Just in case my Day 1 race report didn’t quite do this justice, now that I’ve had a week to recuperate and repair myself, I just need to make one thing exceedingly clear and OTT obvious about the La Thuile EWS round:
This thing was the Godzilla of EWS races
Splash me with drama queen paint, please, be my guest! But as I shall go on to outline today, it was as brutal as it was beautiful out there on Day 2. Its not all cheese, croissants and alpine meadows you know – Dreams were being coated in ENDURO excrement and Ego’s we’re being shanked quicker than the SRAM mechanics were being overwhelmed by people who had saved up all their servicing needs to the night before the race.
As I prepared for another day of being a mobile ENDURO chicane, it occured to me that I was caught in the perfect shredding storm in La Thuile: The racers and terrain had gone next level and I had gone down a level.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into another hapless self loathing/FML tirade, but this environment was a reminder once again that there is a BIG difference between someone who says:
“I race ENDURO” and “I love riding my Mountain bike”
The intensity of the racers around me was both enviable and intimidating. Yes, it was rammed with good cunts, so its not a slur on anyone’s personality, but I found it hard to match the intensity of their fitness, skills, speed and just the sheer fierceness that people were attacking these stages. Seriously, rad cunts were pedalling full gas into shit that was making me recoil in mid-life hesitation.
Its not like I hadn’t seen it before, but the stages at La Thuile were definitely the least amateur friendly I had encountered, rad yes, but harder to race on than say Spain last year. There was nothing left to than Alpine the fuck up, get on that chairlift and prepare for another day of EWS La Thuile/Getting run over.
Stage 4 – Super Kappa
7.5km’s and 980m of elevation drop – Check those numbers out… Let them soak in, assaulting the senses, wrists, hands, legs and lungs. Fucking oath that is a massive way to start a day, especially a day where La Thuile had back loaded the scariest shit it had on tap for us to get roasted with. But, fuck it looked incredible… The Monica Bellucci of scenery essentially:
I was feeling pretty chilled out ahead of the longest test of the weekend to be honest, quietly determined that day 2 was just about riding my bike stress free and being technically good at it instead of looking like I had won some sort of raffle to be there… Er… Even if I had actually won a lottery to be there.
Stage 4 wasn’t just long, but it kicked off with the next part of the ‘La Thuile Bike park expansion project’ with some more fresh cut chaos, with some rather interesting taping being applied:
Thank fuck then that Sven Martin was on point to not only snap these mad pics, but to also yell at me to keep my head up and look down the trail, a command I dutifully obeyed. We’re currently discussing his role as full time Dirty coach on the EWS circuit, with matching hoodie of course.
Fuck, Stage 4 wanted you to work it, work it… It wasn’t content with having flat sections you had to really hammer through, or rock features to navigate, or high speed single track sidling down the Mon-ton. It had its little burn surprise waiting for you, the climb.
If you were Richie Rude you could sprint up here, mainly out of the saddle and looking rad. Or, you could adopt my preferred approach, which was to look like a walrus masterbating. It possible that I may have thrown a zig zag in up here, I knew it would be an utter cunt, but it was somehow worse than that.
It was the ultimate dog eat dog food chain on display up the climb mid stage – Mark had just passed me, but then I got to watch him get mopped up and eaten by a sprinting Dave the Aussie, fucking rush hour in La Thuile, I think there was 4 of us gasping and flogging up the climb, which felt like it went on forever…
I left them all too it, relaxed in the knowledge that even after 2 runs in practice I hadn’t done a top to bottom of Stage 4 and there was still some bad motherfucker sections ahead. As such it was time to get back to looking like a Giraffe trying to fuck a rat as my bike rode me down the lower sections. In this shot you can see here a case study in lower La Thuile gnar, where the actual racing line was on the left there:
I went through all the Go PRO footage from practice, but seriously, none of it does the place justice. You really need to come here and ride this trail, stage 4 is proper long and if you consider yourself a mountain biker of the non-bandito variety you’ll love this shit. Especially the gnar filled slalom section near the bottom. This is the kind of shit where I wish I was well, just better:
As I wound down the hill with my notoriously inconsistently pace, it became pretty clear it was going to be a long day. Its worth remembering that when I rode here 2 years ago, all the boys were doing this trail on DH bikes. Runs this long mean you start to feel like its hard to slow the bike down, let alone deal with the terrain.
Its a lot harder than say doing a long run at Whistler I think as this is less scripted, rougher and you’re trying to navigate everything as quickly as possible as opposed to composing yourself for a particular jump or section. My wrists were fucking stoked to see that big Italian finishing sign. I was even more stoked when I saw the results… In relative terms:
- Greg Callaghan – 11.06.71 for 23rd (Richie Rude winning time was 10.26 – Holy FUCK)
- Katy Winton – 13.33.38 for 8th
- Dirty Nomad – 16.12.84 for 199th!!!!!! What the actual fuck?! BOOM!
