last thing you want to see after having to endure not only the rain, but the clouds fucking up your Instagram pics the day before. Don’t fucking say Murphys Law and shit:

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See, it never rains on tour

I wasn’t about to head back up the hill, besides, it was back on the road for day 7. Best we start out the day with a Dirty Tip then, well, maybe more common sense ultimately. The top pic is the Artisanale bakery where you can spend your last 3.40 Euro in coins on creme filled pastries that you don’t need, leaving you with only 50 euro notes…

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Creme pied in so many ways

The bottom pic of course is when you become THAT GUY who is loathed across France as you have to reverse out of the Peage booth while being abused given you’ve been guided by google maps into the only toll booths in all of France that only accept coins. Expand on this cuntery by then parking up on an expressway and like a homeless person with a late model Skoda, attempt to busk/exchange a 50 Euro note for 50 cents with motorists who are speeding past on the assumption you’re trying to purchase oral sex as you wave said note around. Valuable learning’s from that experience I can assure you.

Some time much later than expected, the latest destination on the Dirtier than ever EuroEnduro march was finally arrived at. Never heard of Roubion before? Well, its rather niche is probably why, just 114 non-english speaking locals rocking these parts and here’s another quick dirty tip – Don’t try and drive into the centre of town, its rather small/tiny:

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Perched… Or just a normal suburb in Wellington

Whilst the road up to Roubion would give any Roadie a raging stiffy, there aren’t too many reasons to come up here to be honest. Given its remoteness and obscurity, its therefore slightly ironic that I’ve been here once before, on day 4 of the TP guided tour two years ago. I was so cultured back then I called it “this awesome little French town“, terrible. First of all its a fucking village and secondly its got a name FFS.

So why have I ended up here in the middle of a mountainous nowhere? Yes, there is a bike park, but it only operates on the weekends at the moment, but no, that wasn’t it – It was time to race! Yes, as I have been working my way through the pre-TP check list of activities, getting in some more racing action was the last thing to be OCD ticked off.

The race in question, the latest round of the Urge 1001 Enduro Tour, the Enduro Mondraker de Roubion. It doesn’t get more French ENDURO than this, stoked to be adding another country to the ENDURO racing list, especially considering this is pretty much the birthplace of the concept (other than the type of riding we all used to do in the 90’s of course). Even their camping was as ENDURO as fuck:

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I hate camping, but if you’re going to insist, this is probably the way to do it

Both Nomad’s were pumped and ready to go… This one with new DX pedals on to give a bit of an edge with stability on the long descents and in the new photo pose we now take to hide the mismatched wheel scenario. First race number plate of the trip yeeeeeooooo:

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Fully weaponised

One thing for sure at the pre-race milling around and bike sniffing zone – There were a lot of fast looking French dudes here, not really a surprise, but more a reflection on how much they love this shit. Unleash the general pre-race faffery and beacoup kissing on cheeks, which is french for a fist pump. Luckily for me Greg was rocking the race as well, so I had a familiar face to roll with for the day:

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Offering some free hairy kissing up in the middle

I was slightly confused during the briefing, and not just because it was all in French, when the race organiser became overcome with emotion… Not something you see at every race. Greg translated for me that at this same event last year a rider was killed after hitting a tree and sustaining internal injuries. Hmmm, yup, that gave me something to ponder and with that thought, it was on to the chairlift! Fart noise:

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Usually a joy filled time… But today impersonating a meat popsicle

So a picture won’t tell a thousand words about how fucking cold it was on that chairlift… Soaked and freezing as fuck. If I thought it was cold on B.A.D the other day, this was a step up. Wetter than an Asa Akira pyjama party and we hadn’t even started yet. Given we still had quite a trek up to the start of stage 1, what was one to do? In Greg we trust:

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Voila! Cafe au Lait!

It was beyond a win to roll with the locals to gate crash the mountain top cafe, which I think was technically closed, to not only get some heat going, but to also suck down a hot Cafe Au lait. Roll out the ‘Mercy bow coo’s‘ by the dozen, a critical reprieve from what was waiting for us outside.

Add to that, Florian Nicolai, PRO and 2nd in the last EWS round just quietly, came in and spat out a whole string of rapid fire French sentences at me, to which I replied sheepishly ‘Wee‘ for some unknown reason, instead of saying “Dude, I don’t speak French, ya dig?“. He frowned at me and moved on. I suspect he asked if I liked to adopt cats with half a tail off the street and then attempt to groom them into concubines. Well, I had a 50/50 chance of pulling that situation off I guess, awkwardly suspect it didn’t pan out.

