In the rather drawn out build up to this race report I’ve done a relatively solid job of confirming that A) I’ve become a location spoilt cunt and B) I have a mind so weak in 2017 that it renders Jedi mind tricks null & void. But before I pick up the trail from where “Oh my gawd, like the worst practice eva” left off, there’s a final piece of context that I’d like to quote from one of the Gods of ENDURO, Sir Grubby himself, at the end of Day 1 when I post race interviewed him by reading his Gram post:
“Slick and slippery on some of the wildest trails we’ve ever raced. I had to dig deep a few times to keep my head in the game”
I think that does a handy job of setting the scene, but just incase I haven’t rammed enough Fox news type fear into your bubble, let’s just round it off by confirming that based on the stats (don’t ask me which ones), this was technically the biggest EWS round ever. EVER. Fucking EVER man… There was a delicious lip smacking satisfaction to it as the ENDURO livestock sacrifices were fed into the pen, ready to be offered to the island and its endless carpet of sniper rocks and MADeira ice.
Given that Machico was not only some way, but also many meters in elevation from the actual race stages, there was a first for an EWS event as far as I’m aware (I vaguely checked with Chris Ball and I think he agreed), a vehicle uplift. Off the stage, around the corner and then onto the trucks for a 45 minute or so transfer up to the real slim shady blast off point. The carpark was rich with sceptics:
As Michelle will tell you (P.S – Get fucked), I’m the kind of cunt that doesn’t like buses, so I automatically tried to requisition a Mercedes van, narrowly missing out on the last seat. I was smugly convinced that this logistical mission was going to be fucked up worse than Health care reform, but to the credit of the Madeira crew they had not only nailed it, but done so with plenty of time for those with motion sickness to recalibrate and get ready to roll….
The real launch pad even resplendent with mandatory Red Bull tent, confirming beyond doubt that we are indeed an action adventure sport:
I was gloriously early seeded again (thanks Nat, you’re a legend!), I think the second Open Men’s rider to be starting all day, which not only meant my chances of getting gang banged were substantially lowered, but I also got to hang out with some of the Usual Suspects from the Wellington Masters crew. I looked on forlorn, secretly wishing to be back mid-pack again, not to mention being able to openly complain about how sore my knees/back/hips are…. Only a few years to go.
Barrie on the right here, yes, the Barrie from that favourite family show “Honey, I cunted my hand“, the very one that forced me to man the fuck up and get involved in this caper. Seen here gripping the bike with his good hand whilst trying to smack talk John, to little avail:
It may sound all very palatial and easy at this point, but don’t worry, we still had a 45 minute grind up to the start of stage 1, commencing that all too familiar “Fuck do I have enough margin here?” game that lasts all day. However, kudos to the Madeira crew, at least they had worked out it wasn’t a Marathon XC race and Matt and I had a reasonable amount of time to chill and enjoy the summit vibe… I think this is the highest we got all weekend:
Amazingly, by the time the PRO’s arrived later on in the morning, it was full white out I believe, once again reinforcing its nice to be amateur as fuck and the weather in Madeira is fully the boss.
Stage 1 – Parque Ecologico: 4.4km’s
Why the fuck not crack into this monster weekend with a mini-monster of its own, the longest stage of the race and the one that caused the most consternation for Rad Cunts… Which meant I loved it. Yes, there was a shit load of pedalling and even a little, gasp, climbing to be had to get the weekend rolling, which resulted in a sprinkling of moaning. Whilst I nodded knowingly and raised an eyebrow in implied agreement with the haters, my inner roadie was naked, rubbing itself in jelly meat and having a fucking party. It was time to get this shit started:
Not only was there a lot of pedalling, but as far as first stages go, this one was pretty straightforward, thank fuck, as it was probably the only time all weekend I could utter those words with a straight face. But what we traded in ass hole puckering factor, we gained in lactic burn… Deep… Sweet… Burn. The Fox Transfer was spending an alarming amount of time fully extended as I feverishly lashed at the pedals:
I naturally did the thing I’d spent all my time telling everyone else not to do… Getting to the cunty little climb above, resplendent with its own uphill rock garden, I promptly blew my load in a display of Gel fuelled cunt frothery. Like with most load shooting, I didn’t really mean to, but the allure of powering up something that I had been forced to walk in practice was too much to resist. Like a dog that had finally caught that postman, I was going to hump the fuck out of it.