- Top 200 time – Get fucked motherfuckers! I was inside the top 200! Just the tip mind you, but we’ll bank it*
*Given its 2016 and based on the approach with U.S politics, wherein we now need to ignore facts or any data points what so ever, I shall conveniently leave out the key piece of information that 11 people DNFed either overnight or on Stage 4… 9 of whom had finished ahead of me on Stage 3. But fuck that shit, I’m a top 200 legend! I can now retire.
Stage 5 – Cambogia Basso
Initially I was relatively apprehensive about stage 5, but by the time I got up there, I had chilled out significantly about racing it. It wasn’t mojo coursing through my veins from a relatively ok stage 4, or the fact I had taken too many gels. No, as I looked out over the stage 5 starters as I pissed into the alpine shrubbery it was the mere fact that I was here:
I wasn’t stuck in an office somewhere listening to politicised drones doing their best Beaker impressions #mememememememe as they cunted on about the latest boring topic that they wanted to give their boss an anal tongue dart about. Or, to steal a phrase from the Panther, nor was I stuck in my ‘steel coffin inching along in a rush hour traffic jam to or from some massively boring job’.
Fucking word – I was in the sweet sweet Mon-tons and you actually couldn’t script a more mint day, it was an absolute banger. So, my mission was to drink it all in, absorb it, relish it and try to hold on to it before I had to leave this awesome place and go back to the concrete & glass gerbil cage to partake in all the stuff I just derided above (not to mention, to pay for all the bike mods that were running through my head at that very moment… Ah, humans… Flawed as fuck).
Besides, sure stage 5 was freaky, but I actually love steep, tight and techy terrain (mainly as its not flat out). As such, I was fucking amping to get into it:
The start of Stage 5 was a re-run of the top of Stage 2, so given the worlds longest warm up from stage 4 and the fact we had raced it yesterday made it pretty sweet to start with to be honest. The line was also a lot more worn in, so if you just managed to carry speed to look ahead, it was pretty manageable – By manageable it still made me say “Fuuuuuck cunt” out loud more than a few times, but day 2 was a lot radder than day 1.
The middle section of stage 5 was the one place where you could ‘relax’ a little, recover from the gnar of the top and prepare yourself for the ultra steep looseness of the bottom section. Here’s an example of what I would call the ‘easy’ part of Stage 5, a series of turns connected by nice but short straights:
You can imagine my horrified surprise then when I found myself flying through the air without even a single hint of notice in the exact spot you see above. I didn’t hit anything obvious, there was no noise and as those of you that have gone OTB at speed know, fucking zero warning. I think in the millisecond that I had before impact I suspect I looked like this:
When I did touch down, it was a big one… I think I went shoulder first, followed closely by the head hitting the ground, hard. Oh, for good measure and just to make sure this was a total cunt, yes, it was on the left hand side again. Thank fuck then that my Fan boi/perfect consumer behaviour meant that I was wearing one of these (Thanks CJ and Dingo):
But it was my head that was the problem… It was ringing… And ringing. It took me more than a few moments to work out what the fuck was going on. I could hear someone calling out to me, which turned out to be a marshall. But in between the buzzing in my head and the disbelief I had La Thuile dirt inside my helmet, I knew I had to get off the trail.
And now for the plug – Get a MIPS helmet kids, because I am pretty sure that it did its job here. 2 days of looking like a punter in a Bell Super 2R paid off in less than a second. How do I know the helmet came into play, church bells going off in my head aside? All the straps were loose all of a sudden, as was the internal locking system. Fuuuuuck, I haven’t had that happen before.
As I sat perplexed on the side of the trail it didn’t even occur to me to grab my bike and keep going, which is normally the case when you stack it mid-stage… Take Sam Hill on stage 4, he took a huge stack and like he was made of rubber was back up and off in seconds. I just sort of sat there in the grass staring off into space like a cow that had smoked some good shit. At least I know how Ronda Rousey felt when she got the shit kicked out of her now.
Rider after rider went past as I started my duty as a spectator. I knew I hadn’t broken anything, but the idea of racing my bike was buried somewhere on the trail where my helmet had dug a crater. Eventually though I had to try and ride it out… Well, sort of.
Whilst attempting to limp out of the stage I somehow managed to flip over and land on my chest… My apologies to the parents of the Italian children who witnessed that incident and who now are able to scream CUNT in English, as well as how to potentially perfect a bike throw. Yup, full rage monster melt down… When you struggle to even walk out of a stage its probably a good indicator that you’ve had enough. But fuck, I got to witness rider after rider eating shit, crashing, missing lines and generally finding it fucking hard as I did my best to try and escape the nightmare of stage 5.