As much as I wanted to sit around all day warming up, there was more mountain to conquer and ENDURO waits for no man, so it was back on the march – Literally:

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Another day, another portage

Like a pack of deranged ENDURO Marmots eager to hoover up gnar, the herd skipped up the Mon-ton (thats how you say Mountain in French English FYI, sounds cooler too), assembling in the rain to commence the Menage a Trois start sequence, yup – Starting 3 riders at a time, something new to consider instead of the normal 30 second gap. As French ENDURO as fuck.

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Just the normal weekend dose of radness coming up

I looked at the amassed horde of French rippers and turned to Greg, “A lot of shredders here today dude“. With a Dirt Yoda calmness Greg turned to me and with words that I shall never forget calmly said:

“Everyone is a shredder until they get to the roots”

If that’s not enough to send a cold shiver down your spine, then nothing is… And with that thought firmly implanted, its time to race.

Stage 1

I shall attempt to be completely transparent on this and therefore start that theme by saying that I for once genuinely felt confident going into this race. Why not? Had been riding the best I have ridden in as long as I can remember, felt fit, bike was awesome, everything has been worked out and lets face it, done a few races this year, so no excuses right? Even starting 3 at a time didn’t phase me:

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Urn, Duu, Twa…

Its also worth dwelling for a moment that this was 100% Racing blind, no idea what was coming, no idea how long the stages were or even what they were composed of. Perfect practice for TP then. I was pleased to sprint down the first wet off camber grass section, which then left me out of breath and uncomposed for what was to come… In a heart beat it was steep, fast, off camber and as slippery as fuck…

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The plan to follow Greg’s lines suffered an early blow

I’m not sure exactly when it turned to total shit for me on stage 1, but it was probably somewhere around here where I felt like I had zero control, flow or confidence on the off camber newly cut French gnar. The mud was slippery enough by itself, but littered throughout like landmines waiting to blow your front tire out were rocks and roots for good measure. I was helping out by braking way too much and also forgetting all the gains from the previous week of riding:

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A new type of Gnar we haven’t met before

Holy shitola did I butcher the top section… Human tri-pod deployed and all. It was a bit like the previous week I had been dominating Call of Duty on a PS4, but then when deployed into real combat I had thrown down my rifle, crawled into the nearest fox hole and started to suck my thumb. Perhaps I could get my shit together on the much longer than expected flat/slightly climbing traversing mid section?

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Possibly panting like I’m in labour

A valuable lesson here – Dry shredding in Finale perhaps not the best prep for racing a wet French Enduro against the locals. The further down the hill I got, the more my front tire started to resemble that of a fat bike tire, which disgusted me no end. Also meant that there was little traction to head into the next steep and super slippery section. Yay:

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Stage oneitis kicking in

Whilst I was busy unravelling, I did manage to catch a few people, right in the worst place to hit traffic as well. This would be the section that was not only new, but rammed with switchbacks that were not only tight, but slipperier than a bottle of KY, the Tripod was en vogue, as was coming to a complete standstill at times:

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Tri time!

The best thing to do in these conditions is to stay calm and be as smooth as you possibly can to minimise time loss and keep the bike rolling, remember the advice from EWS: Flow like water brother. Good thing then that I am a master of both of those aspects. Or not…

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May have said ‘cunt’, 69% chance

Once the upside down shit eating set in, I started to just wanted to get to the end… But section after section the end was nowhere to be seen… Its not often I want a stage to hurry up and finish, but this one was destroying confidence at a geometric rate. Here’s a mega cliche call: It would have been wicked in the dry man! No shit, pretty much applies to any MTB trail:

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Stage 1 finish

I got to the end feeling like I had been stuffed in a washing machine filled with mud and put on the long cycle. Who was this person riding the blue Nomad? Where was the guy from the previous week? Where had he fucked off to? Stage one’s can tend to be slightly difficult, especially blind, but that’s no reason to have skills diarrhoea all through my fox shorts to ultimately leaving me riding like a beginner. On that note, to the results! As per usual, I shall compare myself to a PRO to assist with self loathing purposes:

  • Florian Nicolai – 1st in 12.44
  • Dirty Nomad – 89th in 19.42 (out of 124)

Yes, that’s a long stage and yes, shades of EWS round 1 – 1000 yard stare included:

EE - Roubion

Trying to work out how to ride a bike in my head…

Stage one was almost as disappointing as the final episode of Mad Men, and the bike was looking mint for TP as well… At least the 4km road climb back up the hill cleaned out the tires in the rain…

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Blaming stage one on the wheel mismatch

Heading back to Race HQ to regroup before lifting back up the hill meant that there was the chance to conduct a bit of PRO stalking, it was nice to see that while I was riding badly, the stalking skills are still intact and as weird as ever. Here we can see Flo-Rider worried now that he had heard another EWS mofo was in town, clearly shitting:

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“Is it ze guy who squashed his banana Oui?”