My euphoria reinforced by the legion of Roman’s that had congregated to scream and bang metal stuff at us whilst they also checked their Fuckbook feed and wondered why Pedro had changed his relationship status to “Its complicated“:
Cue obvious result – I felt fingered when it came to the second half of the stage which required a lot of pumping and body language to get the most out of a slick and variable series of sidling trail which was interrupted by hairpin turns. The fluctuations between hero grip to slick ice was fingering minds that were starved of oxygen and legs that were screaming out for you to sit down. And there were a lot of switchbacks to be had, they even outnumbered the Squids…
Well I’ll be fucked, that was a promising start to the weekend and I have to say, over alarmingly quickly compared to what I had expected. Sure, it was the usual “What the fuck am I doing” rabidness, but in terms of getting a clean start to a big weekend, 2017 is certainly a step up over previous campaigns. Shall we see how this pudding tastes then?
Stage 1 results
For this rounds usual “Self loathing results comparison“, its only natural we have the Santa Cruz benchmark courtesy of Mr Scott for consistency purposes and as our guest, it made perfect sense to draft in Bad Ass Barrie, given his cunted mitt was the whole reason I was panting my way through stage 1 like a pregnant donkey:
- Mark Scott – 9.20 for 4th in Open men
- Barrie Hand Massacre – 11.26 for 11th in Masters
- Dirty Nomad – 11.56 for 173rd in Open men
- Fist-O-Meter – 2/10. The damage here more physical than pure terror. Just how ‘easy’ was this stage comparatively? Marky Mark clearly wasn’t messing with his 4th place and while I’m usually 48 seconds per KM slower than him, on this occasion I was only 35 seconds per K in arrears. 13 seconds per K faster may not sound exciting, but on a 4.4km opening test, I’ll take it straight to the bank and stare glowingly at the deposit receipt.
Plot spoiler – Also happened to be one of the best results all weekend…
Stage 2 – Cabras: 2.01km
Thank fuck it was only 2km’s long… I’m not sure if this was the dumbest EWS stage I’ve ever encountered, but it was straining to put it’s hand up the highest to be considered for such an honour. I don’t think we did it any favours riding/destroying it in the wet during practice as in reality it was pretty cunted by the time we started to muddle through it on race day.
I think the other prejudice against Stage 2 was it was clearly just to get us to Stage 3… The BEAST. So, given you knew what was coming up very shortly there after, stage 2 was like an annoying entree of Goat semen passed off as cheese, before you could let stage 3 Hannibal Lector you. As such, we’ll keep this shockingly brief.
It had this chewed out peanut butter climb that hated your bike:
It had some rocks and shit… Plus only one person watching on the whole stage… Actually, he was watching hairy Portuguese porn and was alarmed we were interrupting his usual gig:
It had some munted things that used to be natural berms once upon a time…
For those excitedly scanning for the patented DN Melt Down, this was probably as close as it gets on Day 1, not so much that it was an MD per se, more of a “This is fucking rubbish and I can’t be arsed with it” if you wanted some fresh authenticity sprinkled on your race report. Behaving like a spoilt child in a suit will obviously garner you the results you deserve when you hear that familiar beeping at the end of the stage…
Stage 2 results
- Mark Scott – 4.50 for 18th in Open men
- Barrie Hand Massacre – 6.07 for 13th in Masters
- Dirty Nomad – 7.15 for 185th in Open men
- Fist-O-Meter – 4/10: Mainly as I proved sulking won’t really do much for you in the EWS, other than hand you an even shitter result than usual. A whopping 72 seconds per KM’s behind Monsieur Scott, effectively meaning I went half as fast as I did on Stage 1. If you’re not too busy vigorously slapping me, please schedule in some time to be ashamed. The SwissMissile drilled me by 26 seconds for good measure.
