Dirty warning today – This one is a fucking monster, mainly as its likely the final race report of the year and definitely because of the nature of the event… So at worst grab a coffee first, at best, a hammock.
I’m going to start today with what initially appears as a pretty obvious and straightforward confession, you can see it in my eyes and its obvious from my smile, even in the rain, in the pics to cum below. You definitely don’t need to resort to waterboarding to get one simple truth out of me:
I fucking love riding my bike in France
But let’s not stop there – I also love the EWS, and Croissants, so we’re faced with an orgy of vomit inducing gushiness and frothing, a recipe that sets the scene for a peculiar tale ahead. Its possible to dismiss such a heartfelt proclamation as being far too obvious, I mean, who the fuck goes to France with their bike and ends up having a shit time? You’d have to be a bit of a cunt…
But I have legit evidence to nail my Dirty colours to the mast on this motherfucker, especially when you consider every time I mash my balls into a saddle in France, it turns into a MEGA life experience:
- Cols Classico in the Alps 2012
- Trans Provence Tour 2013
- Meribel World Cup Finals frothing 2014
- Trans Provence Race and EuroEnduro I 2015
- AT40 tour in the Pyrenees 2016
So for the 6th year in a row I’ve been fortunate enough to return to the land of Croissants, roundabouts, Baguettes, dubious practice rule bending and jail bait to get thrashed by the French terrain and riders that make cycling look like the beautiful art you have in your mind when you think about how you ride a bike, but in reality look nothing like.
There are so many theme’s from the 4ish days of EWS Millau its hard to know where to start… Apart from being not unlike a Paris Disneyland roller coaster, this is very much a tale of that king of all cliche’s in sport:
That’s to say that the whole event was littered with “if only” moments for moi, so I think its appropriate to sprinkle them through the race like nuggets of dog Merde to be able to reflect on what could have been and to alert any aspiring so-called ‘racer’ (applied with a raised eyebrow) as to what they should look out for when attending an EWS round.
To be honest, there are so many rich and intricate layers to this race report that I struggled like an old dude with dementia trying to be a president when I sat down to write it up… This was such a logistically challenging and unique round that I have probably left out as much content as I have rammed into this monster, if anything, this event was the quintessential 2017 experience, which is something I shall elaborate on as I go.
To properly weave this story and give it the richness that you and it deserves, we really need to gorge on context to start with… So if you don’t mind putting on your bib, its time to let the dirty juices froth up, run down your chin and splatter all over you like a drought busting EWS Round – Its off to Millau we go.
The foreplay? Why, it was excellent…
Before there was practice, there was <<Gasp>> a track walk… Mind you, I say that in the Amateur AF style of course, which means walking one of the shortest stages of the weekend the day before we could turn a wheel on it. With sweat rolling down my hairy chest and my feet crunching down on a trail that was drier than an old camel’s nutsac, it quickly became obvious that the Millau terrain was as steep as it was exquisite:
So, walking is a total cunt, let’s not try and dress that aspect up, but as I half walked and fell down stage 3 with the French sun BBQing my sweaty carcass, I could feel myself falling deeper and deeper in love with my first sight of Millau singletrack. Before my eyes was the kind of trail that I always hope we find ourselves on when rocking up to a new destination.
Lovely dirt, dry as absolute fuck, nothing unnatural that made your bowels loosen and a general vibe that this was going to be a fucking sweet 4 days to cum… But I did utter one observation under my breath like Crazy Sergeant Mac whilst snapping a shaver on my cheek as we stared at one particular fuck off steep slope on stage 3:
“This looks great, but we’re going to get fucking reamed if this muthafucka gets wet”
Let’s consider that part 1 of me and my big dumb as fuck mouth…
Did you forget it was 2017 for a moment sir?
Well, if I had of, then Mother Fucking Nature sure hadn’t forgotten and she commenced her Moscow Mule act right on time as we arrived for Day 1 of practice. I mean, you know, fuck it, it’s 2017 after all right, so it’s basically mandatory for it to piss down whenever an EWS number plated bike emerges from a shuttle. It didn’t even matter that it was essentially a drought in Millau, the BIG show was in town, so unleash the sprinklers. At some stage this joke will wear off, but even after a first few slippery practice runs, I was strangely infected with goofy stoke which didn’t seem to want to wear off:
Oh man, the French know how to do practice… Well, sort of. To start with, it was a relatively complicated set up logistically in Millau, with considerable rules around what you could and couldn’t practice and when, not to mention that aside from Stages 3 & 7, you could only ride everything once. Throw into that mix, stages 5 and 9 were the same stage, so you had 4 days to practice 8 trails. Doesn’t take long to work out that math = chill the fuck out YO! Holy fuck, it was a Racecation after all.