Thank fuck it had stopped raining, making the next liaison a lot more palatable and photogenic. ENDURO dogs on the prairie in effect.

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The great ENDURO migration

Would stage 2 be better? Or would it start to resemble any Rugby World Cup semi where the French were involved? Let us continue this overly descriptive post to find out…

Stage 2

Right, time to sort this mess out and bounce back – No excuses on stage 2 then. Except for sprinting into the stage with my rear shock locked out. Yes, what a total cuntmuppet, the road climb up was so long I had closed off the CCDB Air and whilst I said to myself multiple times to check it at the top, that thought gave way to photo taking, eating and general faffery. I’m not going to mention how long it took to work out it was not working as advertised, but suffice to say the top section of the stage felt awkward. It did work well on the grass sprint at the start though:

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Like any threesome – Someone always gets left slightly out

As I was proving that I’m a case study in why Fox decided to make suspension for dummies, stage 2 was unfolding before me. In an attempt to make it blind and as level for everyone, the organisers had gone to the trouble of creating a lot of new track, including just slicing it down the side of the alpine action. Bravo chaps!

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The hills are alive with the sound of an overly damped rear shock

The other thing that they liked to do was throw in a bit of pedal action… Yes, a slight difference from the super steep terror of stage 1, S2 was demanding that you stayed on the pedals and smashed it the entire time, you can see here as my threesome buddies crank up out of the fold in the hill while I spit foam into my full face helmet trying to catch up to them…

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ENDURO buddies wait for no man

Eventually Jean-Luc made some sort of mistake and I went to pounce on him, only to make my own irrational blow out (got a touch of fever perhaps), thwarting my plans to follow Jean Luc’s lines. It did occur to me at some stage that following people all week had made me lazy in my terrain reading, so ultimately I deserved to get some reality:

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Tell Lord Vader we have them! Or not…

Stage 2 was another long one… And again, rather varied. By this section I was starting to run out of talent a little bit, and whilst this part looked simple, it was slipperier than I gave it credit for and littered with shit that wanted to help end your run early. You can see the left hand turn down there before hitting a very steep gravel track which ramped up the speed massively.

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Must… Pedal… Harder…

In fact, stage 2 was so long I thought Fuck this, I needed another lie down towards the bottom. Le Tired:

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97% chance I said ‘Motherfucker’

I spent some time rolling around in the grass to piss away a bit more time on the stage clock, after all, don’t want to freak people out with my epic form ahead of TP do we? Always best to go in as an underdog. Speaking of dogs, without surnames, I crawled like one with my tail covered in peanut butter along the flat dried riverbed that basically made you sprint the whole way to the finish:

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Bandit mode

Mr Flo Rider was not happy with that either, voicing his displeasure in French at the finish. I was too busy pushing my way into the tent at the bottom to eat pizza and coke – They seriously know how to put on a race here. My gorging on pizza an attempt to delete another woeful stage from the memory banks.

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“Oui, se hairy guy, he eat le Merde”

Ironically for me, Stage 2 ended up being my best result all day stage wise. By ‘best’ I mean ‘slightly less horrendous than stage 1’. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was getting a maaaaad French lesson:

  • Florian Nicolai – 1st in 12.41
  • Dirty Nomad – 82nd in 16.23

Look at that shit, cut my gap to Flo by a whole 3 minutes… Only 4 minutes slower now. That’s like moving from “Bike for sale” to just “fuck that’s atrocious cunt“. Things were sort of looking up. Literally.

Transition 3 was big, whilst the fitness was holding up better than expecting, it was tough to swallow such a big, hard tranny at this stage in the day, especially as it was now heating up.

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Bring me my Assassin to make short work of this

The trick with blind racing is obviously blind tranny’s as well, a quietly disturbing concept… You have no idea how long its going to be or how far you’re climbing. As you well know, it always feels longer when you’ve never done it before as well. Turns out this was a 7km climb at an average of 7%, which in MTB terms is pretty fucking BIG, cue Le Pushing:

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A key part of the ENDURO scenario

Peel off the jacket (remember that part… More to come on the topic), keep trucking on and enjoy the views. I was loving the fact that I was in the French Mon-Tons and getting in some more ideal TP prep, sure the 3.5 hour race was probably half a normal TP day, but logging time in the hills like this is pure gold. More scenery porn coming direct:

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Sucking in the good air and another Village vista

And on we trucked… Respect to Greg who rolled the whole day with me, a bonus given he was the only english speaking dude around, give it some love bro:

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Le Whoop Whoop

And up and up and up… Up here and then way the fuck up over there somewhere. Took and hour and a half in the end. A time that would bring horror to any Bandits face for a 7km climb, but that’s pretty standard in the ENDURO ranks.

