Wrap party time! Now back in the land of haze where its technically ‘Unhealthy’ to ride a bike outside (#cHub), its given me a bit of time to reflect on a seriously big EuroEnduro mission. So yeah, its a godzillaesque wrap up post to match.

First of all, there was the not insignificant matter of being sick with Bird/Spanish Flu for essentially every single one of the 18 days on mission, something that I can recommend avoiding. That aside, there was the change from providing ‘Tales from the midpack‘ to ‘Tales from just outside the top 200‘ as a massive Euro reality check was served up by world class rad cunts.

I’ve previously done a bit of a wrap up and spouted advice, which I promptly ignored in Europe, about racing an EWS round, so this time I shall focus on the interesting aspect of doing two rounds back to back, with a couple of new nuggets dropped in (interpret that however you want) that I learned along the way in Spain and Italy.

But before we get to that, lets cover off the main reason everyone uses the internet aside from Porn: Talking about shit that went sideways. Hopefully with just slightly more class than Pinkbike comments. First the repeat offenders, those pieces of hardware that were paroled after claiming they were fully rehabilitated, only to reoffend with even more heinous crimes. Cue a couple of black cats walking past:

  • Enve M70 rim – Rear cracked again (no, not a prison joke)… I won’t rant chapter and verse here again, but another high profile fail and to be semi fair, I’m now in discussion with Enve on what the cause is, so watch this space for a full write up once investigations are concluded. As you’d imagine, this was an epic disappointment, not so much that I missed the best trail on day 1, but had to endure two weeks with mismatched wheels, currently billing Enve for the counselling treatment
  • Rock Shox Reverb Stealth dropper post  – Not to be outdone by its Carbon partner in crime, the Reverb waited until race day to one up the M70, blowing itself to pieces before the stage you needed it the most on… 2 weeks after its full rebuild post TP failure. It was repaired by the SRAM guys, then blew again… Diagnosed as terminal and oddly replaced by a 125mm model. Huh? Da fuck? This is where the interesting part came in, the SRAM guys on site advising me that “We have stopped production of the 150mm model as it keeps failing long term reliability tests…” I wasn’t surprised to hear the failure part, but stopped production? Now THAT was interesting, hadn’t seen that key piece of intel being widely published! Perhaps think twice before you throw one in the cart at CRC. Funnily enough, that gem isn’t being advertised… Makes this article by a high profile MTB website feel MEGA awkward man. Nice of them to defend something so vigorously though, perhaps a gig for VW is on the cards?

In addition to the high profile criminals, there were some petty crimes committed around town by a few others, misdemeanours if you like:

  • Shimano M200 shoes – Required 2 tubes of super glue to keep them in service, awesome shoes, but at less than a year old I was hoping that they would have lasted a little better. And yes, I’m the cock that left a brand new pair at home in the box…
  • CCDB Air – Rear shock bushing went, a $2 part that was missed in the full service prior to Europe, but which created the most annoying clunk on the Nomad. Cane Creek don’t have race support (see below), so fixed it by putting on a Fox coil shock. Yes, like using a tactical nuke to open bar peanuts
  • TLD gloves – Came apart at the seams, literally. An excellent excuse to buy some POC gloves, which yes, are the most expensive gloves on the planet. Basically Hand made by a 6 foot 4 Viking that wears Armani suits and drives to work in a Koenigsegg super car after pleasuring the entire Swedish volleyball team, twice.
  • Maxxis Tomahawk tire – Only got 2 rides on it thanks to the Enve blow out, so hard to draw any conclusions except one: It looked like it was a month old after those rides. Hmmmm, need to do some more conclusive testing clearly, but it didn’t do much to give me a new Maxxis stiffy
  • Usual shit – Brake pads, brakes needing bleeding, drive train massacre, tire sealant everywhere blah blah. The point being, these events and this style of riding loooooves consumables! Be prepared.