Unlike Madeira, I got comfortable and stayed comfortable all through practice. Perhaps I’m a location snob, perhaps I’m just a total French slut or perhaps the trails were just the best all year. Whatever was going down, I was revelling the complete change up from Round 3.
It was helped by the fact that we’d smelled a turd with the “Public shuttle service” and made the call to hook up a local private shuttle with Christophe, a blindingly fast master’s racer and bike shop owner. This turned out to be a frothing win given the public shuttle quickly became a villain of the practice days (As confirmed by the big bad Wolfe) with long waits and patchy service, thus proving my long standing points about what cunts buses are. No time to get into the drama there though, the sun was shining and the Millau trails were running Raaaaaaaad:
Its also time to peel back another layer of the rich tapestry of this ENDURO Onion: Back on the Nomad 3 proper since Finale 2016 and its little baby wheels… That’s right, as I rambled on about in the Mission Briefing, this was the Amateur AF test of Wheel Size Vs Geo & suspension to see what provided the greatest benefit when the Gnar terror was turned up to DEFCON 1.
Practice impressions? The Nomad 3 was batting some serious runs… Composed, confident and absolutely starving for sweet French gnar, it ate that shit up like a hairy ENDURO rider at the croissant bar. Aside from some creepy moments where I almost tucked that tiny little clown wheel under the front oddly here and there (we’re not on big wheels any more Dorothy), the Nomad reunion was bringing some serious fun and enthusiasm as the Geo & Travel crew started to nudge ahead from the wheel size team. It helped that practice was chilled on rad trails as well, so chilled in fact that when our shuttle shit its pants, not many fucks were Le given:
It was also excellent to be rolling with Dan again, some may vaguely remember Dan from Finale 16 where he battled stages 3 & 4 with only a solitary brake lever, but he was back for more EWS tomfoolery armed with big wheels and a training programme that made my arms tired just listening to it. Don’t let his beaming Care Bear face deceive you, once he sees race tape he shrugs off his millennial label with disdain and turns into a mini Richie Rude, except he was even faster on one stage I believe?
One thing we did learn about Millau during practice, aside from the part about it being in almost drought like conditions in the previous weeks before EWS arriving, was how quickly the weather changed, which rapidly became a theme for the 4 days. Check the bottom to top comparison here on our last run of stage 7, the rad mini DH stage… We ended up getting chased down by the incoming rain after it looked glorious while we casually loaded up:
If Only #1 – Oh the folly of the Faux Expert! Whilst sitting at lunch on Day 2 of practice, stuffing my face with yet another ill advised citron merengue tart, I struck up a conversation with a virgin EWS Competitor. He outlined to me his nervousness about the liaison stages and the general girth of what was to come. Filled with fools confidence, artisanal cake and more than comfortable after being shuttled around Millau, I puffed up my chest and set about dooming myself with this little gem:
“Don’t worry mate, this is my eighth and I’ve never missed a liaison time, it’ll be sweet…”
You… Fucking… Idiot. The ENDURO Gods love a dare almost as much as they love cocky cunts who haven’t done their homework on what was in store. Little did I know that it was all about to come home to roost like a drunk donkey with a stiffy. Just to make things completely cursed, yes, I was the dumb cunt that also then put “Bring on the race!” in my mandatory pre-race Gram wank post (If only 1.5?). I couldn’t have done much more to tempt fate and invite destruction aside from trying to service my forks.
Superstitious much? Let’s find out and get to the real French onion layers here as we get into ball slapping territory as we drill deep in EWS Millau and Round 5 of the Enduro World Series!
Stage 1 – Monna Ng: 2.0km’s & 320m Elevation drop
I could feel it before I had even opened the shutters in the renovated chateau… There was a foreboding and vibe that spoke volumes before my eyes had even had the chance to adjust to the reality. And sure enough, when I did finally master the rubix cube of opening the window, there it was brooding and waiting for us: Cunted weather.