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Allez… Allez some more and so on and so forth

Stage 3

Ah… Finally the last stage! Feeling a little jaded by this stage, not to mention I had pretty much had everything thrown at me today, so I was keen to get sorted and get on with it before hunger came beating at my ability to ride my bike. To the start line then chaps!

Greg went… Jean Luc went… and then it was my turn again. Except instead of being sent on my way, the embarrassing question was asked: “Where is your Le tag?”. This is what it looks like when the marshall can’t understand how you’d lost your timing tag, in French:

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What Le Fuck?

Oh man… Want to make even more of a dick of yourself at the local ENDURO race, no faster way to do it than lose the timing chip when you derobe your jacket on the climb. Much awkwardness ensued, but these dudes were all over it as organisers, realising that some gimp would do just what I had managed, there was a back up chip waiting to roll.

Some time later, I was finally off. We had to get some redemption on Stage 3 and it was fair to say that you had a lot of line choices on offer:

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More than a few snakes in the grass down here

I actually felt the fastest I had felt all day on stage 3… Sprinted the flat section, managed to pretty much hold it together and upright even when it got slippery and tricky lower down. Another long one, but with some rad sections that dropped and rolled… The concentration of racing 10 minute plus long stages 100% blind was more taxing than I realised.

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Romans patiently waiting always a sign of danger

Just when I was starting to feel a little loose on it due to the length and tricky factor of the stage, the Bike Park finish was finally in sight. Given this was a French ENDURO, of course it had an uphill sprint in it for good measure just to make sure you were fully fingered by the finish. The crowd was going off, including some chick in a DN T Shirt clearly out for a stalk:

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Need to ask for better crowd protection, I hear you Fed, I hear you

Must have had a bit of fever at the end, as I actually got pissed off and sprinted, which apparently looked like a husky with no legs trying to compete in a hurdles race. I suspect at this point though I just wanted to get to the finish to have another Orangina and no, its not fucking Fanta – It has pulp for fucks sake:

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Too busy sprinting to put the seat up apparently

And to the stage results then! My claims of “That was my best stage” met with mockery by the clock and other competitors oddly, a bit of a WTF moment here:

  • Florian Nicolai – 1st in 7.04
  • Dirty Nomad – 85th in 9.23

Ehhhhhh? Clearly feeling like you’re in control is a bad thing, good to know. So, if you were a positive person you’d say it was an awesome day out, invaluable experience ahead of TP and super rad to race a real live French ENDURO.

If you were Bernard Hinault you would slap me vigorously due to my outputs and make me eat dog Merde from any one of the 50 that were cruising around the race site. Still, I’m in France on my bike, so ultimately zero fucks given about this (overall GC results):

  • Flo Nic – 1st overall in 32.29
  • Dirty Nomad – 85th/117 in 45.28

Florian did me by 20 minutes in the Rots EWS round though, so clearly things are looking up. A massive Dirty thanks to Greg and Jean Luc for a massive day and to the organisers for putting on a seriously quality event from start to finish. For those that like maps and shit, here’s 3.5 hours around Rad Roubion:

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A couple of cheeky chairlifts in there, but a whole lot of pedal power thrown in

Has anyone made it down this far? If so, lets wrap this beast up quick smart with the credits shall we?

  • Croissant count – Nailed it up to 8 on day 7, but static after that. A disappointment given I was at a B&B, had expected some fresh ones waiting to be defiled
  • Cunt of the day (COTD) – Take your pick here: Me, the weather or crashing. Riding with the rear shock closed off and losing my timing chip also notable mentions. All that evidence points towards me being COTD, but people with smiley faces will say “Better now than next week!
  • Gear of the day award – The switch to DX DH Pedals a winner for sure, slight trade off in terms of pedal strikes on a Lowmad with mega sag dialled in, but definitely better, even if results didn’t reflect it. A special mention to Icebreaker base layers and the Royal jacket which worked hard to keep me from getting hypothermia
  • Dirty Tip – Make sure you’re at the absolutely peak of your powers if you want to come and race the French in the wet in a blind ENDURO… Turns out its quite hard. Also helped massively to have Greg to navigate the day, so get yourself a Greg if possible.
  • Trail of the day – Hmmmm, clearly not stage 1. I think ultimately Stage 3 was the favourite, was sure I had smashed it, but oddly not. Still the most fun.

Right then, its time for a break for you the reader and me, chilling for a few days and then making my way to TP Base camp, so stay tuned as I try and be a tourist, feels dirty already.

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