After talking about breaking stuff, the next most contentious topic of course is picking favourites, not the easiest thing usually when you’re looking at a match up like this:

Spain vs Italy

Dangerous territory here… Comparing awesome countries and events is about as popular as picking a favourite child, or if you’re not the family type, picking which cheerleader performed better post threesome when you’re all having brunch together the next day (so I’m told). Yes, they were fucking hot in their own right, but distinctly unique:

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Surf and Turf

Still, in the name of authenticity, I’m not going to shy away from calling it out. Spain vs Italy is usually a football match, a high profile one at that. But from an ENDURO perspective we have a clear and perhaps unexpected winner based on the EWS head to head experience:

Spain

Yes, I didn’t think I would be saying that prior to the trip, especially given my epic Finale frothing previously. I know its far more PC and accepted to say that they were both awesome in their own particular ways, which they were, but Spain just nailed it across the board in my not so subtle opinion. Sure, they were blessed with better weather (assuming you were an earlier runner on both days), but here are some key areas where they also batted home runs:

  • Stages – The Spanish stages were insanely awesome to ride, let alone race. Stages 1, 3, 6 and 7 stand out in particular as some of the best riding of the year. Also, emphasising the fun factor, aside from stage 5 you never really felt close to peril, which wasn’t the case in Finale
  • Liaisons – Spain wanted to showcase its single track network and so designed transfers that were so fun you forgot you were in the middle of a race at times, seriously cool course design. In Finale there was a LOT of road riding, up… Nice views, but not the same as rad single track
  • Eager beavers – About to make myself hugely popular here, but, in Spain you could tell that they were pumped to have the event there. They were super stoked to make it happen and you got the vibe that they wanted it to be successful. In Finale I sort of got the feeling that it was a bit ‘been here done that’, Rego was painful, lots of stuff was last minute and the Timing staff made it feel like you were a massive inconvenience showing up at the Stage start. Sure, they had to deal with shit house weather and changes, but it was hard to not conclude there was a distinctly different attitude between the champion and up & coming contender of venues
  • Mon Tons – I was probably spoiled by the BIG Mon-ton rides prior to EWS racing in Spain, but there was something that just made you moist being back in big Mon-tons that gave Spain a frothing edge over the coastal action of Finale.

To be fair though, Spain had a secret weapon that it deployed to increase its radness significantly:

Basque MTB – Ok, so I’ve done a few trips with guiding companies and set ups now, but I have to say that these dudes are absolutely world class in my experience. Forgetting the fact they had everything amazingly well organised, or were always on hand in the right spots when needed, or had laser like focus on rider enjoyment, or that nothing was too much trouble – It was their attitude to Mountain Biking in general that was simply golden.

They fucking love riding and they love the Mon-Tons. If you’re thinking of riding in Spain, then your first call needs to be to Doug and the team. They have shit covered and then some:

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Uplift, rad shredding, allowing guests to help with maintenance and always a banger lunch – Standard Basque MTB day

Ultimately I think this was a massive part of what made Spain so awesome, Doug and the boys had everything lined up every day, it was as close as I will come to being on a PRO team, combine that with a bunch of GC’s to ride with through the week and then practice and you had a recipe for radness. Thanks for the good times Doug and team! If I had gone with my original plan of just rocking up solo, I would have had a cunt of a time on reflection, so a huge Dirty fist pump to Basque MTB for making it legendary.

Oh, and they are pretty handy with immortalising your experience, something that will really appeal to your inner narcissist! Instagram the fuck up:

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Stage 5 and the ‘low margin of error’ scenario… Made harder by mismatched wheels

*Usual disclaimer – I paid Basque MTB for the privilege of being able to froth about them, not the other way around. If this authenticity makes you feel uncomfortable and you want the more traditional approach of large companies paying sites to wank them off, may I recommend Cyclingtits or Flow MTB. 

And now its time for the usual numbered list of seemingly obvious things to think about if you want to race back to back EWS rounds. Most of these seem elementary now, but can easily be ignored/forgotten when you’re in full ENDURO froth mode and still have this picture in your head that you look like Jared Graves #sirgrubby when you ride.

But before that, the one overriding element to all this is that being fortunate enough to ride back to back EWS rounds is a must do if you’re an ENDURO fiend. Yes, its tough, but being able to be immersed in the genre of the sport you love for this amount of time is not only rare, but something that provides you with an awesome life experience. Or, in non-gushy terms: Yeah, worth a crack.

1 – Are you supported?

Not talking about software here, as 95% of the time the answer to that question is NO unless you pull your pants down. Indeed, I’m talking about a gear scenario that is important to avoid.