But oddly, I didn’t seem to mind that much, perhaps its 2017 conditioning, or perhaps it was the fact I was in France, riding my bike and still stoked to be getting into some fucking sweet trails in the days ahead. With that fatal optimism, which definitely had the slight vibe to it that I would end up tasting French letter at some point over the next two days, it was off to a rather cold start to the race…
The first hint that something may be up was when I was loaded into the start pen like an ENDURO pig off to slaughter and I noted that we were running around 4 minutes late. 4 minutes may not seem like kind of a big deal, but when you regularly only have 5-10 mins spare to make a big EWS Tranny, then losing 4 of those gets the bottom lip quivering on your inner child. Using my finest english with a French accent approach, I enquired as to what was to happen at the start of Stage 2, shall we add 4 minutes to the start time on our top tube sticker? With dead eyes and zero empathy, the French official didn’t even hesitate as she shot back at me: “Non, you start on time” <<Fart noise>>. Ok then, fuck you very much and off we go!
Stage 1 was an interesting puzzle to try and piece together first thing up in the race. That’s to say it was ENDURO as absolute fuck, with the variety to test pretty much everyone except people with a French accent. Straight away we were introduced to the Millau trail template for the weekend:
Flat and Pedalfest to start with, followed by it suddenly plummeting down, laced with hairpins, lashings of slippery as fuck terrain that wanted to dump you on the deck with zero notice, intersected with “Holy fuck this is fast” moments, smattered with plenty of pedal clipping rocks and just generally difficult…
But, even though it was now clear these moist French stages wanted to maim us, and eventually actually would do just that to some, they still felt a lot more fun than Madeira IMO. The draggy top section of all the stages over the weekend had me begging on the inside for the Hightower which was parked up back in the cHub, but as soon as that shit went vertical, the Nomad smiled and with composure it revelled being back in France. In a rarity for an EWS round, I even caught the rider in front of me, which caused so much excitement I over-frothed it and took the suicide line into a hairpin which may as well have had oil for its surface:
In a case study of law of the jungle and the ENDURO food chain however, my stoke at the demise of others was short lived, when earlier than expected the Hybrid ENDURO Care Bear/Mini Richie Rude caught me and showed off all his skills as I promptly binned it in a off camber hairpin that was slipperier than Kushner looking for a refinancing deal.
I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that every single non-French speaking racer all got through that first horrifically hard section on Stage 1 and all thought: Fuck that would have been so much better in the dry… There’s no denying that many sections which would usually be ENDURO Wet dreams instead turned into nightmares for PRO’s and the #amateurAF crew alike. But, there was plenty of fun still be had, and it was usually faaaaaast:
When it wasn’t imploring you to blast at high speed through lush Millau forest, the French stages threw plenty of steep rocky action at you to completely change up the vibe and make you think about tackling something massively different. Variety was absolutely part of personality here, with perhaps the only consistent factor being fun and making you work it to get the most out of the stages.
If Only #2 – I really wish I hadn’t tagged my rear D on pretty much the last rock in the whole stage, I think I wasn’t the only one to do this either, but seeing the chain parked firmly between the 42 and the spokes was the kind of cunt you don’t want to have to deal with straight after the stage, or having a bent and fucked rear d for the rest of the day, but alas that was the hand that had been dealt… Outside chance I outlined to this inanimate object that it was indeed a total fucking cunt:
As far as stage 1’s go, this one wasn’t that bad to be honest… 2017 continues to be a year where those Stage 1 melt downs seem to be a thing of the past and whilst there was some fuck ups here and there, self loathing was low and the fist-o-meter wasn’t peaking out either. Fun fact, Stage 1 claimed Martin Maes and Jared Graves with DNF’s, both of whom were top 5 in the points championship, so getting through it relatively unscathed not to be sniffed at. To the spreadsheet we go!
