Here we are then… The final day of the Finale EWS… The final day of riding on EuroEnduro II… The final race day of 2015… The final day of racing for some big PRO careers and the final day of the EWS series for 2015. So, kind of a big deal then? Absolutely. There is no question its balls were smelling of rich mahogany. Whilst there were only two stages on Day 2, there was still a lot of pedalling and racing to be had.

As this scene setter is trying to hint at, there was a certain air of finality hanging around as we rolled out that morning from Race HQ. On that point, everything was looking a little second hand after Finale had been smashed by another overnight storm that seemed to have a big appetite for marquees. Not only had it blown like Divine Brown, but also pissed on the stages that were on the menu for Day 2.

But before we had to think about that, there was the not so small matter of the 20km liaison to deal with. And not just any liaison either – Straight up, from sea level to 1,000m, on road and with 2.5 hours to knock that bastard off. Legit, I even have a map to prove it:

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The only way is up, baby

Yeah, so, fuck that’s a long way on a 160mm ENDURO bike with tires that are wildly allergic to tarmac (Dear Specialized legal dept – Yes, I’m allowed to use the word ‘Tarmac’ as like all of your bikes, its just a commonly used word from the dictionary. Also, please blow me).

Just how big was this Tranny? So big that it needed its own feed station half way up, Rich using the DN cycling cap to dominate it completely.

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We be in the feed station, with a bottle of isotonic drink, like its yo birthday

I wouldn’t say its an every day occurrence to climb for 2 hours on the road on your long legged MTB, especially when you climb so much you enter the cloud layer. Once that combined with some seriously cool forests, it was time for me to get artistic on it, shredder in the mist styles.

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Rich showing excellent patience with photo taking shenanigans

Thankfully though, once we topped out at 1,000m precisely with that sweet NATO Base action, we got a little DH warm up to the start of the stage. This meant I got the rare opportunity to sort of ride a descent with Rich instead of just climbing, even managed to get a pic of it too:

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Peeling the orange… Terrible caption gag… Running out of caption form

And this is riding DH with Rich 10 seconds later… Actually, maybe 5 seconds instead… I’m exaggerating the size to make me feel better. Squint hard, he’s down there somewhere…

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The liaison giving us a taste of conditions to come…

Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective, the Italian Rules police caught up with me on Day 2 and banned the use of Go PRO’s. I tried the “they let me yesterday” protest meekly, which only got me a massive Italian sized frown. Ultimately, thank fuck that I wasn’t allowed to use my Go PRO, as I wouldn’t have wanted any evidence of what was to come next…

Stage 5

Real talk, I was genuinely looking forward to Stage 5. At 6.6km long with a 780m drop, it was a pretty serious test to contend with, those are GOOD numbers in anyone’s shredding book. Easily the longest of the weekend, it linked the most awesome top section with the newly cut/constructed lower section to form a decisive stage for the weekend.

Most people called out Stage 5 as their favourite, which was fair enough too. Only one pass in practise and it was dry to the point of being crumbly. However, lining up for the GO, we all knew that wasn’t going to be the case at all now it was race day. Push out a few nervous farts as they counted down in Italian, as it was clearly going to be close to quarter of an hour of slipperiness, sans Russian hookers.

As I got stuck into the top section, it was instantly obvious that I had underestimated how slippery it was going to be. The top of Stage 5 is an excellent roller coaster that ducks and weaves beautifully through the trees, to much frothing as well. As slippery as this felt though, it was nothing compared to the new sections lower down. At this stage, I could just conclude this race report by saying “It wasn’t a good outcome“, but that would rob you of the sheer horror to come.

Woah… This was NOT the trail that we practiced on Thursday! I hadn’t seen conditions like this since the Roubion Enduro Massacre in June. Large ruts were forming, mud was caking on and it literally felt like I was wading through ENDURO quick sand in places. Exacerbating this, my brain was determined to conclude that there was half as much grip as there actually was, which wasn’t helping matters as I was simply going slower and slower. Worse than that, I was getting more and more tentative as well. As it turns out, this was the fatal combo.

Matt had already passed me, then Graham went past like I was riding the course in the opposite direction. Then on the main climb mid stage, Matt’s buddy went past me like I was a spectator. Holy fuck… What was going on? No focus, no aggression, no confidence and it was just getting harder and harder. Excuse me if you’ve heard this all before, yes, this music is familiar… You know its coming…

And then – I melted down

I’m talking a patented Dirty Nomad Melt Down here, or if we want to translate that into Corporate cuntery parlance a DNMD. You may remember such melt downs from Stage 1 at EWS Rotorua, or perhaps Stage 1 at the Roubion ENDURO massacre, or even Stage 22 in Trans Provence.

These DNMD’s highlight that when I lose the plot I make Rainman seem like a fully coherent individual. Oh yes, I don’t do this shit by halves. By just over halfway down I knew that the melt down was in full effect as well, and I hadn’t even got to the hard part in the stage either.