So you’ve spent some time carefully constructing your ENDURO hell machine with hand picked and niche parts, colour matched, highly polished and you’re pretty sure – Exclusive from what everyone else has. You even found this cool artisanal Italian brake guy who makes one set of brakes per month, with approximately 1,000 hours of CNC machining going in to produce the hottest set of calipers known to man.

Prepare to be fingered on race weekend. So, aside from the fact that your bike takes an absolute beating at these events, when something does go wrong with your custom rig, and oh fuck it will at some stage, do you really want to be left walking the pits begging for help like you’re the red headed ‘wingman’ at 3am in the pub? Have you suddenly worked out that ‘niche’ is another term for ‘No race support’?

Classic example – Simon from our group in Spain utterly destroyed his Mavic ENDURO rear wheel (admittedly not a hard task given their buttery personality) on Stage 7. Dropping past the Mavic pits, they dropped a Merde and then got busy completely rebuilding his wheel back to brand new in under 30 minutes, for free… Holy fuck! How is that for support?!

Point being – Think twice about what kit you are rocking when going to remote and punishing locations to race, what’s cool in the carpark may not seem so sweet when you’re getting blank stares in the pits as you find out your niche brands can’t send support to the races. Mavic, SRAM, Shimano, Fox and Santa Cruz all batting runs in the awesome race support club.

2 – Where are your manners?

The most interesting part about watching people rock up to the FREE support tents was how many took the slightly bizarre approach of engaging with the very busy mechanics. Too often I witnessed this gem, from non-PRO’s too:

“This is fucked, how quickly can you fix it?”

If you’re lathered in cunt, then this is probably an ok way to go, which will most likely result in you walking away having been told to fuck off in such a subtle way that you don’t even realise you’ve made yourself into a giant walking penis. So apart from liberal uses of the forgotten words called ‘Please‘ and ‘Thank you so much dude‘, here is the currency you should trade in when approaching busy mechanics:

  • Before 10am – Coffee, double shot. Breakfast Churros probably not a bad call
  • Post 10am, or possibly 9.30am – Beer x 2 or 3
  • Post 9pm – Whatever alcoholic beverage happens to be famous in that area, which for Spain was giant Gin & Tonics, slightly random, but effective.

Yes, the support teams from big companies may be there to support racers, but that doesn’t make it an automatic right all the time and remember, most have some rather stressful assignments looking after PRO’s, so roll accordingly and hopefully good things will happen:

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Apparently it was way more fun working on my bike than Greg Minnaar’s… Probably because I stood silently and did a weird nodding thing to whatever was suggested

Dirty Tips – You’ll want to line up early at the SRAM tent, as that turns into a mosh pit quickly and make sure you get to the Shimano dudes before meal times, they like a good lunch. Best dudes in the paddock? Fox of course. Not biased at all…

3 – Get legit dawg

It pains me this one, file under ‘necessary evil’, but if you’re racing in Europe then its going to make your life so much easier if you have a UCI Licence. When January rolls around, subject yourself to whatever processes your home country federation is going to make you jump through on fire, then once that’s done, get a UCI licence for international racing. To counter this tyranny, then make sure that you sign up for Enduro Mountain Bike Association Memberships, via the EWS Website.

Don’t want to do that? Cool, then be prepared to have to get involved in some painful logistics overseas. That includes getting shaved by an older Italian woman and no, not in a good way:

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Italian tests confirmed that my balls weren’t big enough for the EWS Top 200

Turned out to race in Italy you need a day licence, not cheap. But to get said licence, you also needed a Medical Certificate from a particular doctor, also not cheap. And yes, the med cert part was weird on so many levels (unless you like being told to jump up and down on a box for 3 mins… Sounds familiar…) and pretty much the last type of faffing you want to be doing on the one rest day all trip. Get legit, avoid cuntery.

4 – Look at the big game

Think big… As in, whole trip big. With back to back rounds you’re subjecting you and your bike to the following over an eleven day period:

  • 4 full on days of practice, possibly more and/or track walking depending on the venue
  • 4 even more full on race days
  • Probably a big chunk of traveling between venues, packing, unpacking, bike repair stress
  • Sugar highs from too many Haribo lollies and coke if you’re in Europe

So, with this in mind, the key point is to not blow your load early, keep an eye on the fact that you’re going to have to absorb a lot of ENDURO beat down. I would tell you to watch your health, get lots of sleep, eat well, avoid unnecessary stress, eat bananas even though they are cunts, be well planned and schedule some down time. But, I know that’s all going to vaporise when you get to the end of day 1 of practice and the rad cunts you’re rolling with dish fives and say “Let get a beer cunts.”