Stage 1 results
For this rounds self-loathing results comparison its welcome back to our regular Mark Scott, rocking the now released Santa Cruz Hightower LT and from our riding crew, Dan, the baby faced assassin. I’ve also thrown in the top 100 time as a reference point for what impossibly fucked aspirations look like, and so you can marvel at the insanity of the EWS food chain… People are riding their bikes so, fucking, fast:
- Mark Scott – 5.39 for 12th in Open men
- Dan the baby faced assassin – 7.14 for 152nd in Open men
- Dirty Nomad – 7.52 for 174th in Open men
- Top 100 time – 6.30
- Fist-O-Meter – 5/10: Here’s a monotonous theme; if it was dry this would have been quite a rad opening stage, in the wet it was tougher than a lot of people expected it to be, a proper test. Not the hardest stage all race, but one that had plenty of variety and enough pedalling in it to fuck cunts up.
But it wasn’t stage 1 that was the problem, it was what came straight after that bitch slapped into us the reality of what we had to contend with this weekend: Big, hairy, angry French tranny’s with a hard on for pain and suffering. Sounds alarming? Well, it fucking well was. My first sign I was in deep shit was when my lower back felt so locked up I couldn’t take a full stride… I say ‘stride’ as oh no, we weren’t riding this Tranny, we were pushing.
Actually, that’s a lie, I was pushing until that became uncomfortably difficult and I had to revert to the Trans Provence portage style carry. Oh yay, this won’t be problematic at all…
I’m used to having to get out of the way of people in EWS stages, but it was a unique experience to have to do the same thing during a transition, but that was now the reality I faced. In truth I felt so oddly fucked I had to keep stopping to watch as rider after rider silently and grimly trekked past me. It was like a scene out of Hacksaw Ridge as we filed up stage 4 (oddly being used as a transition), suffering physically whilst we also got a reminder how fucking steep it was.
When we could ride again, all was not well… And worse than that, the clock was alarmingly ticking down faster than anticipated. It was about now that I really wanted those 4 fucking minutes back. Didn’t they know how important those 240 seconds were to the #amateurAF crew?! If I had known what French for ‘cunt’ was, I would have been spitting it out under my breath all the way to stage 2.
I couldn’t seem to get any power through the pedals and I spent my time marvelling at my state and casting an eye on the clock. Holy fuck… It was about to happen for the first time ever… I couldn’t believe it… As the clock ticked down, it was clear I was about to be on the receiving end of my first Tranny violation ever. As the horror and reality set in that I had indeed missed my stage 2 start time, it was quickly superseded by the realisation that I was actually fucking miles from the start of the stage… Suddenly I was swamped by riders panicking and passing me dropping the hammer, a collective acknowledgement from the herd that shit was indeed fucked up here.
Stage 2 – Carbassas: 2.9km’s & 350m Elevation drop
Not to dwell on epic failure here, but this does form an important part of the Millau story… But I arrived at the start of stage 2 around 16 minutes late, or in basic terms: A total cunt up. You can therefore imagine my amazement to see Dan (who started 20 second behind me all day) standing there smiling with that big wide ENDURO Care Bear grin: “Holy shit, you made it dude! Come on!”
I sort of stood there staring at him with bewilderment…. This was like one of those movies where the character thinks they’re dead and wakes up some time later confused and trapped on an island with a volleyball. What the fuck was going on? I had embraced failure, only to suddenly have the paddles of ENDURO life pump hope back into me.
Problem was, I was fucking drilled like the guest of honour at a CIA Black site in Yemen… So much so that combined with being aghast my start slot was still open, I fucked up getting through my ENDURO check list of helmet face guard on etc (Fixed full face owners smirk and point here) and ended up missing it anyway like a total cunt combined with a burning dumpster fire. Just to fuck it all up some more, when I slotted back into the line up several riders later, the dude in front of me cunted getting his gloves on and I was ordered to ALLEZ ALLEZ with about 2 seconds notice, good thing my gogs were dangling from my handlebar and not on my helmet then right? Fucking circus… If Only #3 therefore is that moment where I forever got out of sequence because I was indeed too ENDURO and massively disorganised, literally if I had got there 1 minute earlier, but 15 minutes late, I would have been sweet.