As I mentally crumbled, every corner became like a scene from Titanic… Speed and momentum bled out of me in a catastrophe that was making the Deepwater Horizon disaster look like spilt milk. Stalling, sliding, freaking out, you name it, I was diving head first into this nightmare so badly I wondered at one stage if in fact I was actually dreaming. Next thing I knew, even Rich was coming past me. Yes, if you’ve done your maths about right, he did start 1 minute and 20 seconds behind me. If I was a horse, I would have been sent to the dog food factory at this point.

It got so bad that the Medics further down looked like they were going to stop me as it looked like either A) I had taken a knock to the head and shouldn’t be riding or B) I was a drunken spectator that had stolen the bike of a racer to go and buy more beer.

By the time I reached the ‘Hard part’ in the stage, two more riders had sailed past me, people I hadn’t even seen in the start queue. Holy fuck… It was now clear… I had become the ENDURO Gimp:

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Forget the calm… Maximise on the GIMP

I suspect that instead of spending the whole time freaking out I was going to hit the deck in these conditions, I should have gone full gas, crashed and then gotten on with it. That would have been a quicker proposition than wearing out a set of brake pads with potentially the worst spell of riding I have managed in 2015. The crowd could smell the stench of melted Nomad pelt/brake pad as I arrived in the coliseum, which of course was around the slippery rock sections:

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There appears to be silence as the Romans work out how bad my Kung Fu is

Thanks to the artist that is JT, he managed to capture me on a rare moment where I don’t look like I’m about to lie down in the mud and have a massive tantrum, also highlights that it got a little steep in places. Here I am trying to shit on my back wheel:

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The Stage 5 Ego massacre in effect

I was taking so much time getting down Stage 5 that word managed to get back to Santa Cruz HQ that I was busy doing irreparable brand damage by riding one of their bikes like it was my first ride off road, ever. I respect their decision to send a couple of dudes to pop out of a bowl of pasta and put a cap in my Dirty ass:

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“Does Rob Roskopp look like a bitch?”

Its fair to say that I got to the end and felt a bit shellshocked… Full 1,000 yard stare was in effect and whilst the vast majority of racers around me dished high 5’s and yelled “Fuck yeah“, I stumbled around like a low skilled zombie wondering if it was too late to take up knitting as my new sport. This was going to hurt, badly:

Results

  • Fab Barel – 11.42 for 2nd
  • Rich – 13.34 for 136th
  • T Mo – 13.05 for 1st in Pro Women
  • Dirty Nomad – 17.22 for 238th (about what I deserve for referring to myself in the 3rd person)

Holy shit, that’s bad… To put it in context, Fabian Barel could have ridden Stages 5 and 6 in the time it took me to ride just #5. I even got pegged by the Specialized PRO Instagram ambassador, Hannah Barnes, a first for this Euro visit. Rich almost sent a rescue party back up the stage, which was probably a fair summary. I was essentially the English Rugby team of ENDURO, except somehow even worse.

I will take a mini break from the self loathing here to acknowledge that clearly I’m not rocking up to these things for the results, just in case you thought I had some wiring issues. But, there is one thing that I think every single rider at an EWS, from PRO’s to Not So’s have in common:

We all have one desire to ride our bikes as well as we possibly can, to the maximum of our ability

If you take that as a pretty solid base line for inspiration, then I had just gone and done the exact opposite of that on the stage I was looking forward to the most. #cuntbag, it felt like it was time to go home…

Stage 6

Woah… In the ditch here aren’t we cunt? I’m not going to refer to myself as a phoenix, as the phoenix didn’t go through a Nuclear fire of epic incompetence on a mountain bike did it? But would I be able to rise up, or would I be jammed back in the ENDURO Gimp box? As you can imagine, there was a mix of hesitation and desire to get to the end approaching Stage 6, which wasn’t exactly a BFF from practice.

Still, the thing about ENDURO racing is that you need to be like the security cameras on the Exec floor at Volkswagen: Instantly delete what has just happened and keep moving forward with plausible deniability. Besides, I was still in Italy, I was sort of riding my bike and in a touch of regret it was the last racing stage of the year. Cue the pre-stage preparation rituals:

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That feeling that the ramp is about to come down again and lead will start flying

Being authentic, after getting the Italian 5 second count down and wave off, I headed into Stage 6 feeling a bit like an ENDURO sex doll that had lost half its air due to being subjected to the stage 5 overtaking gang bang, somewhat deflated some may say? I also had a the poisonous thought about just nursing it home in one piece. As per the well worn Italian Job script by now, Matt soon caught me and passed me. And then something unexpected happened out of nowhere…

I got MAD

I’m not sure if it was that I didn’t want to be the ENDURO gimp again, or if it was the fact it was the last stage of the year, or perhaps the stinging 26 inch wheel humiliation, but whatever it was, a furious vengeance exploded inside me and like a mushroom cloud laying motherfucker, I set off in pursuit of Matt.

Suddenly, I was actually racing… Hello sweet fury, I had turned into a giant ENDURO rage monster and it was working! I hammered up climbs to keep Matt in sight and then stayed off the brakes on the ripping downhill sections. Finally cunt! I was riding like I should have been going all weekend. Zero fucks given, I was going to stay pinned or crash trying. Much like Stage 2, #6 was a lot better to race on than it had led us to believe in practice.