That’s the cue for commencement of 10 days of survival – So, just enjoy the immersion of being part of the best race series you can be involved with as an amateur.

5 – Practice vs Race Pace

Yeah, so I blabbed on about this last time and then repeat offended in both Spain and Italy. But here’s the highlight: These stages always feel very different to race on than they do to practice on.

This is very much amateur advice going down here, but if you roll through the stages at a fairly easy pace or don’t push it a bit, then don’t be surprised come race day if you find yourself feeling like you’ve landed on an Alien planet inhabited by a species than has a penchant for probing.

Yes, everything changes when you actually try to ride your bike as fast as you can on trails. Shit gets ragged, the bike feels different and chances are those nice corners or tricky sections from practice will suddenly turn on you like an HR girl that’s sobered up and forgotten all about the work Christmas party.

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Perhaps rolling through Stage 5 in practice not the best strategy ever

I still don’t have an answer on how to do practice without burning yourself to a crisp. The PRO’s seem to get two runs in on each stage, which is a massive work load as you can imagine. If you can manage it, then ideally its a sighting run followed by a full gas pass. Respect if you can manage that! Have some fun, but remember to give it a bit of a finger banging at times to get a proper feel for wasssssup.

6 – Logistics and keeping it real

Yeah, I can drive from Ainsa to Finale, easy as bru“… 900km’s, 11 hours and about 200 Euro later I suddenly wondered if that was the best plan. Sure, I love driving across Europe, but if you’re not so pumped on paying epic road toll bills (fuck me that was expensive) then you may want to think about structuring your round to round transfers better.

I also had the fantasy of getting to Finale and then smashing two days of sweet shuttle riding off the NATO base prior to practice. LOL x You’re a cunt, that was never going to happen after the Spanish inquisition was it? Think long and hard about how much you’re able to get through and also factor in time for mega bike faffing, recovery and getting over injuries or sickness. BTW – Don’t get injured, that will fuck your shit right up… Yes, that’s almost worthless advice given its a variable.

7 – Check your Ego at the door sir

This one applies to amateurs more than PRO’s I suspect and isn’t really advice, more a reality check. When you rock up to an EWS race, you’re doing so with a whole collection of arguably the best shredders on a bike. Whilst many may be local, the dudes that travel do so because they happen to be freak show good at riding a bike.

Let me put this in perspective if I may. Considering that in both Spain and Italy we were thrown into the coliseum with ALL the PRO’s, that’s the equivalent in cycling terms as the following:

  • Entering a Grand Tour time trial against Tony Martin
  • Getting into a break away at a spring classic with Peter Sagan
  • Attempting to race XC against Nino Shurter
  • Starting 30 seconds ahead of Rat boy in a World Cup DH round
  • Starting a CX race… Wait… Fuck that completely

This highlight both the coolest and most humbling aspects of the ENDURO World Series. I can’t do any of the above as an amateur, but I can take to the race stages in the same category as all the top PRO’s. Will it be this way forever? I hope so, but suspect not at some stage. Until then though, I intend to fill my boots with the small caveat about being realistic about what that means.

And this is perhaps the most important aspect – Stay frosty on what happens when you see your stage times or placings, as no matter how rad you are, you’re likely to get a bit of a cock slapping. Ideally you’ve rocked up with your mates, so just focus on giving them a face job instead. On that point, make sure you take a crew, practice in Spain with the gang was about a billion times better than practice with strangers in Finale.

If you’re uptight about results then heads up you’re likely to have a seizure at some stage. Just have fun, enjoy the incredible show of what the top riders can do and avoid being run over by the world champ:

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Monster trucking

A massive Dirty thank you to everyone (you sort of know who you are) who made EuroEnduro II a massive experience, so many ComRADes along the way, which is really what makes the journey what it is ultimately.

Now that I’ve accidentally made two posts into one, its time to get the fuck away from this haze BS, do something that hasn’t been done this year and start cranking out the Dirty Spanish Videos (that sentence is purely to increase my google traffic, some cunts are gonna be so disappointed). Stay tuned.

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