But don’t worry, we’re not about to let logistical cuntery and official fuckbaggery drag us down the rabbit hole of doom, as Stage 2 was an absolute banger. I’m not sure what the PRO’s thought, but 2 was an Amateur wet dream, once the pedalling shit was out of the way up the top, it was fuuuuuuuucken Faaaaasst… And the sort of fast that actually made you feel a lot radder than you potentially are. Allow me to elaborate:
Open sight lines, gentle & beautiful curves, no real exposure and wide enough you had room to breathe, these trails were begging you for full gas… Not unlike a hot work colleague who gets the keys to the stationery cupboard in the middle of a work piss up, it was egging you on to get into trouble as quickly as possible… The Hightower may have been quicker here, but the Nomad 3 was fucking loving these trails and had the fun throttle rammed wide open.
Ooh la la! It was fucking glorious! When there was a corner, you went in and out of it so fast you allowed yourself a cheeky smile before getting back on the pedals for a few seconds before gravity said “Step aside cunt” and took over on a gradient that was absolutely “Trays Bee-en” for good times, without the need to pop a nugget out:
Yes, stage 2 was an absolute banger, the cunty little climb in the middle aside… Once the high speed sections were finished, we were thrown into some big exaggerated bus stops which gave the stage a lovely mix up towards the end. I was also rather stoked to get through the section that had sent me over the bars in practice:
That, dear readers, was the personification of the love of Mountain Biking. It’s intoxicating blend of high speed, just the right amount of gnar and variety meant that it was fun pretty much regardless of how you were feeling physically. This was the kind of trail where you just want to exclaim “Again!” when you get to the end, in amongst dishing out multiple fisting’s to your crew.
Stage 2 results
This stage was about as fun as you’re going to find on the circuit all year, probably because it was the tamest, but more likely because it was just so fucking fast, while still being relatively safe. The problem was going fast enough… With only one practice run, carrying speed and committing was the key. I didn’t get a set of keys obviously:
- Mark Scott – 6.52 for 106th in Open men
- Dan the baby faced assassin – 7.15 for 142nd in Open men
- Dirty Nomad – 8.05 for 177th in Open men
- Top 100 time – 6.47
- Fist-O-Meter – 4/10: Oddly I was slower than it felt on this stage, even if I was only 25 seconds per KM slower than Mark, but thats because he broke his chain, which is some WTF context right there… I don’t know where that happened, but holy fuck. I loved stage 2 so much, I kind of feel like I should’ve been faster than this. We always hurt the ones we love the most they say…
However, love quickly turned to hate, as the finish of the magnifique Stage 2 led directly to the next angry French Tranny… And holy fuck, if I thought getting from the end of 1 to the start of 2 was bad, I clearly wasn’t briefed on what was in store. This is the moment that you realise sweet Shuttle Lyfe had lulled you into a dangerous false sense of security about how immensely hard this race was. This wasn’t so much a transition as it was a hike. No one, I repeat, no one was riding this motherfucker.
In fact it was such a fucking nightmare I felt compelled to make a little video about it… Don’t call it a Vlog, but hopefully it gives you a taste of the vibe, even if the Go PRO completely fucks up making this look steep and instead makes me look like a whinging pussy:
A few things were for sure at this point as I made a meal out of tramping up this hill, aside from the realisation we would all be dead if we had to hike up here in 32 degree heat:
- I was pissing time away at such a prolific rate it made a Mandigo facial look like a dribble
- I had no fucking clue how much time I actually had… Were they 15 minutes late? 20 minutes late? What about those 4 minutes we lost starting stage 1? Cue delirious head explosion – I had no fucking idea what I was actually aiming for, but it smelt like a massacre…
- If I collapsed face down at this point at least the local Vultures that were circling (yes, the really big birds, not local supporters) would hopefully tear at and eat the part of my lower back that was killing me first.
After declaring a jihad on the feed zone and its mind blowing pate on french bread, I made the first tactically astute move all day before the arrival of stage 3, actually getting ready to ride before arriving at the start, something which turned out to be fortuitous.
Stage 3 – Puncho: 1.5km’s & 238m Elevation drop
It feels like all year I’ve been saying or thinking a common theme when it comes to riding down some theoretically excellent trails: “Fuck this would be so awesome in the dry” or, to that point, even the semi dry would do. That smells like a perfect segway to some vanity shots courtesy of Sven Martin from practice of the exceedingly steep (-47% in spots) Stage 3:
Given I’d walked this one and ridden it twice in practice, there was some solid anticipation for this little beast… Which if course was mixed with the horror that the sum of all fears had been realised and it was now wetter than the Big Brother house after the latest vodka delivery.