And even better, I actually felt fast, that was a change… I think the greatest benefit was chasing Matt made me look down the trail, yeah yeah, that old chestnut, but it was having the right result and by the time Matt finally disappeared from view I was already in the right mode to charge down the final piece of trail to the finish.

I was possessed with Rad/Madness, and even though I had forgotten about those cunty little dips at the bottom, I attacked them with a pair of pliers and a blow torch, possibly even spitting out the words “come on you cunt” with furious vengeance as I fought to clear the sharp little climbs that punctuated the final 500m of the stage. People screamed, my chain begged to snap and my tires arm wrestled for traction, but it all stayed together. #YEScunt. The elation of finally riding properly tasted Nek Level sweet.

How did I know it was a good stage? Well, on an 8 minute run and for the first time all weekend there was NO Graham cruising up to my back wheel, yes, the fat ENDURO hare managed to survive the Chamonix Greyhound assault. In a moment of euphoria when he did arrive at the end of the stage I awkwardly shouted “Fuck cunt, I am stoked that I didn’t see you all stage!” I think he got what I meant. And no, he hadn’t crashed or flatted, I had just behaved legitimately on my bike for a change.

Results

  • Fab Barel – 6.19 for 3rd
  • Rich – 7.03 for 95th
  • T Mo – 7.22 for 1st in Pro Women
  • Dirty Nomad – 8.13 for 205th

That’s slightly more respectable from a results perspective… Only 8 tantalising seconds off being in the top 200 as well. More importantly, didn’t ride like a drunk person trying to make love to a camel. Check out Rich however, smoking into the Top 100 on a run he wasn’t pumped about when the same dude from Stage 3 crashed in front of him again, this time blocking the whole trail. Given that whole scenario, what a rad mafucka for breaking the 100 mark!

What an excellent way to end the weekend and the season, well, not in everyone’s books, but I felt pumped. I yelled ‘Fuck yes’ and high fived people when they weren’t expecting it, which resulted in some odd hand grabbing moments. At least I got to ride out smiling instead of wanting to resurrect my road racing career.

Final Overall results:

To give an indication about how much people wanted it in Finale, check this out: Top 7 Open Men were covered by a mere 16 seconds! That shit is tighter than a Prime Ministers pig. The other scary stat? 7 of the top 10 were French, just in case anyone was thinking about the EWS Round in Valberg next year… “Hhhhhheee hhhheeee, Oui, we will finger you oui?

  • Fab Barel – 35.43 for 2nd overall. How close was Fab to the fairytale finish? 1.49 seconds from the win. Over two days of riding and racing, that’s about as close as you can cut it
  • Rich – 41.14 for 115th
  • T Mo – 40.50 for 1st in Pro Women #legend
  • Dirty Nomad – 50.14 for 220th from 243 finishers #nothingtoseehere

And so, to the victors go the spoils as the 2015 World Champions were crowned. Tracey Moseley nailed her third championship in a row, an epic effort when you consider in 3 years she has never been outside the top 2 in a round. Holy fuck, that’s just straight up awesome. Good work from Anneke Beerten there, sneaking onto the podium for the series in the last round, I would definitely hold on to her if I was Specialized…

Womens series podum. EWS round 8, Finale Ligure, Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Womens series podum. EWS round 8, Finale Ligure, Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

And in the dudes department, it was an all Yeti affair. Yes, Sir Grubby won the round and Richie Rude took home the World Champs overall title. How’s that for a result? Clearly the SB6 is quite a weapon, I SO wouldn’t want to move from one of those to a Specialized right?

Mens series podum. EWS round 8, Finale Ligure, Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

Mens series podum. EWS round 8, Finale Ligure, Italy. Photo by Matt Wragg.

With the racing done and dusted and the beer and pizza starting to flow, I reflected on a lot of lessons dished out on this trip.

Most of those will come in the usual wrap up post, but aside from the fact that I need to turn into a skinny and furry version of the Incredible Hulk to race properly, doing back to back EWS rounds is an awesome, but tough mission. Thank fuck then that I had this beast here, which ended up with half of stage 5 stuck to it:

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Coil the fuck up

It was a tough weekend and an even more mindfucking Sunday to round things out, but what held it together was the awesome support from Team Norgate and being able to roll with Rich on the liaisons, so thanks guys for your overall radness.

A massive thanks to the EWS Team for putting on another event that tests everyone from the PRO’s to the Not so PRO’s, the effort that goes in from the local organisers and the EWS crew is seriously massive and greatly appreciated by all.

A huge shout out and thanks to the Fox Racing boys as well, Schmity, Jordi and Ariel for not just being the GC Crew, but also sorting my forks and rear shock when they had a whole lot of better things to do! Legends.

As is Dirty Tradition, stay tuned for a warp up run down of some illicit tips, comparisons between Spain and Italy as I put a bow on EuroEnduro II.

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