Stage 3 – Porto da Cruz: 4.11km’s
Behold… The MONSTER. I’m not sure if Stage 3 was an actual stage or more correctly classified as a hate crime against your arms. When we rode with Pedro in the build up, he whispered to us that Stage 3 had a rock garden that “Yeeesss, ese maybe one and one half kilometre long yes?” Go home Pedro, you’re drunk and high… But fuck me relentlessly without a break or lube if he wasn’t right on the money.
It also just so happened that I think what was the most brutal stage of the weekend also happened to be the second longest. In fact, it was so mental and fast that the EWS team made the call that chicanes needed to be improvised down the course to try and take some speed out of it and make it mildly less Hannibal Lector… Or as I liked to call them, ‘magnets’:
There was so much fucking Gnar here it needed a safe word for fucks sake. If you were PRO, then chances are you could keep your momentum and do that usual sexy shit of skipping across the top of it like a Boss, looking resplendent in matching kit and without a pack on. But, if you were amateur AF then chances are at some point you were going to run out of talent and the gnar was going to have it’s way with you. After all, it was not only patient, but it had a significant numerical advantage…
Back in the donkey echelon, I was looking more like a Moose trying to have a wank whilst locked in a Telephone box, bleeding speed like I’d been shot with a 50 Cal round and eventually being bounced off line to say “fuck/cunt/Holy shit” and resorting to not getting maimed #humantripod.
There were a lot of moments of forcing myself to look up and just holding on to make it through sections, don’t, look, DOWN. I’m not sure you’d want a stage more bad ass than this to be honest, it was one of those situations where you appreciated it after you’d got down it and tipped your hat at what a wild fucker it was. Thank fuck I put that 2.5 Minion on the back, for the first time all day it was sending me dividend cheques after reaming me on all the transfers and stage 1.
But before I run wild with the embellishment, I will acknowledge that it was actually far better to race than it was to practice during a traffic jam… Getting some consistency on and having the track to yourself a significant improvement. Fuck, keep looking UP cunt!
In yet another example that Tire technology is the gimp in the whole ENDURO Bike eco-system, Stage 3 unleashed a tirade of punctures and shattered hopes on PRO’s and amateurs alike. The inability to keep air in the rubber doesn’t discriminate when it comes time to fuck people over. I think Grubby, Ed Masters, Richie Rude and a few other big names all ended up with a busy end to the stage.
Add to that list Ben, who started over a minute behind me and caught me with… I hate to admit this… A flat rear tire… Whilst I eventually did repass him, watching him get looser than your overweight pig of a boss after a few red wines at a work function was a sight to behold as he gave zero fucks and rode it like he actually hated it. Bravo lad:
Bearing in mind this was the stage that sent Curtis Keene home with a broken collarbone and shattered American dreams (Get well soon dude), it was definitely a test that was in need of some respect. No shame in switching from ‘compete’ to ‘complete’ when getting into the cage of Stage 3 death. I’m sure it has to be in the top 3 or 4 of all time most epic EWS stages that I’ve raced based on its prodigious length and Gnar. Must be how Brandi Love feels every time she sees an appointment with Mandingo in her calendar.