I arrived at the start of 3 with the taste of French Tranny condom fresh in my mouth and as I rolled up to the officials they looked at me with wide eyed horror with my clearly out of place number plate, I was hurriedly waved into the kill box and pushed on my way with basically no notice, oh lucky me, I just so happened to arrive where there was a space. Fucking yay.
Outcome? I dribbled into the stage with basically zero Le Fucks and proceeded to not only bag my best result of the weekend, but in what was by now basically an active crime scene littered with bodies, I managed to keep it upright all the way down, something that at times felt like mission impossible:
Ok, so I get these shots are essentially fucked given the French golden shower on the Go PRO screen, but I’ve thrown them in regardless for comedic purposes. Stage 3 was the steepest shit of the weekend, absolutely no drama in the dry, but add the moist and holy fuck, that concept vaporised faster than an election promise the day after voting. Stage 3 was littered with steep chutes and fairly decent catch berms, a great concept until…
Stage 3 was all about respecting the motherfucking tripod… The only downside to the Tripod was of course a complete inability to clip back in afterwards given your shoe was quickly mud cunted beyond recognition. I had worried that starting later in the day now I would be quickly gang banged by faster riders, but in a strange twist of fate I ended up passing two dudes who had shellshocked looks on their faces. To be fair, this was fucking carnage, and we hadn’t even got to the hard part…
I heard a rumour that Tracy Moseley had commented that this was one of the most technical stages she had ever seen in an EWS round, whilst I’m not sure that would apply if it were dry, it certainly felt like that now. To be noted, I was at this point sliding down the hill, with my ass on the rear wheel, which was locked solid and still going normal speed… In constant bewilderment why I wasn’t eating massive shit or tagging every tree on offer. I lost count of how many “Holy fuck” moments were incurred, but given the gradient and the epic mudfest I was just stoked to get through this nasty little motherfucker that gave World Champ Richie Rude a puncture and a ripped up jersey:
Stage 3 Results
Its seems giving up all hope and letting the EWS round crush your soul actually works quite well from a results perspective, strangely the best result of the weekend, but a whopping 86 seconds per KM slower than Monsieur Scott, almost double my usual margin. Quite possibly I only did ok given I didn’t end up in the trees by some miracle:
- Mark Scott – 3.15 for 16th in Open men
- Dan the baby faced assassin – 4.17 for 139th in Open men
- Dirty Nomad – 5.24 for 167th in Open men
- Top 100 time – 3.51
- Fist-O-Meter – 10/10: More survival mode than racing, I was as confused as I was stoked to actually get down in one piece and without a major fuck up to be honest. Giving not a single, or even half a fuck was clearly the key here as it meant I was riding down like a giant Haribo jelly monster and being loose on the bike was advantageous. You don’t want a stage harder than this, and I think there was general regret about what could have been in the dry… Fuck your face 2017.
Stage 4 – Monna Des Anes: 2.8km’s & 389m Elevation drop
Upon arrival at the Stage 4 start I got looks from the French officials like I was a lost Japanese soldier from WW2. Laced with disbelief they enquired “Why are you so late?” hoping humour would win the day, I replied “Because I’m fucking drilled“, a response that didn’t win me any French friends, let alone a smile… “But, have you broken something?” to which there was only one reply I could think of “Only my spirit”
The outcome? I was held behind the juniors, an act which I both welcomed slightly but also knew was basically a death blow for my race overall. Yes, this is If Only #4 – I was supposed to start stage 4 at 12.31.40, without accounting for how cunted the timings were, I presumed we were 20 minutes behind, Killian Callaghan wasn’t due to start until 13.09.20, well over the 30 minutes cut off before you get disqualified for being a totally fucked cunt. This is the view of such a scenario as the last junior blasts out of the start box:
Cloaked in failure, I sort of wandered into Stage 4 with the slight stench of defeat, struggling to get up to speed mainly as 4 had the biggest pedal fest at the top all day before gravity really kicked in. And when it did kick in, it do so quite viciously and with what I thought was the hardest section of day 1.