I know I was supposed to soldier on, never give up and all the rest of it, but by the time I made it out of the stage I had hit the wall on wanting to ride my bike and that is a massively rare feeling. Yes, Godzilla had crushed me and left me feeling like I just wanted a Coke.
As I limped along the road back to timing control in search of validation, I found it in the form of PRO Josh Carlson, who ended up 12th overall for the weekend. He was coming back from Stage 4 and I mentioned to him that perhaps the day was a little above my pay grade… He turned to me and with what sounded like music to my ears said: “Maaate, its survival for the PRO’s as well dude!”
Of course I banked that faster than a drunken offer of a rim job, content in the knowledge that there was a lot of struggling going down all over the brutal beauty of La Thuile. Joining me in the DNF camp? Some illustrious PRO company: Ludo May, Dan Atherton, Nico Vouilloz and Jared Graves #iamcursed. Indeed, there were 29 of the 231 Open Men who started that ended up as spectators at the end of the weekend. Yup, shit was brutal out there.
Results – I cunted myself. Greg and Katy still went really fast.
Stage 6 – As a spectator
Honestly, I was partly gutted and partly relieved to pull the pin, which is a super odd mix. Mentally I was finished for the day and only about 0.1% of me wanted to get on the chairlift again. I admit that’s a fucking weird thing to type when you’re in the middle of those amazing Italian alps.
Ok, so, physically I could have gone and done stage 6 I guess… Even if I was slightly foggy and still had no idea how I crashed. But you know, fuck that, right Stage 6?
Yeah, so they like to leave the best to last in Italy… Or maybe that’s the worst? Either way the Godzilla ENDURO had a massive ‘fuck you and your wheels’ sting in its tail and yes, this IS the rock garden near the end you had to navigate whilst flogged out to fuck after a huge weekend of racing. Jaime from TP 2015 playing a cameo here for scale purposes looking down the trail:
And that’s without hundreds of crazed and actual Romans side line and hanging from trees frothing at the spectacle of some rather epic shit eating going down. Mind you, all of this didn’t phase the champ one bit and hysteria reached a peak when he came through and Jason Bourned the fuck out of that rock garden:
Yeah, fuck, I would have been a liability to myself and the Usual Suspects if I had gotten into Stage 6 to be honest, I was already worried about getting down a fair portion of it and the really hard parts were all in the second half – About as closing to finishing with a BANG as a Mountain Bike race can manage I think.
Did I mention it was fucking steep? Allow me to use photos which won’t do it justice at all to poorly illustrate my point:
There’s a distinct lack of justice here I think, but suffice to say this was pretty blown out and the catch berm was more like a booby trap:
Dirty tip – When you get your spirit crushed by the hardest 2 Day ENDURO race you’ve ever done on the Gnarzilla Alpine assault course, it pays to have some good cunts on hand to help you forget that you have the riding skills of a Baboon with rabies. Massive Dirty CHUR to the Swiss Missile, The Shayler Steeze (Mad respect for coming 105th on Stage 5!! Epic), Catherine and Mrs Dirty for being rad to roll with at an EWS round and in general:
But my work for the day wasn’t done… The Steeze had detected the scent of some big game prey lurking nearby… Beers were dropped, iPhone camera lenses were polished, caps donned and small children pushed aside in Boris style as we made a scrambling dash to ambush the CHAMP. It seems in the melee all my dignity pissed out all over my leg somewhere. Richie just went to his happy place until it was over:
To be fair, if you see the way he rides and not to mention the 1 min 35 second winning margin, its very easy to get more than a bit frothy on it, its not often you see a person ride a mountain bike quite like this. As the hunters returned to the pride with the Mission Accomplished, the stoke factor was high clearly…
So there it is… Another EWS Round sort of in the bag, well, as in the bag as I could manage to stuff this seriously bad motherfucker in. It managed to bust out and run all over my face ultimately, but that’s how it rolls some days.
I tip my hat to those that genuinely loved it and conquered the terrain. As a couple of PRO’s said over the weekend: This was a big boys course, which is probably why I ended up sucking my thumb and sulking. If only I had found that 203mm rear brake rotor adaptor…
Final shout out to the radness that is Jordi, who did a wicked job of making my Fox bits running mint all weekend. Legend and I hope the hand gets better soon bro!
Massive thanks to the Enduro World Series team and La Thuile MTB organisers for a huge 4 days, it will be remembered and talked about by everyone who was there for a long time to come I suspect! Other rounds take note: The Gnar bar was seriously lifted!
Stay tuned for the Dirty video…