In theory the ‘fun’ part of stage 3 was the lower section in the Eucalyptus trees, once again a solid advertisement of the variety of Madeira, the only issue with that was chances were your arms were blown to fucking shreds by the time you got down there. Whilst it was a wild animal of a stage, and even though I was blowing like a Russian hooker, I still managed to, dare I say it? Enjoy the lower half… Holy fuck, turns out we’re here for fun after all! Even if it appeared that the Dark side had consumed my entire face off…
Stage 3 results
- Mark Scott – 8.51 for 17th in Open men (that’s a mind blowing time by the way)
- Barrie Hand Massacre – 10.40 for 10th in Masters
- Dirty Nomad – 13.13 for 178th in Open men
- Fist-O-Meter – 9/10: Not much chance to BS here, a solid minute per KM’s slower than Mark, it was definitely one to manage one’s hopes and dreams through… Just ask Barrie, he managed to rip a finger nail off his good hand, resulting in a trip to the medics and now down to 2 fingers to hold onto the bike for the rest of the weekend. Brings new meaning to being “Fucken fingered“
It sort of made sense that now that it was hot and lunch time the feed zone was going to be halfway into a 14km transfer… 7km’s to snacks usually not a big deal, except when its up a massive fuck off road climb which is purely designed to break your spirit. Its not often I walk up a road, but it seemed to be a widely endorsed play based on my traveling peer group. Still, I had the slight scent of stoke about me, mainly as this was going quite well, even if it was coming off a low baseline.
Stage 4 – Abelhas: 1.53km’s
By the time I arrived at Stage 4 after the monolithic liaison, after the equally gargantuan Stage 3, I was just feeling pretty stoked to have made it so far through day 1 without much drama or incident. In fact, it was slightly strange how quickly it had gone… Getting the chance to have a 20 minute sit around pre stage also extremely useful to help gather up the nerves for one final push.
I think of all the stages from Day 1, Stage 4 represented possibly the most fun or dare I say ‘normal’ option around. Not too much pedalling… Not dumb as fuck… And not a giant terror monster. Hello sweet Goldilocks dirt:
I hadn’t enjoyed Stage 4 at all in practice, which put me in on the Minority Report I suspect, as it was widely adored by people who go fucking fast and say “That was fucken lit yeooow” a lot. Freshly cut and a very busy little stage, I had rightly assumed that it was going to be blown out given its virginal status. Yup, the rad cunt was getting loose…
The phenomenon of all the stages being significantly radder in Race mode strangely continued and with clear air and my goldfish attention span trying its hardest, this was a little ripper of a run. Big ups to the trail builder as this thing didn’t really have a quiet moment to it, constantly dipping, diving and jinking over every natural feature you could think of. It felt ON:
Unleash the fucking froth monster, as I ducked and weaved, it not only felt like I was sort of going fast, it kind of even felt like racing… The Hightower eating up the lower half of the stage faster than people losing their minds about 29er DH bikes. I could tell it was going ok when I got across the finish line and for the first time all day I hadn’t been passed by anyone… In fact, there were tumbleweeds behind me. I was so stoked I had to enlist the marshals into my froth sharing moment… Even if it was the high risk pen holding fisting:
In a strange twist of ‘That’s Racing’, the self declared radness didn’t quite translate into some magical result.
Stage 4 results
Before I wank on about my own shit, a moment here to pay homage to Keegan Wright who came 2nd on Stage 4, which given this is was his 3rd EWS race in the PRO ranks out of U21 is a truly stunning result. There’s no question he’s going to be full PRO and it will be well earned at that. Meanwhile, back to the narcissism:
- Mark Scott – 3.56 for 33rd in Open men
- Barrie Hand Massacre – 4.30 for 9th in Masters
- Dirty Nomad – 5.13 for 179th in Open men
- Fist-O-Meter – 3/10: Definitely the most FUN all day, which is kind of the point I believe, so given the general elation and turn around from practice, the confusion over the placing faded into obscurity as the first beers started to get dished out to help wash down hamburgers by the ocean.
So then, Day 1 – No pissing rain, No melt downs, No massive fuck ups and one big turn around from a Gimp mode practice to having a blast riding a bike again. Whilst there was plenty of reason to dish fives and join the chorus of people saying “Fuck yeah, rad bro” around the Race Village, Day 2 still loomed and it happened to carry the stages & sections I had raised a Dirty eyebrow to the most.
Stay tuned to see if the fickle wave of stoke would wash us ashore in the land of well deserved post race beers and epic shit talking, or would the Day 2 demons and sections of Race Face short shitting terror prevail? The Day 2 report shall reveal all…