On the upside, it was a rare moment when it wasn’t raining and we were still just riding our bikes in France, so keep smiling like a lemming and get into it cunt. FYI this is where the Nomad 3 really shined, self validation feels SO good:
Here was the tip for this one – If you didn’t have a French passport then you were pretty much fucked in the middle of Stage 4, it was mind blowing switchback after switchback of the variety that you pretty much only seem to find in France. We had the chance to watch people eat some classic shit on these motherfucks during practice, so here I am delivering a masterclass in how not to ride them:
No nosewheelie, no love – Its that simple, you either ride those things with grace or impersonate a masterbating sea lion. I elected for the latter. I think the bigger challenge with stage 4 was the fact it felt significantly slicker than we experienced in practice, sections that felt sweet were now WTF moments, usually accompanied with French screams or one of those fucking horns blasting in your grill. Case in point:
Stage 4 results
An eerily creepy stage to be honest, no one in front of me and no one behind me as I was in my own ‘Fingered late cunt’ bubble, so sort of ended up being like a gnar filled trail ride, but like at the end of a massively long and difficult day. Results therefore spoke for themselves.
- Mark Scott – 6.49 for 11th in Open men
- Dan the baby faced assassin – 8.18 for 141st in Open men
- Dirty Nomad – 9.48 for 174th in Open men
- Top 100 time – 7.36
- Fist-O-Meter – 9/10: Yeah, it was fucking hard. I’m usually 46 seconds per KM slower than Millennial Mark, but I was 64 seconds per K slower on this stage, so there you go. I don’t think it was a wheel size thing, as I had a mental enough time trying to get baby wheels around those Uber tech French switchbacks. Fair to say this was a elbow deep fisting on a double fist kind of day.
By now I was behind all the U21 riders… A place I’d never been before, and people with ‘100’ range number plates were passing me with alarming frequency as we headed towards stage 5, the final test of the day. I already knew I was well fucked at this point, and yes, I know you read that a lot on this site, but this was different. Yes, worse than Rotorua and yes, harder than Madeira from a 2017 perspective. Sweet Baby Roskopp, even a dude riding a V10 DH bike converted to ENDURO mode walked/rode past me, for real:
By the time the liaison up to Stage 5 took us back to the pits, I officially had 5 minutes to start the final stage of Day 1 and I estimated I was probably an hour from getting up there. If you’re that bad at maths, translation: I was cunted.
But I wasn’t just cunted from a rules & logistics perspective, no, I was also physically drained to a point where usual mental persistence had all but vanished. I headed to the pits and ate a burger and had a coke to feel semi human again, all while people stared at me in horror or disgust, I couldn’t work out which and nor did I give a le Fuck. I now had to decide if it was worth the mission back up to the summit for Stage 5.
This was simple: What if I got up there and wasn’t allowed to start? A scenario that was now a potential reality… I would also in all likelihood start to get mowed down by PRO’s, and there was no way I wanted to get into those killing fields. As I looked for an official to try and get a ruling on what to do, I could feel the defeat set in around me like drying cement.
I want to be able to tell you that I had the mental fortitude to say “Fuck it man, I’m not dying here today!” and charge up the hill in beast mode to rip that punk ass stage 5 to pieces like say Jamie Nicoll would. Alas, I’m clearly made from cookie dough as opposed to having a Hyperalloy combat chassis… As I licked the delicious French hamburger remnants from my beard and the rain set in once more, I could feel my inner French surrender monkey rising up to take control of what happened next.
I was not going back up that hill
With a perfectly working bike and no injuries, I could possibly lay claim to the most piss weak fail of the weekend and while there were ultimately 43 DNF’s and 158 finishers, I had inner demons with regards to If Only #5: What if I had just said fuck it, and forced my way up the hill and into the start line? At least I may have been able to start day 2? I couldn’t find anyone that would tell me if I would have been stripped out based on timing in 30 minutes behind, nor could I get any sense of how far start times had slipped.
I’m not going to fall head first into the well of self loathing and despair here… No, that’s all for part 2 of course, because fuck, I have to have something to go on about given I missed the second day of racing. Plus, this post has been a fucking whopper on steroids already, so its time to save what meagre material that remains. To round out this tale of woe, here’s a Swiss child on my bike showing the kind of form you needed to survive a day in Millau while the EWS is in town:
Stay tuned for the Part 2 wrap up and a bit of a deeper dive into the background of the general vibe of what made this pretty much the hardest EWS Round I’ve experienced thus far.